"Jesus answered them, '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."' - Mark 11: 22 - 23
You take a wild and wooly word from Jesus like this one about faith moving mountains and learn to whittle it down, to domesticate it, to nuance it, to explain it.
You learn, first, that this is hyperbole. No one really moves mountains this way. It's a figure of speech. And why move the mountains anyway? We like mountains. Overstatement, not to be taken literally. Of course.
You learn, second, there's a theological problem embedded here. It could be spun to say it depends on our perfect total faith. If our faith is good enough, strong enough, anything can happen, everything is possible. If it doesn't, it's your fault. Your faith wasn't good enough, not strong enough. No good.
You learn, third, that the context here is Jesus' condemnation of the sterility of the Temple in Jerusalem, but be careful because there's a long, ugly history (there is) of Christian anti-Semitism.
You learn these nuances, qualifications, explanations and in the end a wild, pungent faith blows off down the street like a dried up, desiccated fall leaf.
And you miss the simple and powerful truth of Jesus' words: the truth of a wild, raw faith. The truth of deep trust in the power of God to "accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20)
The qualifications, nuances and cautions are important. But they can be a way we protect ourselves from the risk of faith and bold trust in the power of God.
And in the end it is just such a wide-eyed, child-like trust in the power of God that is the point, not the qualifications or explanations. Just for today, "Have faith in God," wild faith.
Holy One, when I fall into the snares of clever evasions, set me free to trust, wildly, in You. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.