Wednesday, 14 December 2016
Faith of our Fathers and Mothers
Last weekend Lorna and I were in Toronto visiting family. On Sunday we attended St. Thomas’s Anglican Church to get our fix of High Anglican smells and bells which we seem to need once or twice a year. Actually it was not as high as usual. Due to our schedule we attended the 9:30 B.A.S. service of Holy Eucharist rather than the usual B.C.P. service. However, it was still a lovely service with good music.
After the service we attended choral concert at the Royal Conservatory in which our granddaughter, who is six years old, participated. We were glad to discover that there has been an explosion of interest in choral music recently. Following a very enjoyable concert with many children of various ages, we had lunch and other activities with the family. We went with some of the family to the ROM as we had lots of time before our train left later that afternoon. Actually, I sat in the lobby and dozed while the rest of them spent about an hour with the exhibits.
We then went to Union Station and had some time before our train left so we sat for a while reading our books. I was approached by a young man who wanted to ask me some questions he had about the Ark of the Covenant. I was initially surprized to be approached until I remembered I was wearing my clerical shirt and collar. In any case we had an engaging, if short, conversation about faith and the need for proof in relation to faith.
One of the things that the young man inquired about was the belief that the Ark contained not only the tablets on which the Ten Commandments are written but also a jar containing manna that fed the Israelites in the wilderness. I must admit I had forgotten about that aspect of the story. On checking with the source of all knowledge (the internet) I was reminded that the Ark also is purported to contain not only the jar of manna but also Aaron’s budded rod. I confess my poor memory about those aspects of the story of the Ark.
In any case the encounter got me thinking more about faith and the need for some people to have proof in order believe as opposed to faith which one source defines as, “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.” In this context the idea of the jar of mana being contained in the Ark is very apropos. The manna which YHWH (God) provided to the Israelites in the wilderness was the daily bread that they needed. It could not be stored up for more than their need for the day it was harvested. Being human they tried to store up more than their need for the day but it became spoiled overnight. The exception was the supply for the Sabbath which could be collected the day before to uphold the commandment not to do any work on the Sabbath. They were required know that God would give them each day their daily bread which the biblical account affirms.
Throughout my adult life I have had personal challenges about what to believe and how to understand biblical miracles. I have gone back and forth and up and down about what I believed and how to understand them. I have also had quite a few discussions with people who had absolute faith in the literal truth of the biblical accounts—the story of the other Ark, Noah’s, is one that comes up frequently.
I find that the best approach to the biblical miracles in such discussions is not to explore be literal truth of the accounts. Rather what I believe is important is to understand the capital “T” truth that is contained in the stories. What do the stories reveal about the truth concerning about the relationship between God and the people of God for which they were told? We will probably never know with absolute certainty or have absolute proof of the literal facts of the biblical account—at least in this life. However, just as the account of the manna from heaven tells us that we need to live our lives in the understanding that God will give us what we need for our spiritual lives to be fed, we need to do our best to understand what the biblical accounts are saying to us in our lives as we live them and how God is at work in our lives today.
I will close with a quote from Richard Rohr, the Daily Meditation for today—perhaps a bit of synchronicity or the reality that God provides what we need in many different ways:
Faith is not simply seeing things at their visible, surface level, but recognizing their deepest meaning. To be a person of faith means you see things—people, animals, plants, the earth—as inherently connected to God, connected to you, and therefore, most worthy of love and dignity. That’s what Jesus is praying for: that you could see things in their unity, in their connectedness.
Keep the faith,