My friends, the operative word in today’s readings is “faith.” We probably all have some sort of definition in our heads and hearts of just what “faith” is. It has been said, “Faith is belief in things that we cannot see.” In the letter to the Hebrews, not one of our chosen readings for today, it says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” So, we might say that faith and hope are a team.
Many of us might say that it is “faith” that gets us through in our lives, whether we place that “faith” in God or in others in this world. And usually, our faith has its source in something tangible that has happened in our lives.
If our faith is placed in God, it is based, no doubt on times when God has “been there” for us—we have felt a support perhaps beyond ourselves. If our faith is placed in others, likewise, we have felt their support and love and can therefore believe that they have our best at heart.
Faith is a tenuous thing, whether it is placed in God or others—it takes a balancing act, because so much, for us humans, is dependent upon the seen reality. Yet again, those wiser than us say faith is, “belief in what we cannot see.” Curious.
For our purposes here, I would like to speak primarily about placing our faith in God whom we do not see, but say we believe in. If we say that we do not believe in God, but place our belief in others; I think the same things are operative, but for simplicity, let’s look at “belief in God.”
It takes a great deal of being present to our world, to “seeing” God all around us, or at least trying to, in creation—the animate and inanimate, because, as we know, none of us sees God, as God is, in this life. We might recall though, as a way to move forward, that Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen God,” -John 14:9.
So, does Jesus actually mean that?—that if we have seen him, we have seen God? And for us, who have not seen Jesus, as his first followers did, what are we to make of his words? As I see it, what we do have are his words—a sharing of those who actually, in most cases, did know him and see his actions. What they saw and experienced was so compelling that they were able to leave everything and follow him, and this fact changed the whole world.
So it would seem that when any of us sees beauty, goodness, mercy, justice and love displayed in this world—a selfless giving of oneself for others; we should realize that we have seen God! Do you believe that? Because, really, we should!—the Scriptures tell us as much in Jesus’ words when the apostles asked him to “show them [the God of us all].” “You have seen God, Jesus said, when you have seen me!”
We can only “see” Jesus now, through his words and actions in Scripture, but when we see all the goodness spoken of above, we are seeing what Jesus came to show us about right living, what his apostles first saw—and we are then, in fact, seeing the face of God.
Because this is so, none of us should ever doubt the presence of a Higher Power (God) in our midst, because even though, there is much evil these days to worry and upset us, there is likewise, much goodness that abounds.
We know this to be true in groups like, Moms Against Gun Violence—those valiant women and the men who support them, taking on the National Rifle Association (NRA), trying to call them back to common sense beliefs about gun ownership that would make our country safer, Everytown for Gun Safety—the group of parents that grew out of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012, the work of Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, through the Giffords’ Foundation, to make our country safer from gun violence. Gabby Giffords, former Congresswoman, you will recall, was shot in 2011 along with 18 others at a gathering of her constituents in Tucson, Arizona. All these groups on just ONE issue and there are so many others on other issues—those caring for the ill-used and abused at our southern border, and watchdog groups speaking truth to power in Washington. Goodness abounds amid those things that still need the actions that our brother Jesus has called us all to.
So, in our quest to be, “believing people,” we must remember the other part of the definition of faith from the Hebrews: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for”… Faith and hope, YES—do go together.
We humans are “hard-wired” to love—it is in our DNA, so to speak. We are spiritual people here having a human experience, just like our brother Jesus. All those who came before us in time, who have passed on the faith of our brother Jesus, basically a stance that we are here to be our “best selves,” to share life with others and to one day, return home to the God who has loved us mightily—always!
So what does a faith that calls us to be our “best selves” ultimately ask of us? The Scriptures for today give us some help:
- Our friend, Habakkuk, in the first reading says that “arrogance” cannot be our stance as part of our human experience, if being our best selves is what we are after. Those who are “arrogant,” this prophet says, “have a soul that is not right within them.” Additionally, this one says, “Those who are just, will live by their faith.”
- The psalmist today cries out, “That we would not harden our hearts, if today we hear God’s voice.” This is great confirmation, isn’t it, that our stance in this world should be to, “lead with our hearts?”
So my friends, this business of “being our best selves,” leading with our hearts, which ultimately will mean that we will need to be just, good, kind, and merciful in our world, will, as you know, not always be easy—it will drop us into some “gray areas” that won’t always be simple to navigate around—we may have to jump into the fray.
- Paul assures us in his letter to Timothy today that “the Spirit of God is no cowardly Spirit, but One that makes us strong, loving and wise” and additionally, he says, as Jesus’ followers, we need to “bear [our] share of the hardship that the gospel entails.” Perhaps speaking up when everyone else is going along with something that they shouldn’t be going along with.
- Our final encouragement is Jesus’ call to each of us, an assurance really, that, “faith the size of a mustard seed, can uproot trees” and in another place, “move mountains.” Much of what plagues us in this world feels like, “uprooting trees, trying to move mountains, at times, but I place my continued trust in Jesus’ words e and hopefully, you can as well. Amen? Amen!