Thursday, March 20, 2014

All We Have Is Faith

We all like to see the end of something.
We like to see how everything wraps up.
Perhaps this is why we like television shows.
We see problems that are resolved in a ½ hr or an hr.
We like to see the happy ending.
But what if things don’t work out that way?
What if the ending is not so much in sight?
Let us take Abram from this morning’s first reading.
He is called by God to leave his home and travel to an unknown place.
He is promised two things.
One, that he will have this land.
And two, that his heirs will be numerous.
We have the advantage of hindsight.
We know this story.
We have seen how it unfolds.
But think about Abram.
He doesn’t know.
He is 75 years old with a barren wife, asked to travel to a place that is unknown and could also be barren or already inhabited.
Everything at this point in the story is unknown.
All Abram has is faith.
All he has is faith that God is good to his word.
Faith that somehow it will work out the way that God has promised.
All he has is faith that this is really what God wants of him.

Like Abram that is all any of us have faith.
We don’t know how everything will work out when we make major life decisions.
When we are having kids we don’t know what they will be like.
I was listening this week on NPR as a reporter was talking about an interview he had with the father of Adam Lanza’s, the boy who killed so many innocents lives at Sandy hook Elementary last year.
The reporter was asked what he learned from the interviewer.
And he said that we can never learn why Adam Lanza became this person.
That it would be easy and convenient for us to blame the parents, but the truth is that they did everything they could to raise Adam normal.
That is not very reassuring for those of us trying to raise kids that are productive healthy members of society.
But perhaps it is the truth.
No one ever starts out with their kids thinking, “I am going to raise a mass-murderer.”
When we start out on the journey we just don’t know the ending.
And all we have is faith.

Same could be true for marriage.
Truth is that no matter how long you date someone.
No matter if you live together or not you will never know everything about that person.
You will never know how much you change, how much they change, how much life changes.
I remember going to lots of weddings in my 20’s and 30’s, and I remember how happy we all were at the time, I remember how young we were.
And now I think about how naive we were.
And now that we are in our 40’s and some of those happy couples are getting divorced, how some of them just feel “unfulfilled”.
Or that marriage is too hard.
Or that things just didn’t work out the way we all planned.
That is the thing we just never know the outcome.
We never know what will happen along the way to “happily ever after”.

The same can be said for any major life decision.
If you take a new job you don’t know if it fulfill your life’s calling.
If you move to a new place you don’t know if will ever feel like home.
We define faith as believing in man in heaven with a beard.
But faith is about more than this.
It is about the daily rising to see our lives from a different perspective.
It is about everyday being born again, so that we can experience the world around us in awe and wonder.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of viewing life from only two perspectives.
One is that life has become common place, routine, and boring.
 When we are born from above we can see ordinary life as extraordinary, because we believe that God is working in it.
The second is that life is scary to us because it is new and unknown.
When we are born from above we can see the possibilities of new adventure undertaken with God.
Faith is about the daily need we have to know that there is a greater plan.
That all these things add up to something more.
We need faith to believe that our marriages matter, that our kids are important, that our jobs serve our neighbors, that we are where we are supposed to be at this moment.
Faith is the ability to believe that anything is possible.

If you think about Abram, he didn’t get to where he was going without lots of interruptions.
It was not an easy path.
There were moments of doubt; like when Sarah laughed when strangers suggest that she will have a child.
Before this story is over, Abraham will almost lose his wife in Egypt.
There will be much pain with Hagar and Ishmael.
The barren couple will finally experience the joy of an own son.
They will come close to losing him, and that is only in their own life time.

We know now that indeed the great majority of the world sees Abraham as their spiritual heir.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims all trace their lineage back to Abraham.
There are roughly 2.1 billion Christians in the world, 1.6 billion Muslims, and 14 million Jews in the world, 2/3 of the world’s population are spiritual heirs to Abraham.
So the promise of God came true.
But the way we have gotten there has not been easy.
There have been dangers and setbacks along the way.
The land question still is up in the air, but it is occupied by these three great faith traditions.
Perhaps if we could see our commonality in Abraham we could stop killing each other over the land?
What we see now is that God was true to the promise.
Our question is what is God’s promise to us?
What is it that we believe God will do for us?
I would suggest that it has moved away from this physical promise of land and heirs, into a spiritual promise.
We believe that God is with us as we set out on the different adventures of our lives.
That we believe God is with us in our marriages, in our raising kids, in our jobs, in our homes, in our retirement, in our dying, and finally in our raising to new life with Christ.

What Jesus tells Nicodemous is essentially this, you just can’t look at the physical world for proof of God acting, and you have to see it from above, from the perspective of faith.
St. Paul interprets the act of Abram as a being an act of faith.
That Abram believed God was good to his word, and did as God asked.
And that in our lives we too can be like Abraham by having faith in the spiritual promises given by Jesus Christ.

As we go out today into those adventures that God has called us, into a future not yet known, may God be your constant companion.
May you have faith to know, even when there are unforeseen troubles and trials that God is in it all with you, and for you.
May you know that like Abraham God will bless you in your life’s adventure.

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