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Finding Faith: Answers About God on a Faith Journey

April 18, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 141

Finding faith must begin with defining faith. What is faith? A related question is this: on what does your faith rest? Who is God for you? Religious or spiritual faith can be described as the capacity to trust in an ultimate sense. Finding faith is a way of finding the answers about God we seek on the faith journey. As you can imagine, the capacity to trust has its roots early in our lives. For some, trust comes easily and, even when we are deceived or betrayed, we are able to enter into other relationships of trust, albeit with perhaps more caution. For others, however, the capacity to trust has been diverted by early childhood experiences into less than healthy expressions. Whatever your or my background, the journey of faith requires us to find a way of trusting in a power, a reality, greater than ourselves.

Where is your firm footing in life? In what do you trust ultimately? Given your experience, you may rely on a set of beliefs or in a philosophy of life works. You may rely on the veracity of a religious group or leader, or on a particular set of relationships. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Christians that faith was all about Jesus, that the foundation for life was Jesus the Christ. He reinforced that message by writing that there was indeed no other foundation. I wonder, "What did he mean by that?" "What does that mean for us today?" Jesus continually referred to the religious tradition of Israel. He quoted the Torah and Moses, and he used the ancient prophets of Israel for motivation and direction. This was an important part of the religious faith he had inherited. Judaism provided the language and scope for how Jesus expressed his understanding of who God was and how people should live in synch with God. Yet, there were many times that Jesus' thoughts and words almost seemed to burst the container of Jewish tradition. In those times, the faith experience of his life overflowed the container of his inherited faith tradition.

In Matthew's fifth a sixth chapters, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was teaching. As he often did, Jesus referred to the tradition of the Bible, what Christians call the Old Testament. Jesus continually referred to the religious tradition of Israel. He quoted the Torah and he used the ancient prophets of Israel for motivation and direction.

Jesus began, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'" But that was not enough. "I say to you, 'Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.'" The Jewish Law, in an attempt to limit the amount of revenge one tribe could exact on another, or even one person on another, allowed only "in kind" retribution. You were limited to "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." No one was permitted to kill in revenge for a theft, for example.

Jesus did not negate the Law, but rather intensified it by pointing to its deeper meaning. He took the direction of that command and brought it to its ethical and natural conclusion. He told his disciples, "if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you." As many of you know, these are not instructions to be passive in response to an attack. With going into the details of each instruction, Jesus outlines responses that are effective, active, and non-violent ways to defeat the enemy. People such as Mahatma Gandhi learned a great deal from Jesus.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." Love for our enemies reflects the deeper understanding of faith, of God's nature, and of that divine spirit that lives in each of us. We are diminished by our hatred. The more we drink from its carafe, the more we poison ourselves. The foundation of faith for Jesus was the ever present reality of God. All of life is worship. Underlying all his teachings and actions was the foundational trust that God's presence is here and now and all-encompassing. To act justly, compassionately, and non-violently is what it means to worship God in the present tense

Religious faith-whether it is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other-is a living tradition that not only needs to be preserved, but also renewed in each generation. What was it that was foundational in Jesus for Paul and the early Christian church? Neither Paul nor any of those in the churches he mentored had ever met the man Jesus. Paul had experienced his presence mystically on the road to persecute Christians in Damascus. They followed not the man Jesus, but one they called the Christ or the living Christ. Theologian Marcus Borg called him the post-Easter Jesus and that is an accurate statement. The early Christians looked at the stories of an empty tomb and resurrection appearances to the disciples, and in conjunction with their own experience of the divine presence in and around the image of the risen Christ, they trusted. Their faith was founded on that Christ. That faith was life-giving, liberating, and universalizing.

So, what is it about Jesus that is foundational for us? The Christian Church has grown and developed for 2000 years since Jesus. We have preserved his story and added quite a bit to that early Jesus faith. Some of those additions-the creedal statements, an infallible papacy, an inerrant scripture, and others-had their basis in political or social necessity at the time. Today, we had inherited a tradition filled with many beliefs that most of us cannot fully endorse, a history that is filled with a great deal of evil, and a structure that often seems unsustainable in a present age. What of this inheritance is foundational for us? What is essential to maintain and to build on?

Our task in this generation, as it is for people of faith in each generation, is to develop a theological understanding rooted in the past yet adapted to the realities of the present. We have an obligation to reinterpret our faith on our own journey and in our own time. But to do that reinterpretation requires a solid foundation. As human knowledge grows, our understanding of the universe and even the Bible changes. We know now, for example, that the universe is much larger than earth alone, that this planet is spherical and revolves around the sun, and that heaven is not up there while hell is down there-even to the extent that traditional views of heaven or hell are still embraced.

The development of sciences such as archeology have cast new light on the historical setting of the Bible and the literary sciences have brought a new understanding of how the Bible was put together. Scripture is itself a work of art containing poetry, myth, story, and mystical writings. As such its text exists at some distance from the events it describes.

Our faith traditions point to the image of a reign of God, a future toward which all our past and present flow together to create. The German theologian Karl Rahner described this process essentially this way: "The infinite mystery that you are to yourself and the infinite mystery that God is in God's self, proceed forward in parallel fashion and similar timing." Fr. Richard Rohr interprets this as saying, "As you uncover God's loving truth, you uncover your own, and as you uncover your own truth, you fall deeper into God's mercy and love."

What was Jesus really teaching? What is universal in Jesus? What has stood the test of time and what continues to be life-giving in Christian faith? What is universal in Jesus is that the eternal God lives in particular and peculiar people-like us! Salvation involves moving beyond our boundaries of race, class, and religion. It calls us to move beyond sin, pride, and division to live in a way that is renewing, transformative, and life-giving. What is universal is to place our trust in the future "reign of God" breaking into the now in ways that are characterized by working for justice, treating others with compassion. It is found in embracing the abundance that comes from doing what brings you life, the abundance that comes from giving yourself away. It is found in being almost more afraid not to live fully than you are of taking risks.

It is hard to say how open Paul was to differing interpretations of God's life and God's presence. For him, the foundation of his experience of Jesus, and the construction of his life on that foundation, was profound, powerful, and worth defending. He recognized that the truth of his experience of Christ was far greater than his Jewish tradition. He blazed new trails of openness and inclusion for the Christian Church.

Our faith does not rest on the Christian Church or any church. It is not founded on any statement of belief, even profound beliefs to which many of us gladly subscribe. We do not trust ultimately even in that historical man Jesus, but we trust in the sacred reality to which that man pointed us. We trust in the holy presence his life radiated. We trust enough to follow even though that road leads to the cross. It is the God presence that is foundational. That is our firm footing. Nowhere and at no point in human history was that presence more clearly felt than in the life of Jesus and the abiding presence of the risen Christ. To live in that truth is eternal life, now and always.

Do you have questions about your religious faith? Are you confused? Do you suspect that there is more to life than you are getting? When people ask me what I do for a living, and I know they won't listen to me more than about 30 seconds, this is what I tell them: I work with people who are on a journey. Many struggle with finding answers to their deepest questions. Some had given up ever finding these answers, even stopped asking the questions until they came to Crossroads. I've been a pastor for 30 years and currently am the senior pastor for Crossroads Church of Kansas City. I have earned a doctorate degree from Princeton, two master's degree (one in theology and one in music). I've worked as a musician, a church musician, a drama coach and actor, as well as a pastor. I'm married with two children, three dogs, and two cats.

Source: EzineArticles
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Finding Faith


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