Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Faith v Religion

On Friday, I posted a question on my and Bethel’s facebook page that asked this:  “In your opinion, is there a difference between faith and religion.  If so, what are the differences?  What are the similarities?  If not, say more.”   To see all the answers, feel free to look at my FB page, or ask for a copy.  But let me share a few answers with you:

“Faith is blind and free.  It is personal. Religion, however, is organized and controlled.”

“Faith is a gift that must be nurtured; religion is (hopefully) faith made visible.”

“Faith equals trust.  Faith/trust is more of an active kind of thing that ebbs and flows, changes and grows, and gets put to use in daily life.  Religion is the framework we use to organize people and ideas around a particular belief or value.”

“Faith is a gift, something innate.  Religion is more organized and ritualized.  I may not buy organized religion part and partial, but my faith is always strong.”

In our text for today, Jesus exposes the differences between the organization of religion and the gift of faith. 

He is asked a question about the ritual washing of hands before one eats.  However, this is not the question Jesus answers. 

Instead, Jesus initiates a discussion this is clearly a part of our lives today.  He looks at the broader foundation from which the question originates. 

Most broadly, what is faith and what is religion? 
• What is trust in God and what is the practice of that trust?
• Does our saying YES to God have to include our saying YES to human made interpretation of the laws and ordinances that are God’s gifts to us?
• Can there be religion without faith?  Or faith without religion?

Friends ... what is faith?  (The congregation answered)

• Faith is trust in God. 
• The object of our faith is God. 
• Therefore, faith is a verb. 
• Faith is about our relationship with God. 
• It is something we participate in. 

What, then, is religion?  (The congregation answered again) 

Faith is initiated by God, a gift from God, practiced as we say YES to God and to God’s Word.
• This is not to say that religion is unnecessary. 
• However, religion is impossible without faith. 
• Religion is the practice of our faith. 
• It is the structure of our worship and the exercise of our doctrines, rituals and traditions. 
• It is the framework that gives us order as we trust our God, honor our God, and build our relationship with God ~ individually and communally. 

In our text, Jesus challenges the object of faith... both for the scribes and Pharisees who approached him, as well as for us ... as followers of God. 

Jesus wonders out loud who or what we trust in.  Do we trust in our relationship with God?  Or do we trust in our ritual, our tradition, the ways we have always done things? 

Which, in and of itself, is not bad.  Unless, it gets in the way of our faith in God ... our relationship with God ... the output of our faith. 

This is what Jesus is talking about when tells us what comes out of a person, how our hearts have the capacity to be divisive, untrustworthy, thieving, deceitful, and the like.

But, if our heart is driven by our faith, our relationship with God, then what comes out of us, as children of God is very different from the list in verses 21-22 ... Instead of wickedness, envy, pride, folly ... the output of our faith is what? 

(more answers)

Exactly.  So Jesus reminds us, in the Gospel of Mark, and every day, that we must remember that GOD is the object of our faith. 
Faith is a gift from God. 

And as faith is the foundation of our lives, the output of our lives include (... the list the congregation gave .... love, forgiveness, mercy, a listening ear, a hug, a prayer, justice work, proclamation, graceful engagement, helping the other, giving, ...)

Are we able to have the faith of a child?

Are we able to faithfully proclaim our relationship with our God without hesitation? 

Are we willing to exalt our God who gives us all that we need, and claims us so that we know whose we truly are? 

God help us in faith so that our answers are YES, YES and YES.

So be it.  Amen

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