For the gift of faith, which sees beyond the present moment and looks to an eternity, we thank you.
For the gift of faith, small as a mustard seed, which has power within its simplicity, we thank you.
For the gift of faith bestowed on those who would simply come, hearts open in humility, we thank you.
One true God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
We talk a lot about faith here in church, because this is a place of faith.
We hear a lot about faith, when we listen to the old words of the bible.
We sing a lot about faith, when our voices carry the old beautiful words and tunes of the hymns.
Faith is at stake here in church. Faith is at stake here among us. Faith is…. If we look the word up the simple definition of faith is:
strong belief or trust in someone or something
belief in the existence of God: strong religious feelings or beliefs
a system of religious beliefs
If you extend your search on a Fuller Definition of faith. Faith is:
allegiance to duty or a person: loyalty b (1): fidelity to one's promises (2): sincerity of intentions
belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
Faith is trust, fidelity, allegiance, sincerity, loyalty and faith is a strong belief in the existence of a divine presence greater than us.
Faith is not easy to define in a short sentence. Faith is not easy to explain. Because faith has to do with so much more than mere definition, explanation and doctrines. Faith is the very center of life.
WE can have faith and we can be faithful. We can lose faith and we can be unfaithful. To believe or not believe, that is the question. But it is also a question of the size of our faith?
I just read that 100 people daily drop out of the Danish Lutheran Folks church in Denmark. 100 people every day who has lost their faith – or maybe simply has lost their faith in the organized old-fashioned church life. But by that rapid rate, you surely can lose faith in the mere survival of the church.
To believe or not believe, that is the question.
I overheard the other day a fellow Dane try to explain a Danish Faith to an American: “We do not have that strong a faith… we are more subtle, shy and secular. We do not talk much about our faith… it is a private matter…”
Listening to this very typically Danish mantra about our religious state of mind, I thought… “How do you measure faith? How do you measure that the typical Danish faith is weaker than the typical American faith? It might be more subtle, shy and even secular, it might be kept privately behind closed doors and only released into the public when you occasionally visit the church 4 times a year…. But does it mean that it is weaker than a more visible regular faith practice that we often meet here in US?
Some years ago an American Religion Professor from Claremont University traveled to Denmark and lived and studied in Denmark for a while. He studied this strange phenome of seemingly missing Danish Faith and he concluded that this was indeed a country without God. But a good country with welfare, with equality, with implemented Christian values low and high.
How do we measure faith? How do we weigh faith? How long, how broad, how heavy, how firm, how big and strong? How old, or how new?
Can you really ask someone; how much he believes? Is there a schedule or a chart to measure average faith, extraordinary faith or fairly poor faith?
When I began to study Theology at Aarhus University, I was often asked if I had a strong faith, if I believed a lot? (and asked that question at dinner tables, it often was a very badly hidden hint at my sanity and my blond hair and blue eyes.)
The great Theologian Paul Tillich famously said about faith: Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” A good reminder to all of us, when we are weak in faith, when we are troubled in our faith, when we struggle with our faith and with the concept of Christianity and God. Or if somebody wants to measure our faith to be too weak or too little.
The same Paul Tillich also once said about faith: “Accept the fact that you are accepted.” We might have a hard time, a truly troubling time, believing that we are indeed accepted when we think our faith is weak, our hopes are gone and our love has turned into hatred or ignorance. That we are accepted, blessed, loved…. Believing that God believes in you.
Many years ago the pastor Antonius Musa confessed to Martin Luther, that he quite often felt empty. Honestly, he confessed, he felt so empty and weak in faith, that he thought he could not preach. To his surprise the church reformer Martin Luther answered: “Thank God – another feel like this – I thought I was the only one!”
Martin Luther was certainly not the only one, we are not the only ones…. The disciple felt like us and asked Jesus: Increase our faith – give us more faith, stronger faith, better faith. They wanted to be upgraded to the next level of faith 101, so their lives would be better, their faith brighter and stronger and their hopes secure. But as they were asking for this shiny strong faith, they forgot how faith is already at stake in every aspect of their daily lives.
And they were reminded that faith is truly far greater than anything we can define, measure or weigh. We have to leave that to God… and thank God for that!
Faith is so much more than a set of beliefs or belonging to a certain organized religious group.
Faith is hope, trust and longing. Faith is love and friendship. Faith is waking up every morning, trusting each other and tomorrow, and trusting Gods presence.
Jesus teaches his lesson today with a parable about a slave. The slave is simply doing what he is supposed to do, what he owes his master. The slave is faithful. Thus is our relation to God, Jesus tells us. We owe God everything and we owe him faith and faithfulness.
So today is about having faith and being faithful. The bar is high and we measure and weigh – but maybe not with the right measures and means?
We are more faithful than we often give ourselves credit for…
Every time we let love overcome bitterness, we are faithful to God
Every time we meet our neighbor with a smile, we are faithful to God.
Every time we meet at church with friendship and fellowship on our minds.
Every time we share a meal here at the altar or there in the hall.
Every time we are overwhelmed with gratitude and praise for creation, life and being.
Every time we comfort someone in misery, we are faithful.
Every time we trust someone, we are faithful to God.
Every time we fight injustice and evil, we are faithful to God.
Martin Luther said: – “The whole being of any Christian is faith and love. Faith brings the person to God, love brings the person to people.”
Martin Luther – “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”