Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
The events of last weekend’s mass shootings have undoubtedly left many of us reeling. Thirty-one people dead, three children orphaned, dozens of others are wounded and traumatized. Once again, we will hear empty promises of “thoughts and prayers” from too many of our leaders, followed by shrugging inaction.
Words are not enough. Faithful action is our call.
This weekend, as one of our readings, we will hear the recounting of Abram’s journey of faith in the letter to the Hebrews. Through his trust of God’s promises, Abram not only journeys from Ur in modern Iraq to the Holy Land, he journeys from being Abram to being Abraham.
You can go back and read the story of Abram’s journey to becoming Abraham if you want—start at Genesis 12. But what was amazing about Abram was that, pretty much every time that God told Abram to do something, Abram did it without a single question. Get up and pack everything and go to Canaan, a land you’ve never seen? Sure, God. And he packs up his wife and all his belongings and moves six hundred miles to the south and west. On foot. Going only as fast as the oldest sheep, probably. Yet even Abram eventually questioned God, when years had passed and there was still no baby in his and his wife’s aching arms. He questioned why, and then was reminded of the importance of faith, and of the importance of action.
That’s what our reading from Hebrews is referencing when we hear this:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.
Faith is that which gives us the courage and the strength the persevere and to dare. Faith is the thing that gives us wings to carry us over the times of distress in our lives. Most of us don’t have the heaping mounds of faith that Abram has in this passage. But the good news is: just a little is often enough. Just a little can get us through the anxiety and uncertainties of these times. Now, that doesn’t let us off the hook. Abram had faith, but then he had to act on the basis of that faith. He had to dare. He had to trust in this unlikely promise that God offered to him, and he had to be willing to countenance great losses in the name of that faith.
This is a time to remember where our priorities are: with stripping away all the distractions and self-centeredness that separates us from God and each other—in other words, sin and idolatry of self, the two great challenges of our lives together in this modern, angry, fear-fueled age. It’s also a time to relax into the promise—yes, in faith!– that God gives all of us as our tender, loving mother, seeking to draw us back to our true natures as beings made for love, made to be a blessing for others just like Abram was promised. It is a time to quiet ourselves like a child upon her mother’s breast—that beautiful image in Psalm 131.
In other words, as we face the woundedness of this world, we are called to act, based upon God’s call to us, like Abram, to be people of faith in deed as well as word– to live more deeply into the life we are all drawn toward in our very natures: a life rooted in the Most Merciful One, who created us for love and community. That means we are called to renounce all that separates us from God and each other, and probably high up on that list is silence in the face of hatred and violence that has our country by the throat. All it takes is having the strength to take the first step. In faith. In courage. In love.
Almighty, Merciful God,
we praise you and bless you with the rising sun.
Lord, we do not know where we are going,
but we know your charge to us
to renounce violence
and overcome hatred with all our might,
strengthened by our faith in You.
You have brought us,
to this new day,
and sustained us in all our journeys.
You have blessed us abundantly,
and made us sure
even when our paths have led us
beyond all that we knew.
Let us have the faith
to open our hearts to You
and have the courage to do Your will.
Let us see that faith is the father of hope,
and hope is the mother of love.
We lift up our hearts
and lives before You, O God,
that we may be bound together
through faith and love.
Mindful of all our blessings,
penitent for all our faults,
we put our faith
in your goodness, compassion, and mercy,
and in your call to us to be agents of change.