Kia mau ki te tūmanako, te whakapono me te aroha | Hold fast to hope, faith and love

 “And now Faith, Hope and Love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is Love”

1 Cor 13: 13

“Our Faith is not a belief that dogma’s or moral opinions are true, but a faith that Ultimate Reality/God/Jesus is accessible to us – and even on our side. Jesus was able to touch and heal people who trusted him as an emissary of God’s love, not people who assessed intellectual statements and decided whether they were true or false.”  Richard Rohr

The Early Church, of which Jesus was the founder, was a community centred around the practices of love and care for one another. Jesus, as one schooled in the ways of the Jewish Law, steered people away from ‘blind obedience’ to the religious system of the day. He could see that fear and anxiety were bound up in the hearts of people as they struggled to do the ‘right thing’ which might offer them an assuranceof being pleasing to God. Many times, speaking of the Law he said, “You have heard it said……But I say.”  It’s not that he was trying to disregard the teachings of Judaism, rather he was expanding it to include a sense of love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. People who came to him for healing did so because of the sense of acceptance they felt, even as they brought their ostracizing conditions out into the public space. 

Hebrews 11:1 however says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

This chapter in Hebrews continues to offer a discourse on the stories of the ‘heroes’ of our Faith, those who heard a voice inviting them onto a new and unknown path, who were able to somehow launch out into uncertainty, trusting in the source of that invitation, (think, Abraham & Sarah). The irony, and possibly huge disappointment was that even though they stepped out ‘in faith’ trusting in this deep calling, none of them received what was promised!

For some today, having Faith includes a requirement to follow a prescribed set of beliefs, doctrines, or creeds that can offer some kind of certainty. This in itself can generate it’s own sense of anxiety, as to get it ‘wrong’ might create some frightening scenario at the end of one’s life, (think, heaven and hell).

For others Faith is like a lucky rabbit’s foot. If you want something and you have enough faith, then you will get it. To not receive what you want equally implies that you have not got enough faith, which in itself creates a sense of personal ‘lack’ (think, Western hyper-faith movement).

Hebrews 12 offers Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter of our Faith and Romans 10 tells us that Faith comes from hearing, and hearing the word of Christ. This might come in the form of our sacred text, or it might come when we are engaged in nature and allow Creation to speak. Whatever the form the word of Christ comes to us, this is the moment when Faith arrives, inviting us to imagine and embrace new scenarios.  

In this new year, and in these uncertain times we need to hear the voice that says, “This is the way, walk in it” and find assurance in this voice, not so much the road that we are walking on but the one who tells us to get up and go. In this way living by Faith is living today, hoping for tomorrow, held and anchored in the faithful love of God. This then invites us to consider a life of ‘Faith in’ rather than ‘Faith for’.

Linda Burson-Swift