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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington , M. Div.

“…do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass,…”  Stuck in this fifth and final occurrence of Jesus’ use of ‘Faith’ in Mark’s Gospel as it continues to reveal dynamics of faith.  ‘The meaning of The Withered Fig Tree’ must be given extensive attention in light of it’s position in this Gospel.  (Mark 11:20-25).  ‘Jesus’ Passion’ must be seen in giving ‘new life’ to his sayings that come forth in this the Eleventh  (hour) chapter of his life.

The chapter has opened, again, with his ‘Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem’ riding on a donkey.  While the crowd present at this ride said “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord”— Howard Thurman says of him on ‘This Ride’ that he had come to “feel the sparrowness of the sparrow, the leprosy of the leper, the blindness of the blind, the crippleness of the cripple and the frenzy of the mad.”  After cursing the fig tree he returned to the Temple where he overturned the ‘tables of the money changers’— “and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple”.

Ultimate, I think, of all faith statements ever made is this saying that Jesus gives in His Passion to respond to the beloved disciple’s calling his attention to the tree which he cursed— “Have faith in God.  Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.  So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

‘Diakrino/doubt’ is of major importance, in coming to terms with this saying of Jesus.  Rooted in ‘krino’; used throughout classical Greek in legalism this verb has the  meaning: ‘to sift’; ‘to part’; ‘to divide out’; ‘to decide’; ‘to judge’; ‘to dispute’.  Translated from Old Testament where it has the theological sense of ‘judgement’— both verdict and process.  Significant to note that ‘crisis’ has root in this word— conflict, parting, estrangement.  Buchsel suggests that the use of krino as diakrino/doubt is not known prior to the New Testament— “It is specifically religious phenomenon.”

Doubt, then, is the ‘double-mindedness’; the very nature of modern (hu)man.  It involves the ‘conflicting motives’ of the personal life.  The motives, the motives? The Motives!  It includes the uncertainty, the insecurities; the ‘conflicting doctrines’; science— can anything but dynamite really move a mountain?  James is on point, “the double-minded man IS unstable in all his ways.”  For doubt, double-mindedness encompasses the ‘upside downwardness’ of the wages of good surrounded by ‘evil doers!  To include vicarious suffering.  Not to leave out the ‘weapons of mass destruction!’

I was listening to the DL Hughly Show this week and a trending new topic came up stating that the Chaplain at Harvard is an ‘atheist’.  Listening to the radio talk it made me go “hummmmm”?  Digging deeper I see the New York Post reported on August 26, 2021 him stating “There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life.”  He said further “We don’t look to a god for answers, we are each other’s answers”.  I’m just gonna let Chaplain Epstein’s words sit right here…

Key to faith here, then, is that this doubt must not reach the heart!  “For out of the heart comes evil thought, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, wickedness, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride…”  All these things considered, there is only one prayer to be prayed— David at his best, “Create in me a clean heart!”

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