June 18, 2017 – Proper 6
Letters Home (from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
I am convinced that faith is one of the most powerful forces in God’s creation. There are two types of faith: one is mine, the other is yours. In my experience, when the two are combined the sum total is far greater than its individual parts. Let me give an example.
I was not a good student in grade school or high school. I got by without opening a book. I listened in class and took exams. My grades barely qualified me for graduation. Looking back on those years I now realize I was bored and looking for something interesting and challenging. A couple decades later I came to the point in my life that I was no longer able to ignore the sense of call to ordained ministry that was tugging at my heart. There was one significant hurdle I would have to face. That was my bishop’s requirement that I earn a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s of Divinity from a recognized seminary. Looking back on my earlier years in school I was convinced that I did not have what it took to be successful in an academic environment. That was when someone else’s faith came into play.
I am blessed to be married to someone who has more faith in me than I do myself. She assured me that her experience of me convinced her that I could earn these degrees and complete what looked like a very long journey toward the call before us. I took a big gulp, tried to put my doubts behind me, and stepped out in her faith, not mine. This was 31 years ago. Those years have been blessed largely because I trusted my wife’s faith in me.
There is something amazing about another’s faith in us. Those of us who have experienced this blessing through a parent, spouse, child, or friend know what I am referring to. With their belief in us, we are enabled to dare to dream and attempt that which we normally would never attempt. We still have to do the work, but it seems possible when we are in it with another’s support. I pray that my spouse, children, and friends know that I believe in them as well.
Unfortunately there are those among us who have never known this type of love and faith from others. This may have been their life story. Or it may only seem to be true at the moment. Regardless how long this situation may have existed, it can be debilitating. We can only go so far in life relying on our own strengths and self assurance. At some point all of us need a source of strength beyond ourselves. Without this resource we can find ourselves stymied, bitter, and lost. This may explain a great deal about the hopelessness we find in so many places today.
This coming Sunday the community of faith will lift in prayer an empowering piece of news. That is that even if no one else believes in us, our Heavenly Father does. The proof of this is found on many levels. The first is that scripture assures us that God knew us fully even as we were in our mother’s womb. God knew who we were, who we would become, and knows the amazing person we can be. Our Lord Jesus assures us that despite all that may or may not have happened in our lives, God loves each and every one of us – still. And maybe most importantly – God believes in you so fully that God sent Jesus for you, to enable you to become your best self as seen through God’s eyes.
We make our prayer, “Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love.” Steadfast, because God’s faith and love for each of us survives the test of time and circumstance. Relying on these twin blessings, we truly can dare to boldly strive for what God wills for all of us: justice and compassion.
Proper 6; Sunday closest to June 16
“Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.” Amen. (BCP 230)