Wonderful Words of Life: Faith (4th in a Series)

Faith has one or more “warrants of authority,” that provide us with a solid foundation, from which we can make what many have called, “the leap of faith,” and others, “the risk of faith.”

A 19th Century Moravian Synod declared, :The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are and shall remain the only source and rule of our Doctrine, Faith, and Practice.”  This is very close to the Reformed principal of Sola Scriptura, the Scripture Alone.

By contrast John Wesley proposed a Quadrilateral of Faith, or four warrants of authority 1. Scripture (always primary) , 2. Tradition (meaning the Church and its tradition), 3. Reason, and 4. Experience.

Who is right, Wesley or the Moravians?  Well, it turns out that both are right, for the Bible itself recognizes all four sides of Wesley’s Quadrilateral.  In today’s lessons,  Psalm 19, recognizes  Scripture when it declares, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”  And it recognizes Reason, when it declares, “The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament declares God’s handiwork, day to day pours forth speech; night to night declares wisdom.”  Read carefully, Philippians 3 affirms both the Tradition that profoundly affected St. Paul’s life and teaching, and his Experience of Jesus Christ which completely altered his understanding of that tradition.

That’s four for four: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience.  Let’s examine these four warrants of authority. Continue reading

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Meditation World-Wide Communion Sunday

Moravians from Around the World Gather “at the table” for Unity Synod in 2009. The ultimate table is the one hosted by Jesus Christ in the Holy Supper, but all table fellowship is important in the life of Christ’s Church (From the Pastor’s Collection)

This Communion Meditation is a 3rd Installment in the series, “Wonderful Words of Life: Faith.

For the last two weeks we have been talking about faith.  We have seen that faith is not a luxury but a universal necessity.  It is the essential possession of the youngest child cradled in her mother’s arms and the oldest skeptic preparing himself for the last long sleep.  In its universal form faith is all about trust—even when we may not trust in God, we will certainly trust in our human relationships—beginning with our mother, and in our surroundings—natural law, and, ultimately in our worldview.  By definition, faith has content.  An agnostic like the late, great Carl Sagan, looks at the universe and declares, “The cosmos is all there is, there isn’t anything else.”  The Christian looks at the creation, sees God at work, even in the midst of all the confusion, and affirms that, “Beyond all sight and experience, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the maker and redeemer of all things, visible and invisible, known and unknown.” Continue reading

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Wonderful Words of Life: Faith (2nd in a Series)

The people on the bus had faith this grizzly would not climb on board.

Back in the summer of 1981, I was at Princeton Seminary chasing a degree in New Testament.  I finished my 7th course and realized I was just one course short of graduation. I called down to the chairman of the Elders at Fries, who I think was John Rutledge, and asked if there was any way possible for me to stay an additional three weeks in New Jersey.  After consulting with the board, John said, “Go for it.” What a gift! So, I signed up for a course entitled “The Stages of Faith.” It was taught by the late Dr. James Fowler, a United Methodist from North Carolina, who was on loan to Princeton from Emory Theological Seminary in Atlanta Georgia.  That course was one of the most important experiences of my life.  By taking it, I discovered that faith is not a luxury or even a choice but a universal necessity.  We can’t live without it. Faith is not only the proud possession of Christians of yesteryear like Billy Graham and Christians of today like Pope Francis, and Christians like you and I, it is the common possession to people of all religions, and to people of no religion at all.   It is found in the life of the youngest child cradled in its mother’s arms and in the final gasp of the most skeptical agnostic on the planet.  We all have faith of some kind.

Jean Piaget gave us the stages of early childhood development, and Jim Fowler, who studied under Piaget, gave us the stages of faith.  There are six: Continue reading

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Wonderful Words of Life: Faith (1st in a Series)

Denali from 75 Miles. Only 30 percent of visitors of the park actually get to see it.  70 percent of the time it is shrouded in clouds and darkness.

Faith is multi-dimensional and different people possess it in varying degrees. For instance, in the gospels, Jesus praised the Roman Centurion who understood the authority and power of a word spoken by Jesus, saying,  “Not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Matthew 8:10)

Alternately, Jesus sometimes accused his own disciples of being “weak in faith.”  Jesus taught that a lack of faith makes us ineffective in prayer—as when the disciples could not heal the boy who perpetually cast himself into the fire.  And Jesus taught that a lack of faith exposes us to fear, as when the disciples feared for their lives when a storm came up, and the waves beat into their boat.

By contrast, according to Ephesians 6:16,  faith is a “shield” for those who possess enough of it.  It is by faith that we endure the trials and tribulations of this life and emerge from each stronger and more confident than before.  Nietzsche was right. “That which does not kill us does make us stronger—not just in body, mind, and spirit, but in faith.” Like the wise king of old, people of faith looks out at the most difficult situations in life and declares, “This, too, will pass!”  Or, as Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 1:10:

“(Many times, in the past) God delivered us from … deadly … peril and … on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

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Wonderful Words of Life: Hope (3 of 3)

We are talking about hope for the third time. I believe that we who have hope have the right to be hopeful for others.  Let me give you a few examples:

In 1st Corinthians 7, Paul tells us that the children of even one believing parent are “holy.”  And in Psalm 103, the Psalmist writes:

The steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteous to children’s children.

 A Moravian pastor once told me that nothing is worse than being unsure of one’s own children. He said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and loose his own son?” In the texts already noted, the Bible gives us at least some hope for worried parents.  And in his book “Idea Fidei Fratrum,” Bishop Spangenberg builds upon that hope.  He wrote that though children of the church often stray from the narrow path, God will eventually bring them back.  As the scripture says, “Train a child up in the way to go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Continue reading

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