Sunday February 25, 2018 | Shawna Boren
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
What is faith? In what should our faith be anchored? Does our faith stand upon the various church doctrines and dogmas? In this sermon Shawna explores the meaning of faith, that the root which grounds our faith is not our belief system, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ crucified is the cornerstone of our faith. What is faith? In what should our faith be anchored? Does our faith stand upon the various church doctrines and dogmas? In this sermon Shawna explores the meaning of faith, that the root which grounds our faith is not our belief system, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ crucified is the cornerstone of our faith.
The dictionary defines faith as “complete trust in someone or something.” Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as “the substance of things we hope for and the evidence of things unseen.” In Matthew Jesus teaches that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains. Most of us, if not all of us have experienced a mountain we desperately need moved. Some of us are confident our prayers will be answered; others feel like their faith is unraveling. No matter where we find ourselves on the spectrum of faith, all is welcome. Christ invites us to pour out our doubts, confusion and questions. We can be raw and real with God.
If this space for questions is granted, why, then, do we struggle with our faith? Perhaps it’s due to a misunderstanding of faith. For many people, faith equals certainty. To have faith would then mean to be free of unanswered questions, to be free of uncertainty, to be free of doubt. This model of faith as certainty makes faith and doubt enemies of one another. Some scriptures seem to support this model of faith. For example, in James we are instructed to have faith and not doubt. Those who doubt do not receive from the Lord, they are double-minded. Or in Matthew 21 Jesus teaches that if we believe, we will receive whatever we ask for in prayer. On the surface it would seem to suggest that there is no room for uncertainty in faith. But it is of paramount importance to read scripture in its proper context.
Shawna shared a story when she was in a 9-month intensive discipleship school. In this school she studied scripture, worked at retreats and camps where she served as prayer ministers for those attending. During these retreats people would come up to the altar for prayer – prayer for big things. There were times when Shawna would feel inadequate, unsure if her prayers were heard or would be answered. When she raised this inadequacy to her leaders she was instructed to “fake it til you make it”. There was no room for doubt in prayer. You have to be certain so God will answer your prayers.
With this “fake it til you make it” motto the question begs to be asked, “How much faith is enough?” If our faith is built on this model of certainty, faith becomes a house of cards. If one aspect of our faith is challenged and we don’t know how to answer, the house of cards comes tumbling down. This model could also be compared to the game of Jenga. With every doubt, unanswered prayer, or moment of uncertainty, one Jenga block is removed at a time and soon the entire thing crumbles. When our faith us structured on certainty, it fails to stand on solid ground.
Some years ago a popular devotional book was published and on the very first page it read that God ordained all things. When Shawna read this she had serious doubts. For to suggest that God ordains everything is then to say that all pain, suffering, violence is ordained by God. Is this true to the character of God? In that moment Shawna threw the book across the room began to weep. And through her tears she heard Jesus speaking over her. She reflected on the beauty, goodness and love of God. In doing so she developed a faith that is covenantal.
Faith is covenantal. It’s about a relationship. Faith as certainty is the opposite of relationship. Faith as certainty is contractual rather than covenantal. When faith is contractual it becomes a tit-for-tat game; taking all the relationship out.
Marriage is a picture of covenantal relationship. The church is referred to the bride of Christ. Through Shawna’s relationship with Scott, she learned of his character, of his love, of his heart. And out of this intimate knowing they chose to marry. They chose to marry out of love, not a set of rules they agreed to follow. It was out of love for one another they chose covenant. This is a picture of faith as covenant.
To take it a step further, contract is a legal deal between two parties; a covenant is a commitment involving the life of both parties. A contract is when you are acquiring something from someone; a covenant is a relationship. A contract is protecting one’s own self; a covenant is protecting the relationship that binds two people together. If we can see faith as covenant, then there is room for questions and doubt.
Furthermore, rather than understanding faith as contract, we can see faith in terms of concentric circles. The center circle is Jesus Christ crucified. This is the core of faith, the most important circle! The second circle is doctrine, the basic affirmations of the Christian faith. The third circle is dogma and the fourth circle is opinion. The further out from the center circle, the less important the issue. When faith is seen in terms of concentric circles, where our faith is built on the center circle of Jesus Christ, we can engage in conversations with greater space, love and peace.
In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul articulates, “I resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” This – this is what is most important. This is the center of our faith! Christ crucified is the center of the interpretation of scripture, Christ crucified reveals the great love of God. Jesus Christ crucified makes room for our questions and doubts. God welcomes our questions, struggles, laments and frustrations. God is not shocked by our doubts and raw questions. With Christ crucified as the center of our faith we no longer have to be afraid of uncertainty. But one thing we can be sure of – and that is the character of God. The loving character of God is true and steadfast. We need not doubt the character of God.
In the song “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury, we see the character of God. “God will chase you down. He will fight until you’re found. His love is overwhelming, is never ending. We couldn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, he gives himself away. There is no shadow he won’t light up, no mountain he wont climb up, coming after you. There is no wall he won’t kick down, lie he wont tear down, coming after you.”
God’s love for you is this powerful and true. This cruciform love is the center, the foundation of faith!