Thoughts on Sunday Trinity 8 (11.viii.19): Christian Faith - or, the call to intimacy with God.
Hebrews chapter 11 gives us, as Christians, a particular understanding of Faith. It takes us beyond its general sense of loyalty, trust and belief. Instead, Christians must conceive of Faith as a concept that is joined at the hips with that of Hope (what we long for). We are to view, understand, Faith as the crucible in which our visions, dreams, wishes and hope for God's Kingdom, with all the promises that it holds out to us and our community, come true. In other words, Christian faith is much more than an intellectual assent or belief in the idea of God. Christian faith means that we not only accept the idea of God, we also choose (even, in the absence of compelling evidence of His inherent goodness), to choose to believe in, love and worship him. Christian faith embraces a determination to look beyond present dire circumstances to a better tomorrow anchored on God's promise. It allows us to hold out for a future, shaped by both God's intimate involvement in its unfolding and, crucially, our part in that. This Christian sense of Faith as a belief in God that moves us to worship Him and join in making His Kingdom come, is a fruit of God’s generosity or grace. In other words, Christian faith is a gift from God. The ability and willingness to believe in God and join in His shaping of a future framed by His values and which delivers on His promises, is a gift from God. However, like all abilities or talents that we have, the ability to believe or trust something or someone, is something that we still have to put into practice, or exercise, if we are to become perfect at using it. Often the only way to get to know someone better is to trust him or her. Equally, the more we trust God, the more we get to know him. Indeed, this call to intimacy is really what the Letter to the Hebrews asks us to focus upon. It points to the power of faith in the lives of those the 11th chapter lists in God's Hall of Faith. It suggests they all placed their purpose in the crucible of faith. Read closely, Hebrews chapter 11 is more than a tribute to great Blessings or good and spectacular deeds. Instead, the emphasis is on the power of the faith that enabled their actions. Again and again (with an alluring cadence that precedes each account), we read/hear: By faith... Those two words are shorthand hand for their intimacy with God. They are also our own signpost to intimacy with God. They call us to follow Jesus, to hold fast to Jesus, however blighted, hopeless, unpromising, our landscape may be. They assure us that God can and will break through, to dispel present doubts, allay every fear, remove all obstacles, usher in the daybreak and lighten our darkness. All we need do is emulate their hold on faith; all that is asked of us is that we cling onto Jesus: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings to us so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith."