14. Oktober 2019

Sermon on July 11th, 2019

Sermon by Frank Moritz-Jauk

What is faith                                                               Hebrews 11, 1-3 and 8-16

Dear congregation,

today I want to look at the first part of Hebrews that you just heard: What is faith?

„What is faith“ is, in my opinion, an important question for all Christians, which needs to be answered first for oneself. Once in a while, it happens that others are asking us that question. Most of the times, or at least quite often, it is in combination with the second question, which we have also heard before: How can we understand that the world was created through God’s word?

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, answers both questions and yet, I believe it is worth it take a deeper and more extended look at the topic. Especially since nowadays we know of even more ideas on how the world was created, and because we as Christians use the word faith the same way as the phrase „certainty of faith“. And in addition to that – as if it were not complicated enough yet – comes to the fact that in common language use a difference is between faith and knowledge. „You believe it will rain tomorrow because you have seen it on the weather app, but you do not know it. You will know it tomorrow because then you see whether it will actually rain, or not.“

I will try to approach the topic step by step and of course, those are just my thoughts on the topic, which one can agree with – or not.

The definition of faith, which we have heard, I like particularly about the creation of the world. I will repeat one more time: „Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.“ Faith as proof, as something that we are convinced of.

I am personally convinced that the world, this earth on which we are living, was not created by accident. Nowadays we can look into space with a gigantic telescope. We are sending space probes, like Voyager 1, into space. Right now, August 2019, it is 21,9 billion kilometers away from the sun and thus the furthest traveled object, which humans have invented. Is this why we have found the second earth? With plants, animals and humanlike creatures? I do not know of something like this, so no.

And also the argument that earth just has the perfect distance to the sun, so life can be created all by itself is not something that convinces me. The distance between the earth and the sun is about 150 million kilometers. And the distance to the moon is only 386 000 kilometers. One could say, considering the distances, that the moon has approximately the same distance to the sun as the earth does. So why is there no life on the moon?

And I have two more questions about the evolution theory: assuming humans are descended from apes, okay. Believe me, I am not a creationist, who believes Earth was created in seven days, just as it says in the creation report. But my question is: Why? Why do our descendants to this day run around in the forest on four feet and eat lice and fruits? Why did they not develop the same just as humans did?

I don’t know. I mean, come on. In this case, I find the argument from Romans a lot more conclusive. In the first chapter, verse 20, Paul wrote, „Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen.“

In my opinion, it is far easier to think of a regulating creating hand for the unbelievable beautiful nature and its complexity, considering the possibility of humans, than to deny and refuse the existence of God.

One could do that, but I just do not believe it. I believe „that the visible came into existence from the invisible.“ And this invisible thing I call God.

Thus we reach the linguistic discourse on the word faith. In common language usage, it is being differentiated between faith and knowledge. I already talked about the example of the weather forecast. Yet as Christians it is not always easy, because it is also depended on experience. As Christian, I can say that I do not only believe in the reality of God, something that I believe to be true, but I know it is true because I have experienced it. I testify that God is true because God has shown this to me. We are talking about how the Holy Spirit works when we say „The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children.“ (Romans 8,16)

I will try formulating this in different words because we are actually using the same words for different meanings.

Believing, as it is used in common language use, does not mean knowing.

Believing, just as Christian theology uses the word, can however also mean knowing. We are talking about the certainty of faith when naming this knowledge.

In a Christian context believing consists of two complementing parts: the human and the godly part. Because both is true: On the one hand faith, as we heard it today, „the reality of what we hope for“ and on the other hand faith being unavailable. This is not a contradiction because the unavailability of faith means that humans cannot make faith but faith is something that needs to be given by God. And will be given.

„I know, ladies and gentlemen, it is quite complicated how this world, in which we live in, acts,“ Franz Sinowatz said in his government declaration 1983.

Obviously, I too know that. But the topic of faith is, not only complicated but has also many layers. Because here many different movements meet. Humans, who are looking for God and God who lets Himself be seen. Or God who talks to a human, as we have heard it today with the example of Abraham. Abraham is going, even though he did not know where he would land. Why? Because he believes in God because he trusts in God. Believing and trusting are two words, which are closely connected with each other. Often one could exchange one word with the other.

Lastly, about this question, „What is faith?“.

For me, faith is a process. Something that moves and develops and does not stay the same.

I believe faith can start with a declaration of intent, „I want to get to know you, God.“ This is a declaration of intent. It can be connected with hope, but this will for now not be successful. With this declaration of intent, I can start my search. I am looking for God. I am looking for him, by, for example, reading the Bible so I can know what has been written by him and about him. What kind of experiences people have made with God. Maybe today I do not even need to read but can look at videos on the internet or on different media channels. Reading the Bible has the advantage that I am looking at the original source. But it doesn’t matter, I am looking for God by getting to know more about Him. This could also be in conversation with others, who say about themselves that they believe in Jesus. Somewhere at some point, God will encounter me. This is in contrast to the unavailability of God but is established in God’s promise. God has said of Himself that He will let Himself be found.

Faith as a process also means that the experience of faith needs to be renewed all the time; also my own faith and I can count on that. This is why faith is alive and not static or cannot be compared to something that I own and can put in the pocket of my trouser.

So what is faith?

This was today the first question and I have connected this question with the creation of the world.

Because this topic is not easy to grasp, I will try to make a summary for you, in the hope that every one of you will take some part of what has been said with you to think about at home and in your everyday life.

•  „Believing is not knowing“ is a proverb. But this is not the case for Christians, because one can also experience faith and the certainty of faith is something real

•  One cannot make faith, but God has given it to humans.

•  The world has been created by God’s word. This I believe in.

•  God’s creation refers to Him, the invisible God. This too I believe in.

And in my opinion, the most beautiful thing is:

Whoever seeks God, God will let Himself be found by them. Because God Himself has promised that.

Amen

Translation Maria Sonnleithner