This morning’s sermon … enjoy!
Exploration of Faith
In her book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts On Faith, Anne Lamott told a story about her son’s seventh birthday. Sam wanted to go paragliding in a tandem harness with an instructor, but she was petrified to let him go. “I told the instructor that we’d think about … but I already knew that I didn’t want to go,” Lamott recalled. “I do not have any illusions that I would make a good paraglider. What confused me, however, was how much freedom I was supposed to give Sam. I’m unclear about the fine line between good parenting and being overly protective.”
“The next morning, the day before Sam’s birthday,” Lamott wrote a few pages later, “I was still lying in bed when I remembered an anonymous poem I’ve seen several times over the years. I says that after we jump into the darkness of the unknown, faith lets us believe that we will either land on solid ground, or we will be taught how to fly.”
When we jump into the darkness of the unknown, faith lets us believe that we will either land on solid ground, or we will be taught how to fly.
There is a difference between faith and religion.
Religion is what we – human beings – have created and recreated over the years. It is Judaism and Christianity and Islam. It is Catholicism and Protestantism. It is the Congregational Church and now the United Church of Christ. It is why we are the Rehoboth Congregational Church.
Religion is important. It develops communities. It creates a sense of security. It organizes structure. It tries to explain the world and how we should live in it. It creates a livelihood for those who feel called into vocational ministry.
But it is not enough.
At its best, religion is insufficient. And at its worst, religion is divisive.
As the world continues to grow and evolve and becomes an increasingly more hectic place to live, I am convinced that humanity needs to focus less on religion and more on faith if we want any chance for peace to prevail.
Faith is a lot more personal that religion. It is something unique to every single person. I believe that everyone has faith, regardless of what they do or do not believe. It is an individual’s understanding of the world around them. It is a distinctive and inimitable belief. It is a person’s acceptance of and relationship with God.
Faith gives people a sense of comfort in a world full of the unknown. It gives them strength when they otherwise might be weak. It gives them love through anger, compassion through frustration and grace through imperfection.
Faith is something that we all hold inside of ourselves. It creates passion. It draws us out of our shells and helps us to see the world, not only as it is, but also as it should be – and could be. It ignites a spark that opens us up and allows us to be God’s ministers throughout the world.
Faith is something that Jesus carried with him – through his ministry, within his teachings and to his death on the cross – and it is also something that he prayed we would all carry throughout our lives and throughout our ministries.
The confirmation class planned our worship service this morning. The theme of the service, “Exploration of Faith,” not only opens a window and allows you to peak into the confirmation process, it also creates the opportunity for you to think about your own faith. It allows you to remind yourself of why you come to church, why you are involved in this community of faith and how you are being called by God to minister in this world. Exploration of faith implies that you are not looking for one specific answer; rather you are simply soaking up everything you find along your journey.
Faith is something that we must hold onto – through the best of times and through the worst of times. Our first scripture for this morning – a story about Jesus healing two blind men – reminds us that we are active participants in how our faith can affect our lives. Jesus asked the blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to [make you see]?” and they replied, “Yes, Lord.” And when Jesus heard this, he laid his hands on those men and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.”
The faith of those two men was just as important to their healing as the touch of Jesus was.
There is a lot of uncertainty in the world. But your faith should not add to that uncertainty; in fact, your faith should be the foundation that sustains you along your journey.
People often ask me, “How do you believe?” On a weekly basis, people are curious about everything from my belief in the existence of God to the inerrancy of scripture and doctrine to the relevance of the church. And my simple answer to that question, “How do you believe?” is always, “I just do.” Because I have found throughout the years that I am a much stronger and more Christ-like person if I allow belief to be my starting point and not my destination.
“But overhearing what they said,” reads our second scripture from Mark, “Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’”
Do not fear, only believe. Faith is promised to us in scripture. And we are invited to engage that faith and see where it takes us.
Faith truly is a journey. You never reach a point where you finally figure everything out; you are constantly learning, growing and changing. And your faith will continue to open your eyes to the world around you and the possibilities that lie ahead.
For our life, for our religion and for our faith – thanks be to God!