CHRIST THE KING, BATTEYFORD Sunday 8 August, 2010 Trinity 10
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 Luke 12:32-40.
FAITH AND HOPE
The word HOPE can easily lose its value. We say, “I hope to arrive in time for supper” but we’d never say “We HOPE to win the world cup”. That would sound pretty feeble. Almost as if the next thing would be “we’ve lost hope.”
HOPE is tied up with FAITH, which is really what today’s Bible readings are about. Again, FAITH has lost a lot of its value. When I was first ordained people would say to me “I wish I had your FAITH”, as though it were like a credit balance, which is a handy thing to have but which so many people have to live without.
Here is the sentence which links Faith up with Hope: from the start of today’s first reading:
What then is FAITH? It is what gives assurance to our HOPES.
It is what gives us conviction about things we can’t see.
“Conviction about things we can’t see”
No wonder faith and hope have lost their value, when it is so hard for us to believe that anything exists which we can’t actually SEE. If we are to have faith and hope, if we are to be faithful and hopeful people, we’ve just got to work at it, like people work at losing weight, or learning Greek, only much much more so.
Because our survival as a human race depends on faith and hope more than on anything else. Not just human survival, the survival of everything on planet earth.
For if we don’t believe the financial crisis, with all its dire consequences like joblessness, can be solved, then it won’t be solved, because solving it looks like a hopeless task and we’ll give up before we start. Climate change, global warming, mass extinctions ending up with our own, are the same.
Unless we have faith and hope, that we human race of people can find a solution, then we won’t work for a solution, but will just go on in the same hopeless old way, digging ourselves into the ground, taking with us all other living beings.
Seventy years ago the fields were full of flowers, the air was full of butterflies and the trees were full of birds and song. Of course there were bees and wasps, blackbeetles and earwigs, cockroaches, centipedes, frogs, toads too. Hands up if you’ve seen a blackbeetle? An earwig? A cockroach? A centipede? A frog, a toad? Where have they all gone?
We’ll be the last to go, it’s true and I suppose we think nothing will matter then.
Yet - and yet - we Christians are committed to belief in God the Creator, God who keeps his promises. We can say to God, like children do, YOU PROMISED. God is not one to break his promise.
This reading from Hebrews tells us what that promise is: through Abraham’s family God is working to build the city which is to come. From Abraham’s descendants God has sent us the Redeemer, Christ, the Messiah, Jesus the Saviour, to show us how, to give us the faith and hope, so that we can move on and replace the present deeply flawed world with the world God longs for us, the renewed beautiful world, the beautiful world we all have glimpses of, in all its beauty, in all its love, completely as He planned it to be, from the very beginning. We have all the power the Creator God gives us: his power, the power, he created the world with and sustains it in his love, to carry through this huge task to its completion.
Abraham and Sarah set off for the land God had promised them because they believed his promise. They had no more idea how they would get there or what they would do then, any more than they had any idea how two such old people as they were could have a son. They just set off, in faith and hope. Without that faith and hope they wouldn’t have had a son, they would have got nowhere.
Then we have this incredibly comforting gospel message, from Jesus’ own mouth:
Don’t be afraid, little flock, your Father is delighted to give you the kingdom.
As simple as that, delighted.
The writer to the Hebrews believed Abraham and Sarah were, in fact, looking beyond the promised land of Canaan, to a new, better, country, a heavenly one; that is the kingdom that, little flock that we are, Jesus says God himself has promised to give us. It depends on us, his slaves and servants, on our faith and hope, to be ready when He comes. This Kingdom of God, at its heart, is about God’s sovereignty sweeping the world with love and power, so that human beings, each and every one made in God’s own image and each and every one deeply loved, may stop worrying, stop doubting, strong in the knowledge that God is in control. Then we can get on with working for this kingdom:
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We have to be ready to move, to get on with it, ready, get set, go; the same sort of readiness that the children of Israel had for God’s signal for the Exodus from the land of slavery in Egypt. Ready to drop everything, to get moving, to leave behind sinful addictions and even possessions, at the first signal of his hand, of his totally unexpected appearing, changed and changing everything by faith and hope.
Antony Grant CR