The Bible talks about faith but faith is more than just about religion. Society couldn’t operate without faith. Every time you step on an elevator instead of climbing the stairs you are making an act of faith that the cable lifting the box will take you to the right floor and that the door will then open. Putting your money in a bank instead of stuffing it in the mattress is an act of faith that the banker will safeguard your money wisely so that it will be there when you go to retrieve it. You are making an act of faith every time you step on an airplane that the pilot, the mechanic, the air traffic controller all know what they are doing. Since we can’t know everything we put faith in experts: doctors when they tell us to lower the amount of salt in our diets; scientists when they tell us that what seems like solid matter is actually a mass of atoms with electrons whirling around; historians who tells us that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. We need to have faith in one another. We have faith that the driver coming from the cross street will stop at the red light. We have faith that ConEd is accurately measuring the amount of electricity we are using. We have faith that gasoline really is worth more than $3.00 a gallon. Or do we? Maybe that last example demonstrates what happens when faith is broken. The examples of corporate greed and fiscal shenanigans in the news lately have eroded our faith in corporate America. The MeToo movement demonstrates what happens when faith is eroded in the safety of the workplace. The Black Lives Matters movement demonstrates what happens when faith is lost in the ability of the police to apply the law fairly toward all the citizens. In fact, the current divisions in our political scene can be understood as a lack of faith in the concept of liberty and justice under the law, of equal opportunity for all. When faith is violated it is very difficult to get it back. Think when marriage vows are broken or when priests abuse; the repercussions are destructive. Faith in one another is what makes it possible to live a truly human life.
Let’s look at the way the Bible talks about faith in a religious context to find some lessons on how to restore the kind of faith, the trust that we need in society. The Epistle to the Hebrews says that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” It is “realization,” it is “evidence;” but it is “not seen.” In other words, faith is there but it is out there, on the horizon, just out of reach, not yet. You know it’s there. You can sense its presence. But faith is not a possession that you can cling to. It is always just a bit more than what you have. That serves as a caution that you don’t get the faith by memorizing the catechism or in reciting the creed. Faith is not like knowledge. You either know that two plus two equals four or you don’t. You don’t have faith in math, you know it. Faith is not like that. Faith is more like love than like knowledge. If you think about it, the devil knows that God exists but the devil doesn’t have faith. Faith means trusting that the ways of God, the will of God, the plan of God is what matters most.
Jesus was urging us to have that kind of faith when he said, “Fear not, little flock, your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Jesus wants us to have faith in the future. Frequently when things seem to be going from bad to worse we can adopt a rather bleak outlook. That was not how Jesus looked at things. He knew the cross was coming. He was aware of the opposition of the authorities. He constantly had to correct Peter and the other disciples in their mistaken understanding of his mission. But still Jesus was sure that the future was in God’s hands and that all would be well. The promise of faith provides us with blessed assurance that all things will be well in God’s time.
Notice, though, that there is an obligation tied to that promise. “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Faith makes demands. I have been entrusted with much. You will have to check off what you have been entrusted with for yourself but my list includes things like a loving family, good health, an excellent education, happiness in my vocation, supportive friends. Because I have been entrusted with those things God requires of me that I pay forward with love and service and dedication for blessings received. When you make your own list up — counting your blessings my grandmother used to call it — remember that God has entrusted us with those blessings so we can make this world a little better for our being here. Living in that way is not a nice addition but demanded by faith.
Besides the personal things we personally have been entrusted with, St. James as a parish has been entrusted with so much more and God expects, God requires, God demands that we use those blessings wisely. God has entrusted St. James with a spirit of hospitality. God requires us to use that spirit of welcome to make sure that everyone who enters our fellowship will know that we value who they are and appreciate their presence among us. God has entrusted St. James with a heart for those who are in need. God requires that we keep our eyes open and respond to those who are hurting around us. Whatsoever we do to the least we are doing to Jesus. The hungry and the hurting, the sick and the sorrowing, the lonely and the lost all have a claim on us. God has entrusted St. James with a life of prayer. God requires that our prayer not be narrow but expansive, including all God’s children. That is what the life of faith looks like – confidence in the promise of God while at the same time aware that we all have our role to play to make this world a little more the place of joy and peace that God intends it to be.