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Monday, September 16, 2013

"Faith"

This morning it was beautiful as I read my Bible. In the dark right before dawn, I sat on my patio under the lamp – with birds singing, mild skunk smell wafting on the breeze, cicadas rattling, etc. – and read two passage. At first they seemed to have no relation to each other, but later, while running my 3.3 miles and reflecting on them, it hit me how well they went together. Maybe a few of you reading this will profit by these considerations.

Steadfast in Your Faith (Colossians 2.1-5)
Paul wrote,
“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, // that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.\\ I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”

Three very short items here:
  • 1. Paul calls what he’s about to refer to “a struggle.” The Greek work is agona which means “contest, struggle, fight.” If you read the part in the double “//…\\” you will notice that it looks like the “struggle” he’s is referring to is a prayer. This fits one of Paul’s notions of prayer, as he will say later in 4.12, that Epaphras was always “struggling on your behalf in his prayers.” So, prayer for others will sometimes/oftentimes seem like a wrestling match on their behalf.
  • 2. In this second item I simply want to point to the prayer itself and encourage you to engage God with these words for others, especially for congregations you know that have experienced deep turmoil.
  • 3. The final piece, where I really want to spend the rest of this musing, is that last statement which I have marked thus. Paul rejoiced to see their “good order,” maybe their orderly life together, and orderly corporate worship. But Paul also rejoiced in their “firmness” of “faith in Christ.” For all their theological and philosophical flips and flops, ups and downs that Paul will correct in this letter, he still thinks of them as firm in their faith in Christ. In fact in v. 6-7 he will encourage them to further that firmness of faith in Christ, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” This firmness in faith is a growing-roots-downward-bearing-fruit-upward kind of faith, one that breaks out in eucharistia – thanksgiving. So Paul rejoiced that these Christians stood firm in their faith in Christ.

Where Is your Faith? (Luke 8.22-25)
In the next passage of my morning readings, came this episode in the gospel according to Luke,
“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side of the lake." So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?"”

Hopefully you see the connection that hit me while out running this morning. The disciples have faith, but it is a watery-thin faith, shallow and easily made insipid in a raging sea-storm. And yet, in spite of the lack of “quality” or “intensity” in their faith, Jesus’ love for his “little faith” people (Matthew 8.26) is a rescuing love. For all of the lightness and airiness of their faith, they still ran to Jesus (instead of to someone else) and hollered to him trusting he was the only one who could remedy their looming catastrophe, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And Jesus moved heaven and earth to rescue them.
So two thoughts that led me to prayer this morning were these:
  • 1. Jesus is asking us; in our storm, “Where is your faith?” I admit, I confessed to him that it is just as little and shaky and rattled and thin as the disciples’. And so I sought him to grant me to develop a firmness in my faith in him. That my faith would run deep roots downward in him, and blossom with bountiful fruit upward from him. And that I would be abounding in thanksgiving – eucharistia.
  • 2. And yet, just like the disciples, the quality and intensity of my faith is lacking. But it’s not “my” faith, it’s the one in whom I run to and holler to, “Master, Jesus, I am perishing!” Every time I read the sea-storm episodes, it brings me back to a prayer I memorized years ago; a prayer that is very much a run-to-Jesus kind of “Master, Master, we are perishing!” prayer.  It goes like this:

“Calm me, O Lord, as You stilled the storm.
Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease.
Enfold me, Lord, in your peace.”
(“Celtic Daily Prayer,” p. 38)


Mike

1 comment:

LARRY PEARSON said...

MIKE, GREAT ARTICLE ON FAITH!

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