• Steven Marsh

Being a Faith Forming church: a Reflection on 1 Kings 21:1-10, 15-21a, Psalm 5:1-8, Galatians 2:15-2

“Justification” is an important word. It is a faith forming word. When the Judge asks the jury foreman, “Have you reached a verdict and what say you?” and the jury foreperson responds, “We find the defendant not guilty,” the defendant has been made right with the judicial system. Justification is what a computer’s word-processing program does to the margins. It straightens up the words so they are in right relationship with the page. Justification is what God does for us. Our sinful, broken, and messy lives get straightened out, justified. We are put back in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.[1]

In Orange County, rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,608. The number of jobs a minimum wage earner must work to afford a two-bedroom apartment is 3.4. 400,000 residents struggle with hunger. And 60,000 children are without health insurance.[2] Life is messy.

Determination like Mary Magdalene’s was rarely seen. Her reputation as a prostitute was common knowledge. As Jesus reclined at table, Mary knelt at his feet, wiped his feet with her tears, and anointed them with oil. Simon was incensed. Jesus told a story. He spoke of two men in debt. One owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty. The moneylender cancelled the debts of both men. Jesus asked Simon which debtor would be the most grateful? Simon answered the one whose debt was the greatest. To which Jesus replied that he had judged correctly. The word Jesus used for “judged” communicates accurate cognitive discernment not a condemning spirit.

In “messy” times, when racism, hunger, hate, and wage inequity persist, we need salvation. Salvation begins the process of being formed by faith.

Why don’t we have faith like Mary? We are far too easily pleased. Brennan Manning writes, “The paltriness of our lives is largely due to our fascination with the trinkets and trophies of the unreal world that is passing away. Sex, drugs, booze, the pursuit of money, pleasure and power, even a little religion, suppress the pain.”[3] Salvation is nothing other than God’s takeover of our lives. Jesus will live his life in and through us. Paul writes in Galatians 5:20, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Being a faith forming church requires a commitment to inclusive community, mission, and communion. A faith forming church is one where inclusive community is “…very unlike people can feel a deep sense of belonging”; mission is “…essentially doing acts in the world and with people who represent God’s heart in heaven”; and communion represents activities the church does “that relate our connection or communion with God.” [4]

Do you take faith formation seriously? Naboth, David, and Mary did. Naboth did not give his vineyard to King Ahab who wanted to turn it into a vegetable garden, a reference for the Israelites of life as it was in Egypt. David acknowledged that God “abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.” Mary displayed grateful affection to Jesus for cancelling her moral debt.

Faith is always a gift, a gift anchored in the obedience, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[5] Let’s get at becoming a well-balanced faith forming church which is committed to inclusive community, mission, and communion. God has acted on our behalf.

[1]Adapted from Heidi Husted Armstrong in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 134.

[2]Statistics taken from the South County Outreach website, June 11, 2016.

[3]Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1994), 118.

[4]Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), 96-97.

[5]Adapted from Beverly Roberts Gaventa in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 137.

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