Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15, August 19, 2007

Again this week as last, faith is the key component in the lesson from Hebrews. What is faith? Essentially I understand faith to be belief in action. We take our belief and then we do something about it. In Hebrews today there is a litany of descriptions. Each one of them is talking about action. Faith calls us to action. If we are not willing to risk our belief by taking action we fail to exercise faith.

When I was in school a professor used this example of the difference between belief and faith. When we see a chair, unless is looks particularly rickety, we believe it will hold us. But as long as we just stand there looking at it, believing in it, we are not exercising our faith. When we sit down, when we are willing to take a risk, when we put our belief in action, that is when faith occurs.

I drive over 3 bridges every day to work. I never thought much about it. I believed that they will hold me and I exercised that belief by my faith in driving across them. But like much in life that is easy to take for granted, I never really though much about it. Many of us do that time and time again without even thinking about it. But a few weeks ago, I starting thinking about it, as I’m sure many other people did. A tragic event like the failure of the I-35 bridge can shake our faith in bridges. It can shake us out of our apathy and make us start thinking.

We exercise a degree of faith in most of the things we do in our lives every day. It is just that we don’t think about it all that much. However when it comes to our faith in God we face a challenge. Can we rise above belief and live out a life of active faith in the world. Because that is what God is calling each and every one of us to do.

God has given all of us gifts. And that is a wonderful blessing. Those gifts also must be put into action by faith. Sometimes we might not even be sure of what our particular gifts are. Do you want to know the secret for finding our gifts? Action. Each of us steps out in faith and starts trying to do things and in that way we explore where God has blessed us with talents sometimes unknown.

At the Red Sea the nation of Israel was faced with a choice. It does not matter particularly to me if the crossing was between walls of water as we see in the Cecil B. DeMille movie “The Ten Commandments” or if it was a much smaller passage as some more modern thinks would tend to argue. The point is they were at the bank and had come face to face with whether their belief in God would now be translated into faith. They had three choices at that moment. They could turn back, they could stop and stay or they could move forward in faith. They had to take that first step.

Taking that first step can be a daunting task. The moment we are forced to put our belief into action we are not only taking a risk we are also now committed. I can only imagine how difficult faith had to be for those standing there at the Red Sea. But they stepped out in faith.

Where do we place our faith? Do we find it in ourselves, our family, our possessions, or our country. Or do we live a life somewhat devoid of faith. It can be safer not to act on our beliefs. Faith requires that we be open and willing to be changed. Doing something, taking action, requires us to trust in God and no longer in ourselves.

The end of this passage in Hebrews reminds all of us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and calls us to lay aside those things that would hinder us from action. Even here at St. Peter’s we are surrounded by our own cloud of witnesses. We are surrounded by the witnesses of people like Elsie Whitmore and Mary Elizabeth Lee and hundreds more whom I never had the blessing to meet. We are surrounded by the love and legacy of those who have built, cared for, and loved this parish before us.

We are called to run a race. We need to place one foot in front of the other and move forward exercising our faith every day.

What step is God asking you to take in your life today?

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