22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Faith is the Answer

29 May, 2016 Pentecost 2 By Rev Dr Christopher Page

 

 

Introduction
The English/American Zen Buddhist Scholar Alan Watts wrote:

We must here make a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief…is the insistence that the truth is what one would like or wish it to be. The believer will open his or her mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes.

Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and religion. 1

Belief Clings, but Faith Lets Go
Christianity has been plagued by its obsession with holding on to a canon of beliefs that individual Christians must adhere to and give assent to. “I believe in…..” Add whatever religious belief you can think of. It should seem remarkable to us that throughout the history of Christianity, millions have been executed because they held the wrong beliefs. During the Protestant Reformation thousands were executed because their belief about baptism did not conform with the prevailing views.

Perhaps it is easier to decide who is in and who is out by a simple statement of belief. I may have told this story before. A delightful man was visiting a church of which I was the minister. He had been coming for a few weeks and our conversations after church had been warm and engaging. One Sunday he said to me that he had been talking to a friend in a neighbouring congregation and the friend had said to him that I didn’t believe in the virgin birth. “Well”, I said to Bill, “There is a short and a long answer to that. No, I suspect that I don’t believe in it the way your friend does. But there is a long answer and why don’t we get together and talk about it.” Bill politely left and I didn’t see him again.

We should never underestimate how important religious beliefs are to each of us. But neither should we think that they are fixed in stone and we should judge each other by the religious beliefs we hold or don’t hold. Notice I have referred to religious beliefs. There are many things we believe in, but most important is how we hold those beliefs, with a closed fist or an open hand.

Faith is the Courage to Let Go
Alan Watts goes on to say:

…Human thought and history…compels us to face reality with open minds, and you can only know God through an open mind just as you can only see the sky through a clear window. You will not see the sky if you have covered the glass with blue paint.

The first experience of life is to be enchanted. By this I mean that we by and large embrace all that comes into our lives, beliefs, experience, even colours, tastes, sounds and textures. We are sponges who want to know more and more. Naming things is an important part of a child’s life and also the imaginative - the capacity to believe the unbelievable. We as adults encourage that, as it is one of the most vital and endearing qualities of childhood.

But then comes the age of letting go. The Jungians call it individuation. Many experience it as a disenchantment… Those things we thought were true turn out to be untrue or imagination. This can be either a dramatic reversal of our beliefs or it can be a gradual shifting from a religious belief that was given to us towards a stage of faith where we are able to hold on to what is of value or let go of what seems of less value.

Faith is a Sense of Belonging
As we develop, it is most important that we never lose the sense of belonging. But while it begins with family and then tribe and perhaps our religions, belonging must continue on to being a part of humanity. This is where religious beliefs can truncate our experience of belonging to the human family.

This means we will have to deal with our doubts. That is, the things we once believed but which no longer sustain our faith. That can take courage, because it may put us at odds with our family and religion. But our willingness to integrate new experiences and knowledge with the beliefs we hold on to will determine our maturity.

This is not far from the experience in the gospel reading today:

“For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

What did Jesus find? Was it belief in a set of doctrines, or a man willing to take a risk and put his faith, his trust in this Jesus of Nazareth? I think that is a ‘re-enchantment’ of life. “Not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Again in the gospel it is the outsider who demonstrates the greater faith.)

A Life of Faith
A life of faith is not always a smooth run or a road of certainty. The modern person will experience several painful stages:
There will be a deconstruction of what one has learned in life. The importance of un-learning. This will create discomfort as we try to re-form and reshape our faith. But finally it will lead to a depth of life and living that a statement of beliefs cannot give.

The philosopher G.E.Lessing, writing in the 18th Century, said:

“If God held enclosed in his right hand absolute truth, and in his left hand only the inward lively impulse toward truth, and if He said to me: Choose! Even at the risk of exposing mankind to continued erring, I would most humbly seize His left hand and say: Father, give! Absolute truth belongs to Thee alone".

If we can embrace the uncertainty of living, then we will have a more contemplative approach to life and our beliefs will become more like convictions. Simply put, we will hold them in our hearts rather than just in our heads.

To conclude with an often-used quote by the Persian poet Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about ideas and language. Even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.


STATEMENT OF FAITH
by Elizabeth Knott

A life of faith is a journey of discovering that
  the One behind the acts of creation
    is awesome, approachable and available
      valuing each human as irreplaceable

A life of faith is a journey of discovering
  creation’s grandeur and miniscule elements of
    interconnectedness and interdependence
      within the whole universe and within each of us

A life of faith is a journey of discovering
  the width, depth and height of the Creator’s
    extraordinary love made visible in Jesus
      who exemplifies compassion, humility, peace and justice

A life of faith is a journey of discovering
  and discerning the Spirit of Jesus
    and his call to us to follow him
      in ministering to and with our neighbour

A life of faith is a journey of discovering
  that each of us is unique and precious
    with gifts and talents to be identified and shared
      in creating a more just, benevolent and secure global village

A life of faith is a journey of discovering
  that failures bring the opportunity for
    new beginnings - a fresh start
      and forgiveness recreates relationships

A life of faith is a journey of discovering
  gratefulness can become a frequent happening
    spontaneous, contagious, uplifting
      generating warmth and cause for reflecting, sharing and joy

A life of faith is a journey of discovering
  ultimately how to float - how to trust God
    and to live hope-fully and intentionally in pursuing justice
      on good days and days not so good!

Elizabeth Knott recently received the Women of Faith Award, given by the Presbyterian Church USA for her lifelong work for peace and justice and her deep Christian faith. To her, “A life of faith is a journey of discovering ultimately how to float - how to trust God, live hopefully.”

 

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[1] https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/27/alan-watts-belief-vs-faith

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