Blogging Towards Sunday, June 23, 2012
Luke 17:1-6 & Hebrews 11:1-15; 11:29-12:3
FAITH: Is it a noun or a verb? Is it something you have, or don’t have, or is something that you can have in changing quantities? And can you lose it? What does it mean for us – and for you – if and when, we say that we are people of faith?; in particular people of the Christian FAITH? Is it about doctrine and orthodox belief? Or is it more relational, a sort of trust and reciprocity? Some say that faith is the hope and future of our chaotically changing world. Others would say that faith is the cause of the chaos in our 21st century. What do you think?
- Hebrews is written much later than the gospels, in a time of active persecution of those of the Christian Faith. This was undoubtedly after 60 CE when the Temple and city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the invading Roman Empire in response to the stubbornly persistent Jewish rebellion. The ancient historian Josephus tells us of this history.
- Important Word Studies: In Hebrews 11:1-3 there is a definition of faith. The word translated as “nature” in English is related to “groundwork”; with the implication that faith is the groundwork, or the foundation of our existence and also that of the universe. The Hebrew word for FAITH suggests “solidity”, “firmness”, “stability”. One who has faith has support in or has found support in that person or object. The word often translated as “evidence” can also mean “basis for testing” – it’s a Greek legal terms used in debates or cross-examinations. It’s a bit like evidence as in admissible proof in a court room.
- The Author’s perspective: For the author of Hebrews, faith was closely related to doctrine, creed, confession or catechism. The message of good news did not help the exodus generation because the people lacked faith (Hebrews 4:12). Without faith is it impossible to please God (11:6). This means that it is necessary for one who approaches God to believe that he is (11:6). Faith is the opposite of shrinking back into apostasy (10:39). A person who once became a Christian either held fast the confession (10:23) or became an apostate surrendering his/her faith. (The Anchor Bible. To the Hebrews. GW Buchanan.)
- In exhorting the readers of the book to faithful living, the author retells stories of great people in the Bible – both before the patriarchs, during their lives, during the Judges, and the Kings – even through the Exile in Babylon. It’s meant to refer to stories of those that held fast, resisting persecution and suffering to persevere. Look at the stories – they all are stories of examples with which we all might be able to relate. What stories or Bible characters are missing? Why?
- Hebrews 12:1-3 is the climax of the thought. The putting aside of every weight (in 12:1), is the way that a ship is relieved of its cargo in emergencies, so that it can stay afloat and travel more rapidly (Jonah 1). For the Christian, the weight to discharge, is the sin that clings very readily. What does that mean?
- Luke 17:1-16 :: Mulberry Tree | Mustard Seed: This simile or metaphor is often used to describe the faith required by Jesus – it’s a mulberry tree here – and in other places a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20; Mark 11:23, Matthew 13:31-32 & Mark 4:31). The point is that the seed is a miniscule, seemingly impuissant thing that can grow into a mighty tree to provide shade from the sun, or being an invasively subversive bush that takes over every field it encounters to produce mustard – which can be used for healing.
- Faith Today in a pluralistic world: Is Faith primarily about orthodoxy, or relationships; is it a question of right doing or right living? Many people answer that faith is black and white, you have it or don’t depending upon your adherence to established doctrine. But many people have also seen the only way to escape from this perceived hostility of Christian orthodoxy seeking another religion, or no religion. In a sense they become spiritual refugees looking for a better homeland. How do we understand faith in a world in which most of our neighbors have “no faith” or practice a different one? Many of our doctrines have led to horrible actions and ethical standards including support of slavery, colonialism, segregation, sexism and even war. That’s not just a liberal PC approach, but one that all sides acknowledge about Christian History and the reality that doctrines are formulated within and in response to specific cultural and historical contexts. So what kind of faith – or orthodoxy – are we left with today? Does our faith fuel the hostility of the status quo between religions, political parties, class groups and nations? Can we reinterpret our doctrines – or reformulate our beliefs, or faith – or is that heresy or apostasy? Why? Where is the limit? Do you think it’s needed in our world today?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
- How do you define faith? Is it same definition for yourself that you use for others?
- Who are the liberals? Who are the conservatives? What do they, in your opinion, believe? How are they grounded or off course from the way in which Jesus talks about faith, specifically in Luke 17?
- Could it be that our core doctrines are even more wonderful and challenging than we’ve previously imagined? Could our core teachings be shared, not as ultimatums (believe of die!), but as gifts (here’s how we see things…)? (from Brian McLaren’s Book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?)