I gotta have faith
'Cause I gotta have faith
I gotta' have faith
Because I gotta have faith, faith, faith
I gotta have faith, faith, faith
That was George Michael’s version of what the apostles ask Jesus: “increase our faith.”
George Michael’s biggest hit was probably his song “Faith.”
And what the song is about is that he has had a relationship with someone he deeply cared about and she dumped him. The lyrics suggest that his heart was thrown on the floor.
And so, he is tempted by the next girl to quickly get into a physical relationship, but he is turning her down, because he doesn’t want a superficial relationship, but a good deep honest relationship with someone who really cares for him…
So, he has to have faith. He has to have faith that that right caring good person will come along. He has to have faith and wait for something more…
Cause I gotta have faith.
Well, what is faith?
We talk about faith in Jesus. We talk about the Christian faith. We think we need more faith.
But we used the word “faith” in other contexts too.
Some people have faith in the Edmonton Oilers. You have to believe in the Oilers this year, they say.
We put our faith in political leaders.
Faith. We use it as a noun. Please give me faith, Jesus.
So, is it a thing, or a quality, or an idea?
Faith. Sometimes we use is like a verb as in this phrase:
She has faith in her husband. Or she places faith in her husband.
In that context faith isn’t a thing that you have, or an idea or quality, faith is something you do.
So, is faith something you have, or is faith something you do?
Do you need more faith? Or do you think you need more faith?
What would that mean to you to have more faith?
There are times in my life when I have wanted more faith and what I wanted God to do, is give me a faith that moved mountains. In other words, I wanted a faith that would either let me do miracles, or a faith that would make God do miracles for me.
I wanted what I wanted, and I wanted God to do it for me, and that was the faith I wanted.
To heal someone who was sick, to fix a couple’s broken relationship, to get someone a good job… to supernaturally protect those I love.
But I am not sure that is real faith. It seems in retrospect a little selfish. Surely faith is not about me getting my own way, even if at times the way seems noble.
Sometimes when I wanted more faith what I was thinking about is faith to believe the things that seem impossible to believe in the scriptures. That Jonah really could be swallowed by a great fish, that ax heads can float, and Jesus be born of a virgin, and people being healed, and people rising from the dead.
The problem is, is that I have met too many people who have no problem believing the impossible things in the bible, but they were absolute jerks.
Surely faith is more than believing intellectually in the supernatural. Surely faith must make someone more loving, or kind or compassionate or something.
Sometimes when I think about faith, what I am thinking about is the uncertainty of the future, and whether I will be sick, or have enough money, or whether the economy will collapse, or whether my kids or grandkids will be all right, and I want the faith to allay my anxieties and worries…
But again, isn’t that a little selfish. Surely faith is more than making me feel better, and feel less anxious.
The late biblical scholar Marcus Borg in his book the Heart of Christianity talked about faith in chapter two.
He said that faith and believing seemed to be at the core of Christian life.
We say verses like: God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him will not be lost but have eternal life.
Or By grace are you saved, through faith.
So, he goes on to talk about faith.
He identified 4 meanings for the word faith.
The first meaning of faith is Faith as “Assensus”
The meaning of the Latin word assensus is suggested by the close English word, “assent.” This is faith as belief. Giving one’s mental assent to propositions. Believing a claim or a statement.
This understanding of faith came over the last 400 years. The first development that led rise to this understanding of faith was the Reformation, which not only emphasized faith but created new denominations. The way a group or denomination distinguished itself from another group was by what the group believed. Each denomination had its distinctive doctrines or confessions.
Lutherans believed x and Presbyterians believed y which was different from the Roman Catholics who believed z.
And so, there was a great emphasis on that time on different beliefs.
This development changed the meaning of the word “orthodoxy” which originally meant, “right practice” but now came to mean “right belief”
So, faith also came to mean believing the right things.
The second development was the birth of modern science and scientific ways of knowing in the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment identified truth with what is verified as factual. And then the Enlightenment started to call parts of the bible into question.
The effect on faith was quite remarkable. Faith began to mean believing things that are impossible. One needs faith to believe the virgin birth and the miracles and the resurrection, because those are things that don’t happen.
Faith is what you need when you can’t believe something is true. So, faith becomes separate from knowledge. Faith is about believing things you don’t know.
Assensus, or right belief is the form of faith that most people have come to believe is faith.
But when you think about it seems rather odd that what God cares about is the stuff we think in our heads. One can believe all sorts of things, but it doesn’t mean much if one doesn’t act upon it.
The second understanding of faith is faith as Fiducia
The closest word for that in English is the word fiduciary, which is really about someone being a trustee of something material or financial, and they have profound legal and moral obligation to handle the property, money or assets, fairly and honestly.
So, the basic meaning of Fiducia is trust.
Trusting in God.
Soren Kierkegaard said that faith in God was like floating in a deep ocean.
If one struggles and tenses up and thrashes about one will sink, but if one relaxes and trusts then one floats.
Sometimes when we refer to God as a rock or a fortress, we are saying that we can rely on God and trust God for support. We can trust God to be our foundation, our safe place. We can trust God to love us and care for us and not to leave us, nor forsake us, nor to hurt us.
The third meaning of faith is faith as fidelitas.
And this meaning is suggested by the word fidelity. This is faith as faithfulness. This is about our relationship with God and means just what faithfulness does in human relationships. It means the commitment of the heart to another.
The opposite of faith as fidelitas is unfaithfulness, or infidelity, or even adultery.
When Jesus talks about an adulterous generations, he is not talking about wife swapping but about people who are not faithful to God and his covenant.
Another term for this adultery is idolatry, which means giving ultimate loyalty to something else and not God. In the biblical days that might be a statue or an idol. In our day I think it means anything that comes before God.
The fourth term is faith as Visio
As the word suggests this is faith as vision. Faith is a way of seeing.
It is a way of seeing the world and others through God’s eyes. It is seeing other humans as children of God. It is seeing the necessity to repent of harmful ways, and it is seeing how we can love on another.
In some ways when you are in a relationship with someone you care about, a friend, a partner, a spouse, a child, or other family member…
There is a sense in which all forms of faith come into play. You trust the person. You are faithful to the person. You intellectual believe things about this person, that this person is good, or kind, or loving, or not so good, and kind and loving. And when you get to know the person, you kind of see differently, because you can see the person, you see the real person, and not just the persona they present to the world.
And that in some ways what it is like to have a relationship with God, or with Jesus, or with the Spirit.
You trust Jesus, you are faithful to Jesus, you actually see the real Jesus and try to see the world the way Jesus sees it, and you believe that Jesus is loving, or good, or just, or merciful etc.
I believe in my 4 children. I have faith in them. It means more than I know and believe they exist.
It means I put my trust in them. It means I will be faithful to them. I will never leave them or forsake them. I means I one day will sign over power of attorney to them. It means I will trust them one day to make decisions for me, when I am unable to make decisions. It means I believe in them, that they will be there for me, and are safe for me, and care for me, and will not forsake me. It means I see the real them and they see the real me. It means I will attempt to see how they see, and they will try to see, how I see.
That is all contained in the word faith. And while we sometimes pray for more of it, it really isn’t something you can drink, or ingest, or gather, or buy, or build up.
Faith is something you do. It is the placing of one’s trust in Jesus. It is being faithful to Jesus. It is believing that Jesus loves you. It is trying to see the world and others as Jesus sees.
It isn’t really that you need more of it, but that you do it.
That is what the last part of the gospel passage is about when it talks about slaves doing their job and Jesus comparing us to worthless slaves.
What Jesus is talking about is that when we have a job to do, hopefully we can do the job and find some satisfaction is doing a job and doing it well, but the whole world doesn’t have to jump up and down and praise you because you did your job well.
I changed a diaper. Why isn’t the baby putting me on facebook and praising me up and down?
I made Kraft dinner for supper. I should get a medal.
Not that we shouldn’t be thankful to people for doing their jobs or praising people for doing good jobs, but when we do a good job, let’s not always make it about us. Look at me! Maybe we can make it about how we helped others.
And so, faith when it comes right down to it is this. It is doing your job. It is doing what Jesus asks you to do.
It is trusting Jesus enough that when Jesus tells you to love one another, forgive one another, not judge one another, share with one another, make peace with one another, turn your cheek to those who hurt you….
…that you will actually do what Jesus wants you to do.
That is faith, faith, faith. Amen.