What's the difference between belief and faith?
My dictionary says:-
belief: 1. a principle accepted as true or real especially without proof; 2. opinion, conviction 3. religious faith; 4. trust or confidence - as in a person's abilities.
faith: 1 strong or unshakable belief in something especially without proof; 2. a specific system of religious belief; 3. Christianity trust in God and in his actions and promises; 4. a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion; 5.complete confidence or trust in a person, remedy etc.
- which would seem to suggest that belief and faith are dependent upon one another, in fact those of us living within a religious system need faith in order to believe these things for which we have no proof!
Mark Oakley in his essay Reclaiming Faith in Spirituality in the City (SPCK 2005) wants to understand faith in different terms, "people believe in order to find assurance, a solution, a system of ideas. Faith, especially biblical faith, is completely different. The purpose of revelation is not to supply us with explanations or propositions, but to get us to listen to questions, radical addresses to ourselves and the world we are making. Belief talks and wallows in words, takes the initiative; faith waits, remains on guard, picks up signs, seeks to discern complex parables, listens to a silence poised for God. Belief looks for regimentation. Faith can be lonely: it knows that holiness means being separated somehow. Belief is reassuring, makes you feel safe. Faith is forever placing you on the razor's edge. Belief can order God and normalize. Faith knows this can't be done and, as it were, puts the odd back into God. Belief relates to ideas. Faith knows that ideas can get in the way; it embraces paradox and silence and lives with city-like confusion."
I know that we will react to those views in different ways, but I am intrigued by his description of faith. I love the way that faith is an exciting adventure, whose outcome must remain unknown - open to the wonder of God and the potential of the human spirit. I seem to share a discomfort with belief as something that can be written and controlled and enforced and quantified. When Jesus says, "follow me" - he doesn't ask anyone to sign up to a well argued well scripted doctrine but to experience the adventure and learn about God's reign. The first disciples knew that there lives would be changed but not the way in which it was changed, they expect glory but not the way it is achieved. And so today's disciples are also invited to experience the adventure of faith with all it's uncertainties, fear, excitement and opportunities.
I hope your enjoying the walk.
What's the difference between belief and faith?
1 Kings 17:1-16
Ravens, Famine, Refugees & Aid
Ravens a lovely story about the way God provides for those who obey and trust. It might also be that it is a story about the way the whole of creation combines to God's will - the birds and the prophet all under God's command. But a more rational explanation of the story is that ravens is a way of describing Bedouin type desert dwellers - And so at the heart of this story is a reminder that we are to feed those who come into our land seeking food, and welcome the stranger in our midst.
Famine continues to be a problem for millions of Africans - Sudan, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Niger the worst affected at the moment http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/africa/2006/africa_food_crisis/default.stm
drought continues to be a problem, but the biggest cause is political mismanagement, conflict and trading restrictions which make it very difficult for a nation to work itself out of crisis.
Closer to home many people who have managed to escape the African famines and conflicts come here seeking a welcome and a fresh start and are left facing famine as benefits ard withheld and they are not allowed legal work. Hence our harvest gifts will go towards helping to feed those who can only survive through such aid, we can be the ravens for those facing famine in Rochdale today.
Generous Widow, Bread of life
How difficult a decision was it for the widow - does she feed herself and her son their final meal or share it with this strange man, trusting his strange promise?
She shares and her generosity is rewarded - as it is so often. Generosity breed generosity and a willingness to share what little we have will mean that others will share with us. The biblical view is that a community will starve or feast together - so a good harvest meant that everyone benefits a poor harvest means that everyone struggles. In our culture we can buy our way out of a poor harvest - but that will leave others far away and out of sight to suffer. We celebrate a generous God and we can only do that through our own generosity.
How much do we love bread? We have brought a whole selection of breads today to feast upon and enjoy - for Elijah and the widow's family it was about survival, the difference between death and life. We also talk about bread in spiritual terms - of Jesus as the bread of life - for in following Jesus there is not just the staple for living or the difference between death and life - but a variety of tastes, experiences, adventures spread out on the table for us just waiting to be shared.
They compare Jesus with John and Elijah and then call him Messiah. But Peter's idea of Messiah is a long way removed from the vision of Jesus. Jesus doesn't want a Statement of Faith - he wants more than words he wants costly action.
James is concerned that words are used to cause pain, spark destruction, spread poison - and reveal our true heart - how can we bless God and curse people with the same tongue?
Parents, Godparents and congregation have made baptismal promises - we need to put them into action - being part of a faith community will help her to know some of the choices before her and to decide in later life whether she wants to confirm her baptism
The way of the cross is to follow and to copy the way of Jesus on the vulnerable walk of discipleship. Jesus does not ask for statements of belief - that is the church deciding who belongs - Jesus demands action - follow - come and see, experience, learn, act, experience, learn, act - how does your following the way of the cross impact on the way you live your daily life - and the goals of your life?
The way of the cross is about putting our old life aside, perhaps a life in which our words spark destruction, spread poison - perhaps a life in which our word means very little, which seems to be taking us no where other than down the same old road and invites us to experience life in all it’s fullness. That may not be easy, it may involve sacrifice, painful endings, grief, shame, but what will emerge is a new life, an abundant life being lived to it’s full potential as God intends - can we dare to seek such life along the way of the cross?