A brief evening reflection.
How would you describe faith?
The working ‘off the cuff’ description I’d like to offer is ‘faith is the story you live by.’
‘Story’ is a supple, flexible and undogmatic way of thinking; it opens the way for the imagination and resists any clamour for empirical verification or proof for what must always be beyond proof. So, for instance, when we say the creed we are repeating together a very bare summary of the story we share; the story we seek to live by. Another example: in every Eucharist, in the Great Thanksgiving, we again repeat something of the story we seek to live by.
At every service today, including the service for the Blessing of the Animals, I have spoken about story and also, at least in passing, mentioned the film Noah. If you have not seen it I commend the film to you, and suggest further reflection on it if you have.
There is a pivotal and highly emotional moment in the film when Noah (Russell Crowe) says to his family: “let me tell you a story. The first story my father told me, and the first story I told each of you.”
What he recounts are the events of Genesis 1, the creation of the world. At this moment the producer (Aronofsky) relates the creation story not just verbally but also visually. As the 6 ‘days’ of creation are recounted these stages are juxtaposed with time lapse images of the origins of the cosmos – from the Big Bang to the arrival of man: science and story flowing and complementing, the one the other.
The story of Genesis 1 is the foundation narrative for Noah and his family. In holding firm to this story they also face a crisis, like our own in the church, they are like religious castaways in an utterly secularised culture. They are surrounded by the violent and rapacious civilization founded by Cain. Noah and his family try to live apart from it – but they are encircled, embattled and likely to be overwhelmed.
Embedded in the story is an element of uncertainty – initially surprising when we think we know the story – but actually a degree of uncertainty is necessary for any great story as it may be nuanced over time in various forms, different tellings and diverse expressions.
In the film we see this as Noah struggles with his questions, doubts, confusion and the signs of the times; is he right or is he deluded? What does God want him to do?
How is that different from the story we live by?