"There are some things that affect us so deeply that move us so emotionally that it makes objective rational organizing of thought around a topic impossible." This was the honest and forthright opening to John Ray's sermon on faith and pain. He was preaching a passage from Jesus' teachings on faith, and confessed his struggle with the topic. He expounded, said that while his daughter lay fighting for her life in the hospital after a tragic accident, a well-meaning woman tried to prop up John's faith. "If you only have faith like a mustard seed," she said, "all things are possible."
Maybe all things are possible with faith, but these words don't do a hill of bean's worth of good to a man in the midst of trauma. These are the words that feel less like comfort and more like millstones, as if the entirety of outcomes rests on mustering up of some sort of religious fervor.
John's daughter would pass later that day, and John expounded on the near passing of his faith, too. He said with all candor, "yes, this passage has been used to deeply hurt me, and it's not the passages fault." Then, he fleshed out faith, spoke of the invisible hand that gives us the gift. And it was good.
I've been though a similar experience, have had others claim that my son's recovery from a mystery illness hinged on my faith. Titus pulled through, though, and this begs the following question: what does that say of my faith in contrast to John's faith? Nothing.
In honor of yesterday's sermon, and as a reminder to us all, I'm reposting Psalm #11 from my archives.
Psalm #11 (Mustard Seeds:Cannonballs)
If addiction to grief were a thing, such would be the carnal cravings of those with the most authentic lives. Children with velvet blankets, we might rub the corners first. Then we'd pull the edges over the eyes, shroud ourselves in night, usher in the dreams of the murder of crows, the legion of doubt, or the garden of Eden, whichever the night might first give.
Lord have mercy.
If tomorrow’s healings rest in today’s faith are we to bear the eternal fever? The thing meant for hope-- the smallest seed of faith-- becomes a cannonball to be dodged as if such a thing were possible. If faith is a suspension of the will, the laws of nature, of nuclear hatred, fear, and the ashes of doubt that cover every potential promise, is such a thing possible? We, our own little gods, have always turned mustard seeds into cannonballs.
Christ have mercy.
There was a man, said Theophilus' friend, with demons aplenty and he lived among the graves by the sea, among the pigs on the overlook of the foamy unpredictable. He was without his wits, and without wits can there be a mustering of any worthy faith? His demons were Legion, the usurpers of will, and they were as obstinate as the tide, once, but now no longer.
Only say the word and we shall be healed--
Theophilus, the demoniac and I know this to be true: every gentle hope of peace passes first through addiction; then, through a Word; then through life and into death. From sea to glassy sea, it moves, plunging headlong into the sparkling forever.
Lord Have mercy.