Reader: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for;”
Response: “it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”
Scripture: Hebrews 11:1-3; 13-19
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
Reader: “This is God’s word.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
When it comes to theology, if we have the idea that profound truths need complex words to plumb the depths of meaning, we need to read Hebrews 11:3 . . . “what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.” A string of one syllable words, yet words that wilt the most brilliant of minds! There are three different examples in this pericope that I’d like to touch on, all having to do with faith and different aspects of seeing.
To begin with, faith is a certainty whose key ingredient is invisibility! We trust things we can see and touch; little faith is required. Things change when we are asked to put faith in something that is invisible, silent and for all practical purposes non-existent! Such was the requirement of those living in the First Testament times in trusting what was yet to come.
Now, we come to the BIG one, “the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.” Spend a few minutes thinking through those few words. (I’m saying this again in case you missed it yesterday!) Going the speed of light, you would circle the earth at the equator seven times every second! You could travel to the Moon in a second and a half, eight minutes to the Sun, twelve and a half minutes to Mars. Universe distance is measured in light years, the distance light travels at the speed of light (187,000 miles per second!) for a whole year and I’m looking out the window this evening as I write this. The star I’m looking at is 140 light years away! All God did was say, “Let there be” and there was!
The more amazing thing is that the atoms and molecules to create the universe came from “nothing.” God didn’t go to a store to get materials to make things, there was no “store!” Even time didn’t exist. Believing these words requires faith. In the words of the late Stephen Hawking in speaking of the creation of the universe, “We have finally found something that does not have a cause because [before the Big Bang] there was no time for a cause to exist in . . . because there was no time for a creator to have existed. When people ask me if a god created the universe, I tell them that the question makes no sense. Time didn’t exist before the Big Bang, so there is no time for God to make the universe in.” (A Brief History of Time) Unfortunately for Mr. Hawking, he thought like a human, failing to realize that God has always existed outside time; God is the only uncreated Being who has never not existed. Everything seen and unseen is a direct result of God’s action and will.
The second idea emerging in relation to faith, is people who grasp what Hawking never did. They realize this world is not their home, their final resting place. They understand, in fact, they are made for another world. “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. We are all foreigners, nomads on this planet. Like people of old, we take the unseen by faith. As of yet, we can’t clearly see the world for which we were made.
Finally, we have the example of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham saw descendents yet unborn and obeyed God in what for all practical purposes seemed like the end of his earthly line with Isaac’s death. But Abraham didn’t see it that way. Let’s pretend to follow Abraham’s thinking. “Isaac is the specific promised covenant child given to Sarah and to me by God. He is the one God chose to bless, not Ishmael. It is through Isaac that our family will grow. If I kill him as God has asked me to do, it means that God will bring him back to life in order for God to keep his promise to me. God doesn’t ever lie, so I’ll obey him and slay Isaac and God will raise him from the dead.” Abraham acted in faith because he was so committed to God . . . and in effect, God raised Isaac from the dead [in Abraham’s thought process.] The question is simple, “Do you have faith in God?” The answer requires neither complex nor profound words. A simple “yes” or “no” will do.
Music: “Benedictus” Karl Jenkins 7:40 minutes
This piece comes from a larger work, decrying the futility of war. My purpose in picking this is entirely different. We’ve been writing about the wonder of putting faith in God who in creation simply “said” and it was. This gives us a chance to see beyond our world into the distant reaches of the universe. Part of the way through the music, we hear the glorious words (in Latin) “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.” Though the very end of the clip shows the destruction of this world, I have only to think of Jesus’ glorious words, “I will make all things new!” What a glorious loving God who gave himself to redeem his fallen creation by giving himself to bring restoration to everything.
Prayer:Go forth into the world in peace, be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good, render to no one evil for evil, strengthen the faint hearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honor all people, love and serve the Lord rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit, and may God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you now and always. Amen. ―1928 Book of Common Prayer