“Great is Your Faith!” – Rev. Tony Romaine – August 9th, 2020
According to Webster’s Dictionary, faith can be defined as: allegiance to duty or a person, loyalty, fidelity to one’s promises, sincerity of intentions, belief and trust in and loyalty to God, belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion, or something that is believed with especially strong convictions. But sometimes we can get bogged down in definitions, so, I also looked up some quotes about faith to possibly help us digest it a little more:
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking.”
“I am still far from being what I want to be, but with God’s help I shall succeed.”
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain, that someone could stake their life on it a thousand times.”
“It is a mistake to equate knowledge of God with mere information, it is also a mistake to think of faith as a desperate leap in the dark. Christian faith and life are inseparable from reliable knowledge of the character and purpose of God.”
Perhaps that helps a little more, with the wisdom of others guiding our thoughts, but because we are also denominational in our beliefs and we belong to the UCC and the UMC, here is how we define faith according to our denominations:
United Church of Christ Statement of Faith
We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, who is made known to us in Jesus our brother, and to whose deeds we testify: God calls the worlds into being, creates humankind in the divine image, and sets before us the ways of life and death. God seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin. God judges all humanity and all nations by that will of righteousness declared through prophets and apostles. In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, God has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the whole creation to its Creator. God bestows upon us the Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races. God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.
God promises to all who trust in the gospel forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in that kingdom which has no end.
UMC Basics of Faith
Our Christian Beliefs: God
God, who is one, is revealed in three distinct persons.
Our Christian Beliefs: Jesus
We believe in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. God became human in Jesus of Nazareth; and his life, death and resurrection demonstrate God's redeeming love.
Our Christian Beliefs: The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is God's present activity in our midst. When we sense God's leading, God's challenge, or God's support or comfort, it's the Holy Spirit at work.
Our Christian Beliefs: Human Beings
Genesis 1:27 asserts that we've been made in the image of the Creator. Like God we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate, and to create.
Our Christian Beliefs: The Church
The church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
Our Christian Beliefs: The Bible
We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice.
Our Christian Beliefs: God’s Reign
The kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
So now armed with all of this wonderful knowledge and with definitions galore, we should easily be able to understand, talk about, and know how great our faith is, right?! Well, if you are like me, you realize it is not so simple and that is what indeed is the Greatness of our faith. Faith is absolutely something that we can define and add thoughts to and put on paper. And certainly, a faith that is not able to reason and describe why it is that we believe a certain way, is a faith without legs to stand upon.
However, there is also part of our faith which is inherently indescribable. Like in Isaiah when we hear God speaking through the prophet asking us if we were there at the moment of creation; asking us if it was us who directed the Holy Spirit; asking us if it was us who instilled all knowledge. Faith is trusting in our God enough to say, “You know what, I could not possibly know all the ‘ins and outs’ of creation, for I am not the Creator, I was not there at the moment the universe was made, and I am certainly not all-knowing.” Faith is being able to abandon myself to trust in God that there is a plan and reason that is beyond my understanding at work for good in our world. Faith is trusting that God has us, and made us, amidst all this splendor for a particular reason in our own unique way to become part of the Great Mosaic which is God’s and God’s alone. This leads us to a deeper level of faith in which we understand how we are one person weaved together in and among a multitude of God’s Creation.
But in order to better understand this part of our great faith, we need our reading from James where we hear about favoritism. Faith is trusting that God does not have favorites. Well, let me tweak that just a little, God does have favorites; it is just that we are all God’s favorites! Faith is believing and trusting that I, as we previously covered, do not have all the answers and cannot possibly know why each and every one of us were made. But if I am God’s favorite, then so are you; and if you are God’s favorite, so am I!
And if we are all God’s favorites then who among us will perish? Who among us should be persecuted? Who among us should be denied basic human rights? Who among us, God’s chosen people, God’s favorites, should not be allowed to live a dignified life? Who among us should be hungry, poor, homeless, or forgotten? You and I both know the answers to these questions, and they are convicting. And this is why we get the wonderful lesson at the end of this passage from James that reminds us we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and not show partiality. Why? Because indeed we know the answers to the previous questions, and we are all God’s favorite!
Which leads us to our Gospel passage for today and indeed what a great faith means. A great faith means that I am enough, you are enough, and our God loves us. A great faith is willing to take risks to approach God and ask for the very things we need. A great faith is trusting that I indeed am one of God’s chosen, one of God’s favorites and that when I approach and kneel before my God, God will see my faith and heal me, hold me, and love me. A great faith is willing to argue and debate and trust in our God. A great faith is willing to kneel before Our Savior and be fed by the scraps or by the loaf itself. A great faith is trusting that even when we think we are beyond salvation; Jesus’ grace extends to us all. A great faith is saying, “Lord help me,” then trusting, hoping, and believing that help will come. And a great faith is knowing; not just thinking, not just saying, not just doing out of habit; but actually knowing in the depths of our soul and believing in every level of our being, that whatever this world may throw at us, our end is infinitely eternal in Christ Jesus.
Ultimately, what we see is that faith is easy to define but more difficult to live. Faith is a journey which does not end until that one fine day when our faith is rewarded. And the greatness of our faith is not so much in how we define it for others, but how we live it out in our lives. Faith in the Greatness of God, faith in the greatness of our neighbors, faith in the Greatness of the Grace of Christ, faith in the presence of the Holy Spirit…Great is Your Faith, Amen!