Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington

“…it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (Romans 1:16-17). More on these 4 uses of ‘Faith’ in Paul’s Letter, To The Romans.

This ‘soterian/salvation’, this power ‘to make safe and sound’; this power of God ‘to deliver from a direct threat’; this ‘Gospel of Jesus Christ’ power that has an acutely dynamic way of acting to snatch (hu)men by force from peril and life-threatening danger— is available TO EVERYONE WHO HAS this ‘pistis/FAITH’. Not just any faith, but, faith that was first revealed to the Jews in their life-sustaining hope that God would send a Messiah to deliver from a world of sin and death. Now fulfilled in faith that is also available to the Greek (the gentile and to all (hu)men as the message of this Letter-Book unfolds). It is faith that is not based on race, or culture or creed— but in ‘The Gospel’ of Jesus Christ.

Karl Barth in his ‘Epistle To The Romans’ makes this statement: “So new, so unheard of, so unexpected in this world is the power of God unto salvation, that it can appear among us, be received and understood by us, only as contradiction.”

I cannot help but think of my ‘birth wrong’ and the many occasions in my life when ‘the who I am’ met with total and complete contradiction standing in a world that would seek to determine ‘the who I should be’. The racial ‘situations in life’, yes; the wrong side of the ‘economic and cultural track’ yes; but most contradictory for me was the Sunday that my mother-in law, the late LeJulia Davis Washington invited me to be the Woman’s Day speaker at her Church, Mt. Bethel shortly after moving to Nashville. Upon arrival, it became the very first time in my then 15 years of ordained ministry that I was required to ‘preach from the floor’. The pastor’s attack upon my proclamation of The Gospel (given ‘behind my back’ as I sat on the floor in a chair facing the congregation and he in the pulpit) was so vicious, I admit that in that space in time it called my faith into question. I remember digging deep inside myself to know the truth that I had already served as Pastor to Gordon Road in Atlanta and to Bethel in Brooklyn; Associate Pastor at Salem in Harlem; Chaplain at Bennett— God had already done in me what this man was saying He could not do.

Several New Testament scholars have pointed to ‘The Resurrection’ as ‘THE birthing’ point of the Christian Faith. It is faith that, in view of ‘The Crucifixion’ (the most vicious and vile act of (hu)man(ity)— in the face of the ‘Great Contradiction’; there is given salvation. To reference Paul’s later statement of this Letter-Book: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”; is to jump ahead. But, to say here that it is THIS FAITH, this dying, yet living faith, that justifies—ALONE.

It is new, it is unheard of, it is unexpected in this world— the power of God unto salvation. It is not by GENDER; not by birthright, not by race, nor by class or caste. Money can’t buy it; Knowledge can’t attain it; WORKS CANNOT EARN IT! “It can appear among us, be received and understood by us, only as a contradiction.”
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