The arresting line in the gospel text (Mark 9:14-29) is of course – ‘I Believe, Help my unbelief!” But, the point of the text by its own words are prayer – “this kind only comes out with prayer.” What comes out? A demon of muteness and deafness. If faith comes by hearing, and if those who have believed in Mark’s gospel respond by telling everyone even over Jesus’ commands – is there not a better description of unbelief than one who is deaf to the Gospel and mute at its reception? Help my unbelief was the father’s cry. The disciples said as much when they asked – “why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus answer is get connected. Renew and strengthen your faith through prayer.
I concentrated on the disciples as learners (the core meaning of the word). Rev. David Bernard (VP of the Eastern District) shared a different view that captured my attention today. The father says “I believe, help my unbelief” after the disciples are unable to cast out the demon. If you look at the disciples as either the church or the ministerium (they are the proto-church and also the proto-ministers and sorting out when they are what is often subtle), that phrase takes on a very potent modern view – “I believe in you Jesus, but your church/ministers sure brings out my unbelief.” In an day when entire church bodies vote to ignore the Word of God as authoritative (see the post below on the ELCAs recent statement on sexuality), the church can get in the way of faith and even encourage faithlessness.