Lectionary Reflection: Luke 12: 32-40, Hebrews 11: 1-16: Faith in the Heart.

You have heard it said, “The just shall live by faith.  The righteous shall live by faith.”  It is said by the Old Testament Prophet – Habakkuk 2:4.  It is said by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament – Romans 1:17.  It is said in many different ways by Jesus, and repeated here in the book of Hebrews (10:38) right before Hebrews chapter 11 where a whole litany of faithful people are named and praised.

My question has always been, what part of life isn’t lived by faith?

That, of course, raises another question: in what do we put our faith?

What will tomorrow bring?  There is no certain knowledge, even of the next moment from now.  The future is the great undiscovered country into which we are all moving at the speed of light. We all move into the future by faith, believing in all sorts of things, putting our faith in so many things.  We can have hope that tomorrow may be mind-bogglingly wonderful,  but there are no guarantees. We may have expectations, particularly with regard to the people in our life, and we may hope we are not disappointed; but there are no guarantees.

Ultimately, the only way we can move into tomorrow is by faith, not by sight.  All of life is lived by faith, moment by moment.  But in what do we put our faith?  That is the question. To sleep, perchance to dream.

These days, we put our faith in science, in what I call the principle of universal consistency.  In every day of our life, so far, the sun rose in the morning and set in the evening.  Tomorrow may be rainy and cloudy all day so we might not actually see the sun, but we still believe the sun will rise tomorrow morning and set in the evening just like it has always done in the past.  We believe the birds will fly, the fish will swim, the dog will have to go out and the cat will nap.  We believe the universe is a consistent place, and what was true yesterday will continue to be true tomorrow – and though we have no way to prove it, we walk into tomorrow by faith in science – in universal consistency.

Actually, tomorrow, the whole universe might just as easily roll up like a scroll come to the end of the sentence in the last corner of the paper.  The book might close.  Everything might end.  I should say, Jesus might well return to the sound of that final trumpet, but we don’t really believe it because we believe in science and “universal consistency.”  This is our faith.

We also tend to put our faith in other people, famiy, friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow Christians; but this faith in people often enough does not work out too well.  When my daughter married, she and her husband, being in love, made all sorts of promises to remain faithful for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, for better or worse ‘till death do them part.  But who knows what tomorrow may bring.  I can pray for them, but half of the marriages in this country end in divorce.  We have a divorce crisis in this country of epic proportions.  And more.

People are trying to hold on to their jobs these days.  The smart ones hope the company makes money, that evil profit thing, so they can hold on to their jobs and maybe even, someday, get a raise.    God help you if your boss is replaced.  All those years of buttering up your boss go right down the drain, and if the new one doesn’t like you, there is trouble.

Then, we put our faith in people, like friends and family, but people die.  Did you ever notice?  Parents die.  Sometimes, children die.  Sometimes it happens without warning.  It is disconcerting, to say the least.  Our whole world can be turned upside-down by the people in whom we placed our faith – the people we believe in.  And when death happens, it sometimes becomes very hard to think about tomorrow.  How shall we live?  How can we even think about moving into the future without them?  Yet, we continue to move into the future at the speed of light all the same, not knowing what tomorrow may bring.

There are times, sometimes, when people withdraw.  The conclusion is often that we only have ourselves to believe in.  We might still appreciate others, thank them for their support, if any, and we might even trust them up to a point, but the thinking is we really only have ourselves that we can believe in and depend on.

So the entrepreneur goes out and works hard believing if they want it done right they must do it themselves, and the business fails.  So a person hears the promises of God in the back of their mind and tries to figure out how it is supposed to work.  We lean on our own understanding.  We depend on our own cleverness.  We strive after tangible things like riches, and less tangibles like power and status.  And we fail  And we fall.

But sometimes we are wildly successful, and the pride fills us up, until the day we wake up and fall out of bed because the whole right side of our body is paralyzed from a stroke, or we clutch at our chest for the pain in our heart, or we are diagnosed with inoperable cancer and only have a short time to live.  Then we imagine all the things we lost out on by living for ourselves.  We cry out for Rosebud, but Rosebud is not there.

Don’t get me wrong.  People need to believe in themselves, but as a child of God, as a sinner forgiven, as a pilgrim on the narrow way that leads to life.

Read Hebrews chapter 11 again and consider.  These people were not praised for stepping into the unknown future with faith in science, or their best understanding of the natural world, nor were they praised for faith in other people like faith in government, king and country, or faith in family and friends, and neither were they praised for faith in themselves and their own cleverness in being able to figure it out.  They are praised for placing their whole faith in God Almighty, the maker and the source of universal consistency.  God is the only one who does not disappoint.  And God alone can strengthen our steps and lead us and guide us, in the way – the best way for us if we are only willing to follow.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3: 5-6).  God will pave the way for us, so to speak, if we place our faith in him alone.  What is more, Hebrews tell us: Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  (11:6).

There are some who refuse to believe that.  There are many more who don’t want to believe it.  There are some who believe it, somewhat, but who still go out to live their lives believing mostly in science and others, or at least in their own cleverness.  But Jesus, as usual, took things a step further.

We are moving at the speed of light into the unknown.  He said, we don’t know when the master, bridegroom or thief will come.  He said, in truth, the last sentence on the bottom corner of the scroll will be written and the whole scroll will be rolled up, one day.  He said, one day the book will close.  He said, watch.  Earnestly seek him, diligently seek him.  Walk in faith, and keep the eyes open.

Jesus, the Son of Man; he said he is coming.  No one knows when, but it may be tomorrow.  Who can say what tomorrow will hold – that great, undiscovered country.  Moment by moment we live by faith.  The question is, while we walk into tomorrow, in what do we put our faith?  It is a fair question.



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