Living by Faith
By Rev. Dr. Louise Westfall
Last Come to the edge, the angel beckoned.
We can’t—we’re afraid! They responded.
Come to the edge, again the summons.
We can’t—we’ll fall! They repeated.
This little parable could be a worthy companion with which to travel into a brand new year. Not one of us knows what lies ahead—for ourselves personally and our dear ones, and the local, national and global communities to which we belong. Part of me holds eager hope as I open up the 2017 calendar. The possibilities. The potential for taking the wings of morning and soaring in new directions, with new opportunities. I laugh in the face of danger—ha ha! Yet I’ve lived a long time, and part of me understands all too well how quickly “new” becomes “old;” how difficult it is to change; how the edge can feel like a dangerous precipice. I feel the thousand paper cuts of anxiety –what if….?? how in the world….?? Who cares??– And I doubt that this year will be any different than the last one.
This little parable could be a worthy introduction to the Scripture text because it too is a summons to come to the edge—to live by faith. But there’s one important addition. A reading from the letter to the Hebrews, in the eleventh chapter at the first verse. Listen for God’s Word to you and to us on this first day of 2017. [Hebrews 11:1-3]
A few years ago, someone gave me a decorative pillow with a saying by Eleanor Roosevelt: Do one thing every day that scares you. I wonder what would change if I followed that advice. I wonder if that’s essentially the counsel of the author of Hebrews: to act not on the basis of “what is,” but on high hopes and imagination. To live by faith is to be nourished not by reality but by vision—here, a vision of the creative word and activity of the almighty God. Not seen; not obvious, and certainly not with the assurance of success. To live by faith is to trust your life to God. It involves letting go of control (or actually the illusion of control) and consciously placing oneself under the guidance and direction of the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit.
I can’t think of a more important resolution on this first day of a new year than to commit—or re-commit—ourselves to that process. None of us does it perfectly—we’re all learning. So today we’re going to practice! Around the sanctuary are four stations designed to help us take another step towards spiritual growth. Each has prompts for personal reflection and prayer. One focuses on cultivating gratitude. You can recall some of the blessings people expressed during 2016—and identify some of your own. One invites us to make some explicit intentions toward actions that will help us live by faith, with joy and purpose. At *this* station, you’ll read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, what Christian ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr suggested was a good way to discover what God is doing in the world, and how we might join God in that redemptive work. You can choose to remain in your seat, and reflect on your “star word” [if you didn’t pick one up, they are available at entrances to the sanctuary], asking God to show you how it might guide and illumine your life this year. And at this station, we are invited to dive more deeply into the parts of our lives that are broken and in need of God’s healing and restorative power. We’ll have about 10 minutes for this practice, only enough to visit one station, so here’s where the “do one thing that scares you” may come into play. Choose a station that takes you out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised to discover how God can transform even our doubts and anxieties into nourishing ingredients for a faithful life.
Come to the edge, the angel pleaded.
Come to the edge.
The angel pushed them.
And they flew.