Our topic in this writing is on Faith – your journey of faith and your response to God’s call. We will look at the biblical passage of Hebrews 11:1-2 which states, “(Now) faith is assurance/evidence of things hoped for, a conviction (evidence) of things not seen.” We will unpack these two verses as experienced by our ancestors in faith.
We will begin by saying that it was not enough for God to have created you and me. In the a reading from the book of Wisdom (11:27), that we call God, “O Lover of (our) souls”. In his immense love for us, he not only created us but chose in freedom to reveal himself to us. From there, He chose – again, in freedom — to take another step toward greater intimacy with us in calling us to Himself – calling us to enter into an ever-deepening relationship with him. Faith, then, is our response to that call to divine intimacy.
The writer of Hebrews goes through a long list of people in the Old Testament that God had called to himself. He begins with Abraham – revealing to Abraham that he is the One True God. From there he calls to Abraham – calls him into a relationship after laying down the basic ground work: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you” (Gn. 12:1). “You want me to WHAT, Lord?” That’s how I would have reacted. What did Abraham do? “Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him…took Sarai his wife…and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan” (Gn 12:4-5). Oh…and…Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran”!!! Look at a map sometime and check the distance from Haran in what is now Iraq to Canaan/Palestine.
But why on earth would a 75-year-old man even consider doing something so…well…radical?
We are up to our next step in the call to intimacy. God calls and makes a promise of a great blessing: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing” (Gn 12:2). But…WHY?????????????? Sheer gift!!!!!
So…God creates, God reveals, God calls…we, like Abraham respond. But the response is not just with our lips – we respond with our whole being. Abraham packed all of his belongings and family and great herds – and literally headed south – not knowing for quite some time, by the way, where the so-called “place” was that he was heading to. Kind of like today’s soldiers who get a call and are told to be ready to deploy – but then they must await another call to find out where!!!
Anyway, Abraham went in faith. He had no idea where he was going; he knew that he and his wife Sarai were both beyond child-bearing years and yet he placed his trust in God who assured him, “…count the stars if you are able to number them…So shall your descendants be” (Gn 15:5).
Abraham had to use both his intellect in agreeing to all of this and his affect…that is, faith in the heart and faith in action. Did Abraham and the others whom the writer of Hebrews refers to ever experience any doubts or unbelief? I am sure that they did. In fact, Abraham fell on his face with laughter at the thought of a child being born to him at the age of 100 (Gn. 17:17). His wife Sarai/Sarah had laughed, too (Gn 18:12). In fact, the name Isaac means laughter.
Now –imagine Abraham’s thoughts especially when God called him a “second” time by further testing Abraham’s faith: “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gn 22:2). Again, Abraham responded in faith. Hebrews says that “he reasoned that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (see 11:19). At this point, Abraham was already familiar with God and knew that God would – and did! – keep his promises.
Let’s fast-forward to the New Testament for a moment…let’s ponder the great question of Mary to the angel Gabriel: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Lk 1:34). It’s ok to not have all the answers or complete understanding. What matters is that we respond in faith. In order to do so, we must have humility and trust in the One who calls us to Himself. All three – Abraham, Mary and Jesus (as well as countless others) endured great hardship for love of God and for the sake of their people….a people not even yet called into being. Abraham did so for the offspring he hadn’t even had yet; Mary did so for the sake of her people and for all people for all time: “he (Jesus, the child to be born) shall save them from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Jesus Himself struggled, too, when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Mt 26:39). In fact, Matthew describes Jesus as “sorrowful and very distressed” (26:37).
I could go on but let’s end here with a quick review again of the steps: God created, God reveals, God calls to relationship – and promises a blessing (or blessings) in return for that faith-filled response; we respond in faith using our intellect and our will. We understand and accept our frailty if we do not fully understand and look to Jesus who, though he was God cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) Why? “For the sake of the joy that was still in the future, He endured the Cross, despising its shame and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God” (Hb 12:2). This He endured that you and I might have life and have it to its fullness.