Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Heb. 11:1
Have you any faith, just a little faith, a lot of faith? Faith is for the tough times and we all loose faith and loose our way. In Isaiah the people go to worship, they think this is the right thing to do, but then they leave and forget all they have been taught. Isaiah pleads with them not just to do a fake rite, r-i-t-e, but to do right, r-i-g-h-t. To do justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the widow, and claim the orphan looking out for the least of these. See the rite in wotship doesn't mean anything unless we are living right for others.
This has a lot to tell us about faith. Because I start asking questions now about Isaiah's time because of the faith story in Hebrews and because of Jesus' words in Luke. First Hebrews, we find the writer describing faith as hope and unseen. The writer lifts up Abraham and Sarah as the examples of faith in being promised a son. Now, we all remember the story, right? Hebrews seems to conveniently loose the rest of the story. Remember the time Sarah and Abraham doubt the whole promise? Take my handmaiden Hagar and he did and they had Ishmael. If Abraham is the example of faith we cannot forget this or the other two stories about him passing his wife off as his sister because she was so beautiful he was afraid the rulers would kill him for her. Faith? It seems we all have periods of doubt about our faith. Could this be where Isaiah's people are, doubting it's going to make a difference in their safety from Assyria and taking safety into their own hands, in this way they have forgotten justice, the oppressed, the widow and orphan?
Does any of this sound familiar? The worst week happened about the second week I was on vacation. Every day when I turned on the news there was another shooting. The aftermath is blame. Who was the person shot, who was the shooter, what should we do about gun violence, what life matters, where did they live, what kind of life, are you getting the picture? We cloud the issue with so many questions we lost the core. Names, who these people have grieving for them, how horrible each taking of life is because a life is of value and the taker suffers too. No, instead we turn it into sides, which side are you on, well that's wrong my side is more important. Gone is the person and any feeling we might have on the tragedy. Gone is our ability to hear anyone's story because we know which side is right and we are the judge and jury and have forgotten God and faith, justice, the oppressed, the widow and orphan. All forgotten because sides are more important.
When I went to the preaching festival in Atlanta one of the speakers made this statement, "We prepared for a George Orwell world from 1984 and we got an Aldous Huxley, Brave New World instead." The speakers point being we have lost feeling and spying on one by big brother is a distraction. Is this where Isaiah's people stood? Is this where we are? Protecting ourselves and us only, instead of worrying about the other.
I recently read a book called The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah it tells the story of two sisters in France during World War II. Some of what the book deals with is exactly this, do we care or turn a blind eye when evil could take our life? One sister dives right into helping the resistance. The other decides to play it safe for her daughter. Then one day comes the choice and she cannot play it safe any longer. She ends up saving thousands of Jewish children who would have otherwise been killed and gone to the camps. This stand takes an awful balancing act of appearing to help the enemy and then using this cover to help. It is a hard story of sacrifice and love and feeling.
"Don't be afraid." This is what Jesus tells us. What we must remember. It is a part of having faith because every time fear takes over we sacrifice another protecting only ourselves. It comes like the thief in the night or as Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it God hunts us down and storms our lives, disturbing is and awakening faith again. Do not be afraid to feel the loss of life. Do not be afraid to care for the widow and orphan. Do not be afraid to keep the faith. Yes, we may lapse and forget letting fear in once more. We just can't let it overtake us like Isaiah's people or like it did for the others who stood by and watched their Jewish friends go away and never return. Keep the faith. Keep the faith. Keep faith alive.