"Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (Acts 19:13, NIV)
They were looking for a magic bullet. A quick way to be noticed and praised. They borrowed someone else's faith. The "seven sons of Sceva" - a Jewish chief priest - had found a new model for celebrity.
Many of us don’t have such checkered motives - we are searching more for contentment, or help, or truth in the midst of great soul-wrenching confusion. We're looking for a magic bullet, of sorts.
Faith has a place for all of us, even an atheist has faith that their
denial of God is correct, and well articulated reasons why.
All faith also has an accompanying liturgy - a work done hand in hand with belief or hopes for belief. Every faith has a flawed and beautiful community, and set of lenses through which to see the world.
The issue at hand is that faith can’t be borrowed. The seven sons discovered that a borrowed faith leaves you vulnerable at best, and at worst "beaten...naked and bleeding." (19:16)
True, faith is met and discovered in the voices of others - saints ahead of us and innocents behind. For me faith camein the raspy, quivering voice of the preacher long standing in the same oak pulpit, flush with the love of God but wrestling with the length of life.
We find faith in the bread. the wine. the table - another culture's practice but passed down through the generations. The eucharist, or communion, and all the familiar words - words that can become too familiar, that's true - but words that name our pain and hope simultaneously, week after week.
Sometimes we stop paying attention because they sing in a monotone, sometimes we stop paying attention because they are striking too close to our hearts. The traditions may not be exciting but they’re true.
Sometimes truth is less exciting than fantasy.
There is little fantasy over bread and wine, body and blood, and that’s a good thing. The story is magic but the elements are gritty and real - we taste the elements, but we often forget to taste the story. It's an old faith born into our new lives - in the scope of the world, we're all exponential infants.
Faith is long-term, high-risk investment. we pour our life into it - our stomach lining, our sweat and tears and time, which leads to the paradox of possessing it and yet still coming to hold it.
We create spaces in which to hold it - bible studies and devotional times, worship, silence and solitude, on and on - and we see it glimmer just as it passes us, like Moses glimpsing God’s hamstrings on his way by.
No matter how weakly we walk, no matter how far we have journeyed in a life of faith, the most important lesson I have learned is that a borrowed faith isn’t strong enough for the real work of life that we engage in every day.
We find that out when we leave a conversation, meeting, or confrontation feeling bloody and naked and beaten. we’ve been exposed, wounded, and bruised. Whose faith were we living out?
It happens. Better to accept it. The case can even be made that it has to happen. the essential thought is WHY does it happen?
Are we masquerading as faithful, wearing someone else’s clothes?
Are we like David, tempted to face the giant wearing Saul’s armor that instead of protecting us actually made us vulnerable?
Are we borrowing against future faith, hoping to pay it back but never planning to do the trench work of finding our true self and knowing God in a transparent way?
To be formed as we were born to be formed, the journey begins with very simple questions:
What does your faith look like? Turn it like a prism in the light, all of its beauty and imperfections together. Describe it in a word or two.
What lessons have you learned, what insights and realities have come into your life from hard-fought battles, what reality is God speaking out of your soul into your comings and goings in the world?
These days we must own our faith, we share it in community, and we express it in the world. The question is why. The question is how. But the bigger question is who - who are we in our living liturgy today?