Week of 3 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1632

The Power of Faith

JANUARY 28, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it men of old received divine approval.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where to go.  By faith he sojourned  in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who promised.  Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only-begotten son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.”

THEN

Canticle 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;

he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,

born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,

that he would save us from our enemies,

from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers

and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,

to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear,

holy and righteous in his sight

all the days of our life.

(The Song of Zechariah, Luke 1:68-79)

OR

Psalm 89:19-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 You spoke once in a vision and said to your faithful people:

“I have set the crown upon a warrior

and have exalted the one chosen out of the people.

20 I have found David my servant;

with my holy oil I have anointed him.

21 My hand will hold him fast

and my arm will make him strong.

22 No enemy shall deceive him,

nor any wicked man bring him down.

23 I will crush his foes before him

and strike down those who hate him.

24 My faithfulness and love shall be with him,

and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25 I shall make his dominion extend

from the Great from the Great Sea to the River.

26 He will say to me, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the rock of my salvation,’

27 I will make him my firstborn

and higher than the kings of the earth.

28 I will keep my love for him forever,

and my covenant will stand firm for him.

29 I will establish his line for ever,

and his throne as the days of heaven.”

THEN

Mark 4:35-41 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them,

Let us go across to the other side.

And leaving the crowd, they took him with them, just as he was, in the boat.  And the other boats were with him.  And a great storm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him,

Teacher, do you not care if we perish?

And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,

Peace!  Be still!

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them,

Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?

And they were filled with awe, and said to one another,

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I am a product of the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s.  Thus I understand the natural world in a way First Century C.E. inhabitants of Judea could not have done.  For them, the world was spirit-haunted, and evil spirits caused everything from epilepsy to wind storms on the Sea of Galilee.  It was a pre-scientific way of grasping the natural world.   Note that Jesus calmed the storm with language nearly identical to that he used when addressing a demoniac (or mentally ill person) in Mark 1:25.  In each case he allegedly demonstrated his power over evil spirits and certainly established calm for someone.

Faith, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, entails setting out and not knowing where one is going.  What was a literal journey for Abraham can be a spiritual journey for each of us.  At any given era of history there are always people experiencing varieties of difficulty.  But at this time, the hangover of financial excesses, this reality is more obvious to many of us.  I hope that responsible leaders in all nations will take the proper measures necessary to prevent a repeat, but I choose to focus now on personal, spiritual lessons and amendment of life.  Many of us do not know where we are going or what we will do when we get there.  For that matter, many of us do not know what we will do where we are.  Doubt and uncertainty can trouble us, but I propose embracing them and trusting in God.  God knows, and we do not; and that is okay.  May we seek divine guidance and take this opportunity to reorder priorities for the longterm.  Confident in God’s love and providence, may we find calm in the midst of fear, doubt, and uncertainty.  There is one certainty that matters; this certainty is God.  And that should be enough.

The power of faith is the ability, in the midst of a storm, literal or metaphorical, to rest calmly in the love of God.  May all of us seek and find that faith, if he have not found it already.

KRT

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