Last post I shared a story from Will North's book, Water, Stone and Heart. The story was a sermon about Peter walking on water.
I told you I had a problem with the Vicar's sermon and I asked you to tell me what my problem was. Kind of like Nebuchadnezzar asking Daniel to interpret his dream, I guess. Not really fair. But Jean Pedersen picked up on my question and gave me the response I was looking for. I suspect others of you would have come up with the same thought, but Jean stated it in a nutshell.
She wrote: "It's not faith in faith. It's faith in Jesus."
In all fairness, I thought the sermon was a pretty good one, as far as it goes. It communicates truth in an entertaining and effective way. But at the end, in the vicar's application of the truth, her message strays a bit, and that straying has the potential to lead us off a cliff into thin air (or into cold water, depending on which of her great analogies you follow.)
For sure, faith is important. Lack of faith can keep us from being saved. But it's not our faith that saves us. Faith is only the conduit that connects us with the source of salvation. When it comes to our eternal well being, it's the source of our faith that saves us. Until we get to the place of realizing we need that Source, we are lost.
There's another story about drowning that illustrates this concept. It's the story of two men sitting on a grassy bank by a river, watching their friend struggle in the current, trying to stay afloat. One of the men is a strong swimmer, totally capable of rescuing the drowning man. The other looks at him, astonished and even angry to see his capable friend watching the drowning man flail in the water.
They both watch as the man goes down once, twice, and finally three times. Only then does the strong rescuer jump in, swim to the friend in the water, and haul him back to safety on shore.
As the three of them rest on the riverbank, the dry one asks, "Why on earth did you just sit there so long and watch him struggle to stay alive? Why did you wait until the very end, when his hope was gone, before you saved him?"
The rescuer looks at his friend and explains, "As long as he felt he had any strength to save himself I was not able to rescue him. If I'd gone out sooner, his struggling would have drowned us both. I had to wait until his strength--his last vestige of hope in himself--was gone before he would let me do it for him."
Faith in ourselves--in our own ability to be good enough to merit heaven--can keep us afloat until we no longer have the strength to dogpaddle. But in the end, we will drown if our faith is in anything except the Master of the waves who alone can walk on water--the One Who waits to take our hand when we have finally given up all hope in ourselves.
That's the message of the Gospel. Later on, in the book of Acts, that crazy, impetuous "rock," Peter, explains this important truth:
With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: "Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regardint this healing, I'll be completely frank with you--we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is 'the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.' Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one."
Acts 4:8-12, from The Message