These days there seems to be very little of which we can be certain. The past several years saw a global pandemic take the lives of millions of beloved brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends. The changes to our climate have made generational storms into annual weather events. People have become less kind, more certain of their own beliefs, and convinced that being right is more important than being in relationship.
In the midst of what sometimes feels like unending chaos, I have found myself leaning ever more on the practices and traditions of my faith that shaped me growing up. Leading the weekly prayer call at church became a way to mark time and ground myself in communal vulnerability and shared witness. Taking Communion kits and gifts to sick and shut-in church members became a highlight of ministry as our acts of service reminded people they are never alone.
The practice that has brought me the most comfort is singing the hymns my elders taught me. I often flipped through our church’s hymnal as a child at Bethel A.M.E. Church when my pastor’s sermon was a little too long or a bit over my head. These days the hymn “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” is at the forefront of my consciousness. It begins simply, “Time is filled with swift transition, naught of earth unmoved can stand. Build your hopes on things eternal, hold to God’s unchanging hand!”
In these words, I find solace. Change is inevitable, but so is God’s steadfastness. Today’s text defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I have often heard this scripture interpreted to mean that faith is the absence of doubt. But perhaps “faith” could also be interpreted as trust in the absence of certainty.
Dear God, help us to hold fast to your steadfast loving-kindness. Free us to sacrifice certainty, and open our hearts to the new thing you are doing in our lives and in the world. Amen.
The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Although they are performing sacrifices and observing feasts, they have lost their heart for God. God wants no more meaningless sacrifices but instead wants the people to repent. The psalmist proclaims a similar message from God. The people’s sacrifices have become pointless because the people have forgotten God. The primary offerings that God desires are thanksgiving and ethical living. The author of Hebrews sounds a note of harmony, emphasizing that Abraham’s faith in action—not his performance of religious duties—brings him favor with God. Jesus teaches that we cannot rest on our laurels of simply “having faith.” Instead we should remain vigilant and continue to perform acts of charity, including caring for the poor, as a response to our faith.
Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. Consider the author’s difficult questions: Is there blood on your hands? Does your worship lead you to acts of mercy and justice?
Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. How do you “bring Thanksgiving as [your] sacrifice” and “go the right way”?
Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. How do you demonstrate faith as a verb, not just a noun?
Read Luke 12:32-40. God promises us a bountiful kingdom, but we cannot take our worldly possessions there. How do you work toward living as if you are already in God’s bountiful kingdom? How do you help to create it?
Respond by posting a prayer.
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