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Faith column: Americans need hope that moves us to action

Faith of Jesus gets us to a point of hope.

The Rev. Anne Hokenstad, American Lutheran Church
The Rev. Anne Hokenstad, American Lutheran Church
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WORTHINGTON — What is the difference between the two English words “in” and “of”? Both are prepositions meaning that each links to a noun or another part of speech to provide clarity.

English speakers use the word “of” when it is important to show belonging, origin or cause. (Example: The purse was made of soft leather). The word “in” is often used to indicate location or position. (Example: The pencil was in the drawer.) The differences are slight but, in some phrases, the difference between these small words is significant.

I was recently introduced to a way to talk about faith and Jesus in the work of Angela N. Parker, an assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at McAfee University in Atlanta, Georgia. In her recent book, “If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I: Black Lives Matter and Biblical Authority,”

Parker intentionally uses the phrase “faith of Jesus” as she shares her love of the biblical witness of Jesus Christ.

Often, we hear about “faith in Jesus.” Those who identify as Jesus’ followers locate their faith in the Son of God, Creator. To say that one follows the “faith of Jesus” means that the “origin of religious faith or spiritual convictions are in the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth who lived, breathed, had a ministry, suffered a terrible death, and by God’s power was raised from the dead.

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Why does it matter that we consider the “faith of Jesus” rather than “faith in Jesus?” It matters because we, in our post-COVID, weekly mass shooting, warming climate-influenced weather, and divided states of American reality need hope that moves us to action.

Speaking about “the faith of Jesus" gets me, and I believe us as people, to a point of hope beyond the weary, never-ending traumas of our common world.

The four gospels provide the stories to glean the basics of Jesus’ faith in God. The story of Jesus’ temptation by Satan in Luke 4 is helpful when naming “the faith of Jesus.” In this story, Jesus is tempted by Satan three different times. In each scenario, it is Jesus’ faith or trust in God that keeps him rooted and grounded in the God of All Love.

The “faith of Jesus’ can be described as “a belief that the Creator God is above all in power, love, and saving grace.” The “faith of Jesus” is a way of believing that seeks to honor and serve others before self. “The faith of Jesus” is about acting with a power that seeks to nurture and sustain life.

There are other stories, too, that inform the “faith of Jesus’ as he ministered, lived, suffered, died and rose again. Jesus listened to a sick woman who stopped in the middle of the street. Jesus lovingly tends to the grief of his friends outside of Lazarus’ tomb with the promises of hope. Jesus speaks about blessing those who are on the margins of society. Even in the midst of suffering his own death, Jesus seeks to forgive others.

The faith of Jesus generates hope as we lament the unending violence we do to ourselves as a human race. The faith of Jesus calls into a life of prayer individually and with others as a way to lean into the grace of God as we find ways to be resilient in our post-COVID lives. The faith of Jesus models for us to live inasmuch as possible in harmony with people and creation.

This small English word “of” makes all the difference. That difference? Well, it’s a hope — grounded and rooted in the faith of Jesus that guides all who seek to find a way forward in a weary world.

Anne Hokenstad is pastor of American Lutheran Church in Worthington.

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