Bread – Faith

May 3, 2013


Readings for Friday, May 3, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rom. 14:13-23; Luke 8:40-56; Psalm 106

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There was an incident this week involving me and another person, where out of anger, tiredness, frustration, irritation, self-righteousness, and probably a bunch of other things, I lashed out verbally. As James said about the tongue, “..the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. …no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” James 3:6—10

The net effect was a broken relationship, with me being accused of being a hypocrite.

Which brings us to our readings today. Paul in our reading from Romans today says: “Therefore, let us … rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother…For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died…For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbringing…Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God…it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats…” Rom. 14:13-21

Now the specific context for this passage is “unclean” food, not hurtful speech, but the kingdom principle being spoken of is the same in both cases Types of speech (tone, content, etc.) may be appropriate in many contexts, but if your brother takes offense, then it is a stumbling block and a grief to a brother. This becomes clear when we substitute “speech” words for “food” words in the Romans passage: “Therefore, let us … rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother … For if your brother is grieved by what you [say or how you say it], you are no longer walking in love. By what you [say or by how you say it], do not destroy the one for whom Christ died…For the kingdom of God is not a matter of [speaking and talking and arguing and condemning] but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbringing … Do not, for the sake of [your speech, words, tone], destroy the work of God…it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he [says or how he says it]…” Rom. 14:13-21 (modified).

So if we are talking about speech and hypocrisy and stumbling blocks, why is this Bread called “Faith.” It is because of our gospel reading today – “And there was a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and … could not be healed by anyone. She came behind Him [Jesus] and touched the fringe of His garment and immediately her discharge of blood ceased…And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling…and He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” Lk. 8:42-28

This woman had a disease. The tongue is a disease. The woman could not be cured by the technique of the world. The tongue cannot be tamed (cured) by man. The woman’s problem made her unclean and breaks relationships. The tongue stains us and breaks relationships. Neither can be controlled by the person with the problem or by the tools of society. What heals and cures and tames and controls is the decision to turn from what has not worked to Jesus, finding Him and touching Him. The woman was not hidden and neither are we. We are not hidden when we sin, we are not hidden when we repent, we are not hidden when we touch the Master … we only think we are. But when we do, when we turn, believe, and touch Him, we have acted in faith.

Who can tame my tongue? Only the Holy Spirit, given to me when I first touched Jesus and when I call upon Him. But I have to have faith in Him so that His power will operate in my life.

But there is a greater truth in all this. What happened to the woman the day after she touched Jesus? Did the problem return? We think not but we don’t know. But we do know this, the tongue which is tamed today is spouting evil tomorrow. So what happened? The truth is that our faith in Christ is not a one-time faith but an active faith, exercised minute-by-minute, day-by-day. To have faith in Christ to control our tongue means that we have faith that He will take care of the problem we are so angry about, He will handle the hurt, He will provide us words of encouragement and wisdom instead of discouragement and selfishness, He will give us the strength to subordinate our rights to another’s needs, He will give us power to say no to anger and yes to love, and He will handle the wrong, if indeed there has been any. And so the bottom line is that, in order to have gracious speech worthy of our King, we have to have the faith at the moment that Jesus knows what is going on, He will handle it, and I don’t have to do anything except lean on Him and follow what He says. Not faith exercised yesterday and faith which may be exercised tomorrow, but faith right now, in the moment.

When my tongue pops out to defend my rights, to prosecute wrongs done to me, to pursue my agenda, to beat down others so that I can be “king of the hill,” I am not exercising faith in God, because I am relying upon myself in my power to solve my problems. Not only am I not exercising faith, I am not demonstrating love for either Christ or my neighbor. So the accusation of “hypocrite” is accurate, and by my selfishness I have caused another to stumble, as Paul warned the Roman church would happen.

Radical faith. Minute by minute faith. Letting Jesus handle me, him, the situation, the action, the reaction, the response, the result, everything … that requires faith.

This is what we are called to as disciples of Christ. Nothing less. Impossible for us. Not impossible for Him. So we need to always be touching Him because His power and only His power is sufficient.

Very hard. And so we pray – Come Holy Spirit.

____________________

© 2013 GBF

*The Book of Common Prayer reading marked by the asterisk today is from Wisdom, which is a book of the Apocrypha. Since not all Christians recognize this collection of books as appropriate Scriptural reading, it is omitted.

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