8/11/2013, Faithing our Hope

Isaiah 40: 6-8, 28-31, Hebrews 11 :1-2, 8-19, Luke 12:32-48   

Today, rather than taking the usual focus on the gospel passage, we’ll pay attention to the Epistle read by Marcia. It’s message is summed up in the first verse, “Now faith is the reality (substance) of all that is hoped for; faith is the proof (evidence)  of all that is unseen.”  

Faith and hope are words that often come up in Christian conversation. These words represent important factors in walking the spiritual journey.  Being intentional about having them both in your life makes a real difference.

When I thought about how faith and hope fit together, an example that is right outside my back door came to mind. Every spring the perennial dahlias there send up their tender green shoots, waiting to take in sunshine and water and fresh fertilizer so that later in the summer they’ll bear prolific blooms.  Over several years I’ve noticed how the early spring slugs and bugs are just waiting for the emergence of the dahlia shoots.  They ravage them in no time. Therefore, I am prepared to apply an organic spray that repels the bugs and slugs, giving those tender shoots a chance to harden off and develop.

When spring came around this year, I went for my container of bug repellent and thoroughly doused those tender green shoots before the bugs had a chance to get them.  The bugs stayed away.  But alas!  As the days passed, I watched those tender green shoots droop, and dry up and drop over as if dead.  What could be going on?  Finally I went back to that container of bug repellent to look at the label… and it was then that I vaguely remembered  the spray bottle had being emptied last year.  I had used the bottle to mix a bit of Roundup to eliminate some late summer blackberry shoots in my garden.  Although I had labeled it with black marker, that marker had faded into the plastic bottle over the winter, so that it was now nearly invisible. 

 I grieved for the demise of those dahlias. Despite my husband’s reasonable insistence that Roundup kills the roots and those dahlias would never grow again, I dug up the tubers and replanted them.  I fed them compost and watered them all summer and guess what?  They’re back!  They have a hearty growth of leaves.   Although I’m sure it’s too late for them to develop flowers this year, I have hope that I will see those blooms again next summer.

 Against past evidence of the effectiveness of Round-up and good reason to discard the dahlia tubers and plant something else in their place, I held out hope.  Hope is the conviction that the future has the potential to be better than the present.  Hope lets me believe that it is possible for something beautiful to emerge from what seems almost impossible.  Hope is a great motivator for the Christian life.  It inspires us to try again, or to try something new and unlikely regardless of the circumstances or the possibility of failure.

So then, what is the difference between hope and faith? How do they work together?

Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”( NRSV)  Faith is to know that the essential pieces that may eventually bring realization of my hope already exist. In the case of my dahlias, the hope for their future was realized by my willingness to replant those dead tubers and keep feeding and watering them.  I had to invest my faith in order to see my hope brought to reality. There was a certain amount of work I had to do and things I had to provide to bring the dahlias to the place where my hope for them became tangible and visible.

Most of us were taught that faith is an intellectual belief in a collection of stated truths, a creed.  But along life’s journey  we’ve experienced  that  faith is better described as a lifestyle.  Faith is a way of life that bases its actions in a hope for which there is no firm evidence.  From a Christian perspective, faith places a trust in the Divine as revealed through the person of Jesus the Christ.  Faith takes action based on the Divine promise that the future holds something better than we now see.   We hope for what we have not seen and yet have experienced as a Divine reality. We consider this hope worth investing ourselves in.   During our lives, we accumulate the various pieces of faith that help us press towards hope.  These pieces are made up of what we learned from our Christian ancestors, they contain our childhood catechesis, they contain our struggles with doubt and our new ways of envisioning God, they contain our experiences of God through nature and relationships with human beings.  All these things make up the faith that moves us towards hope.

 Hope inspires us to courageously put forth the effort that may make it possible for our hope to someday be fulfilled. Faith and hope together bridge the gap between the life we have and the life we desire. 

The entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a long litany of ancient ancestors in the faith who pressed on towards the hope they perceived, even though in their lifetimes they did not see its realization.  Worthy of note is that they did not spend their lives sitting around and waiting for promises to be fulfilled.  The examples we read about today described Abraham and Sarah investing their faith with specific actions.  They moved to a foreign country. They had a child in old age. Abraham acted in willingness to offer that child in sacrifice to God. 

The first verse in Hebrew 12 follows up the litany of faithful ones by exhorting US in faith.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside everything that impedes us… and let us run with perseverance the race laid out for us.  Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.”

Today, we are similarly called to invest our faith in ACTIONS that move humanity towards its hope for equality, inclusiveness, peace and justice.  Many of us find ways to work towards these goals in local ministries of compassion.

 As the Lumen Christi community, we are also called to invest our faith in ACTIONS that move the Church towards the hope of becoming a mature Body of Christ.  Last Sunday, some of us heard Fr. Helmut Shuller exhort us to take action in definitive ways. So this week, a letter was composed to welcome Fr. Kelly Vandehey to McMinnville.  Our intention is to simply and straightforwardly introduce ourselves as Lumen Christi, offering a hand of friendship and a hope that we can engage in conversation that bridges the gap between renewal Catholics, traditional Catholics and even Catholics who have left the church. 

We present this letter for the consideration of the community. Will you join in signing this letter, putting your faith into action as we fix our sights on the hope for a renewed Catholic Church in the future?

By Sandi DeMaster