Second Sunday in Lent, Year B

Genesis 17. 1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22.23-31
Romans 4.13-25
Mark 8.31-38

Faith is a tough idea for us to get a handle on some times.

In attempting to explain to someone how to "have Faith" it seems theconversation always comes around to some thing like "...and so youjust have to believe..." or "...you just have to trust..." or "....youjust have to have Faith...". (Oooh - or moreof our favorite bumper sticker theology - Faith Happens)

And we were always told that you should not use a word to define itself.

So what is Faith? How do you get it? How do you identify it? Can you share it?

In the stories we find in our readings this week we are offered acouple of different perspectives on Faith.

In the passage from Genesis we see a seminal moment in the life of thefirst followers of Yahweh. Abram (an old old old man) was told he and his wife (an old old old woman) were brought in to a covenant with God where they were promised to be the mother and father of generations and kings and multitudes. If Abram had not become Abraham and Sarai had not become Sarah and Isaac had not become, the story of the Jewish people and the Muslim people and the Christian people would most certainly be quite different today. Abram / Abraham, Sarai / Sarah, and God / Yahweh all had a lot of Faith in one another in this particular situation.

Another day a writer would call this "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11.1)

In Psalm 22 we see Faith show up in a different way. We see a writer / believer / follower that has complete Faith in his God and is willing to tell everyone about it. This psalm almost reads like a song of a Patriot or the hymns sung about a hero that saved a small village.

In Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome he gives them a bitof a history lesson on their family / faith genealogy. He gives hisunderstanding of the Faith of Abraham, and then he ties that to how he understands / projects Faith might operate in each of his readers. It seems that as Paul sees it through his formerly Jewish lens, the Law created a radically different dynamic between the people and God. Paul believes that with Faith, people experience God's Grace - a little different than wrath. It makes us wonder if Saul was someone who felt tormented because he had difficulty keeping the law while Paul felt liberated having accepted God's grace through his conversion experience.

And then in Mark we see a different version of Faith in the breath and words of Jesus. Peter kind of steps into an argument when Jesus declares that he is going to suffer and be rejected by his society. In response, Jesus is sharing what feels to us to be a more aggressive, commanding, demanding push toward Faith. With Abraham it almost feels as if God was using Abraham to enact history, but Jesusis making a call on the lives of his hearers. Abraham was being
called to be the father of nations, and Jesus is making an individual call on individual lives and souls of individual people.

What does Faith mean to you?

Do you have Faith? In what?

"FAITH is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. "Faith is not enough,'' they say, "You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.'' They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, "I believe.'' That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn't come from this 'faith' either.

Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing."

Martin Luther on Faith, 1522

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