July 10, 2016 –– 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deuteronomy 30:10–14 / Psalm 69 / Colossians 1:15–20 / Luke 10:25–37
Faith: Seeing Obstacle or Opportunity?
There is a sense in which everyone is motivated by faith. Faith activates our will when we do anything. Reason usually provides a foundation, but then we take a step of faith. When we get into a car very few of us understand how the thing totally works, but we “believe” two things implicitly: we believe a car can actually transport us, and we believe––perhaps with greater faith––that we will actually arrive safely at our destination. If we did not believe those two things, we would not get into the car.
Sometimes people have warped perceptions that prevent them from taking a reasonable step of faith. When this happens, we call it a disorder. People who are afraid to go out into the “big world” often have agoraphobia. People who will not get in elevators can have claustrophobia. Acrophobia prevents many from flying or even going up into high-rise buildings.
This dynamic is true in the spiritual world. Faith is simply the way one sees and understands greater reality. When God’s revelation through Israel, and ultimately through Christ, is truly believed, the world and its issues are seen very differently in contrast to those who do not believe. Paul wrote to the Colossians, that in Christ Jesus all things were created through him and for him… and in him all things hold together. If we can’t “see” that, our lives will be disordered.
In C. S. Lewis’ final Narnia story, The Last Battle, the dwarfs are sitting inside a stable with all Narnia around them having just been renewed. They refuse to believe it. In their minds they are safely huddled inside a dingy stable and refuse to see anything else. They say, “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs. We won’t be taken in.” So Aslan (the lion King) explains: “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison, and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”
We live in a world created by God. We are people who, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have been loved and offered healing from all that hurts us. It is right here. The ancient words of Moses are even greater today than when he first gave them to Israel: this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…. But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
Christian Faith is a gift from God that is meant to open our eyes to an entirely new and different way of seeing. We are immersed in love and goodness. We are given every reason for hope.
Of course there is also pain, hatred, and evil. But it is important to understand that love and hate, goodness and evil are not equal competitors. Bad things exist because people, for now, are free to make choices in defiance of the love of God. God’s love is the ultimate reality. God’s love is what will endure. Faith is able to see this. That is why the greatest commandment is love.
Is it reasonable to have this kind of faith? Some say no, but two things support a reasonable Christian Faith. First, there is a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that has not been able to be discredited or stamped out, despite intense effort, for almost two thousand years. Second, Christian Faith, rightly understand, best explains and answers the most basis issues and hardest questions of our existence. Those who are open to faith will increasingly “see” it.
When we exercise Christian faith, life begins to change. God’s kind of love starts to imprint our lives and affect the things we do. This is one way to understand Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan. Think about this contrast: Having or not having faith in God’s kind of love makes a difference between seeing either an obstacle or an opportunity. Luke tells us that the lawyer who questioned Jesus wished to justify himself. His world revolved around himself. He wasn’t really concerned with loving God; he wanted to look good. And so in Jesus’s story the priest and Levite, for all their outward stature as religious people, looked at the ravaged victim and saw an obstacle. Maybe helping would have made them late to an appointment they thought more important than giving love. Maybe they were afraid the same violence would happen to them if they tarried too long in the area in order to give love to the stricken man. Maybe they thought the wounded man just wasn’t worth it. All they saw was a situation that, if they got involved, would derail their own priorities. They saw an obstacle.
The Samaritan, to put it simply, saw an opportunity to love. It’s relatively easy to talk about God’s kind of love. (And talk can be good IF if leads to appropriate action; that’s one reason we have sermons and confess the Creed each week.) But truly choosing to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself will mean doing something…. something with two of the commodities we treasure most: our time and and our money. The Samaritan gave time and used his own money to help the man who had been assaulted.
If we choose to use our time and money to love in godly ways it is because our hearts are open to the reality of faith. We all make a choice of faith. We will either see the unpleasant things around us as obstacles which hinder our personal pleasure, or we will see them as opportunities to show the love of God. We all model a “faith” by what we do and how we do it.
Can we dare to believe, every day and all day, that we are immersed in love and goodness simply because God has given himself to us in Jesus Christ? Jesus is calling us to love like him and see the world around us as an opportunity to live in the love of God.
This past week our nation has been in shock at the recurring violence. What if all who profess faith in Jesus would simply choose to love like our Lord? Can you see it? It is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…. it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.