Year B Proper 26 WED 2021, 3 November 2021
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Our Part In Miracles”
Collect: Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.
He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.
We do not think of it this way, but our belief is one of the key elements of our working with God. I do not know why. Our belief was not there when God created the cosmos. But when God works in our world today, repeatedly this idea of belief shows up. Without it God does not do what only God can do.
Today: “And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.”
Blind Bartimaeus from a few weeks ago, “Go; your faith has made you well.”
In book club yesterday I mentioned the second death mentioned in Revelation in an offhand comment, and one of the folks asked me what that was. I read the verse, Revelation 21:8 of the things that will cause eternal death, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Now do not hear me saying that this is literal. Revelation should not be read that way. But look at the top two “sins” mentioned, “the Cowardly, and the Faithless…” We have some skin in this game.
Faith is one of those things that cannot be taught. Faith is a choice. We choose to believe, or not. We choose to follow, or not.
When we interact with someone, and I no longer give them the benefit of the doubt, that is my red flag that our relationship needs work. I may not have consciously decided to no longer trust them, but my gut is telling me something is wrong. I see that when I am not trusting, a breach has occurred. And that is when I need to get to work to rebuild that relationship.
When people stop giving me the benefit of the doubt, the same has occurred. There has been a break in our relationship that needs some attention. I think that is one reason why Jesus tells us to leave our gift at the altar and go clear things up. Faith is the foundation of relationships.
The same is true with God. We do not have faith at times. That is true for all of us. Often for me it is not conscious. But something will catch my attention that I am relying on my own strength and power, and not leaning on God. I have to make it a conscious choice. That is how I see prayer. The rattling around in my head can turn internal and just be an unhealthy echo chamber, or I can take those same thoughts and give them over to God and let them go. That is a choice. That is faith.
It ALL comes back to faith. I have to choose to have it. I have to choose to live by it and step into it. Looking back, I can clearly see where it did not take much faith, but it did take what little I could give. In those faith-filled moments, God had been working all things to my long-term good. In the moment, that perspective was hard if not impossible to see, but the flashlight of faith looking back shows me God has been with me all along the way.
When Jesus went home, they knew him too well. They could not have faith in the known and it became a self-fulfilling property. Jesus could do nothing because of the lack of faith.
We are in a season where much faith is required, both in our church and in our society. We are asking this congregation to have faith in the leadership of the parish. As a society, we are wrestling in what and who to have faith in as well.
We cannot be Cowardly. We cannot be Faithless. Worry is a way to suffer twice if things turn bad, and worry often becomes that self-fulfilling prophecy that can very well seal our doom.
May we have faith, dear friends, for that is the only way to see miracles. Amen