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Faith of a mustard seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods-Washington

Someone may have noted that the Romans 1:31 text referenced in the previous column spoke the word ‘faithless.’ Paul uses ‘asunthetous/faith,’ a very rare word in New Testament, but not a part of our current study.

“Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the Oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” Romans 3:3—the eighth, ninth and tenth occurrences of ‘pistis/faith’ in Paul’s ‘Letter to the Romans.’

In his work Letter to the Romans, Karl Barth opens his commentary on the third chapter with this statement:  “History is the display of the supposed advantages of power and intelligence which some men possess over others, of the struggle for existence hypocritically described by ideologists as a struggle for justice and freedom, of the ebb and flow of old and new forms of human righteousness, each vying with the rest in solemnity and trivality.” How ‘rude’ is this awakening? This compound, very complex sentence is a statement that must be read, re-read and read some more. It cuts deep into the mind, heart and soul. “What if some were unfaithful?  Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?”

Barth’s statement is a reminder for me of why ‘histories’ are classified. Whose report will you believe? I like the use and understanding of a ‘literal’ breakdown of words that in and of themselves give meaning, even before formal definitions. ‘His-story’ told by a ‘man’s world,’ for the most part, only portrays the activities of men. ‘Her-story’ that has ‘his’-storically, very strategically been omitted—both of which classifies as ‘secular histories.’ And then there is ‘HIS-story that distinguishes  the HIStorical view of God’s work, ways and plan in creation and re-creation of the world, (hu)man, and all activities in HIS world. ‘Salvation History’ is a classification of history that has the biblical story at its center. This statement is also a reminder that written histories omit the ‘powerLESS’ peoples of the world—even at the expense of the ‘unwritten histories’ contained in the annihilation of lives, cultures, societies and civilizations. Barth continues with this statement that causes any concerned religious mind to go ‘hummmmmm’: “What is new is also the deepest truth of what was old.” Paul’s approach now turns to the advantage (or this word ‘Entitlement’ that is being thrown around, again so ‘one-sidedly’ in our political times) of the Jew: they “are entrusted with the Oracles of God.”

A form of ‘logos’ (the depths of this ‘logos’ word is haunting—can’t seem to ever get away from it) is ‘oracles’ here as ‘logion,’ which is only used four times in the entire New Testament. It is significant to note that three uses are specific: ‘the oracles of God,’ where the single and only other use is ‘Stephen’s Sermon’ in Acts when he references Moses’ Theophany on Mt. Sinai where “he received living oracles to give to us” (v. 38).

As a spiritual excercise, try playing around with the Gospel John’s first chapter, first verse: “in the beginning was the ‘logos’, and the ‘logos’ was with God, and the ‘logos’ was God.” See what you see! But don’t stop there— read on. “And the ‘logos’ became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…”  What is new is the deepest truth of what was old. Paul now turns to the old: “the logion of God.”

For comments or information, visit mustardseedfaith@bellsouth.net. Follow me on Twitter: @therevsquilts

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