Faith is Homesickness
I’ve mentioned this before here, but one of the first books I tend to reach for when the well of inspiration is running dry and Sunday is approaching distressingly quickly is Frederick Buechner’s Secrets in the Dark. It’s a risky endeavour, to be sure, for reading Buechner’s sermons can either be an experience of inspiration and wonder at the sheer beauty of words and of the skill and poetic brilliance of a finely crafted sermon or one enormous exercise in crashing, at breakneck speed, back down to earth from whatever modest heights I had previously been pleased to imagine I occupied. I usually console myself by imagining that I am only reading the “greatest hits.” Even Buechner must have preached a few lousy, or at least ordinary sermons, even if I haven’t come across one yet… Right?
At any rate, I was struck this morning by the following passage from a sermon called “Faith and Fiction”:
Faith… is distinctly different from other aspects of the religious life and not to be confused with them even though we sometimes use the word to mean religious belief in general, as in phrases like “the Christian faith” or “the faith of Islam.”
Faith is different from theology because theology is reasoned, systematic, and orderly, whereas faith is disorderly, intermittent, and full of surprises.
Faith is different from mysticism because mystics in their ecstasy become one with what faith can at most see only from afar.
Faith is different from ethics because ethics is primarily concerned not, like faith, with our relationship to God but with our relationship to each other.
Faith is closest perhaps to worship because like worship it is essentially a response to God and involves the emotions and the physical senses as well as the mind, but worship is consistent, structured, single-minded and seems to know what it’s doing while faith is a stranger and exile on earth and doesn’t know for certain about anything.
Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting. Faith is a journeying through space and through time.