RCL C Proper 14 Complementary
Genesis 15:1-6, Psalm 33:12-22, Hebrews 11:1-3 and 8-16, Saint Luke 12:32-40

Words from the Epistle: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”[1] A better definition of faith has not been written.

What Abram is to take on faith in the First Lesson is that the Lord will provide him an heir, a descendant. Time seems to be running out, but the Lord makes the promise. Abram’s heirs, his descendants, will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram believes the Lord, and the Lord reckons his belief as righteousness. An heir is the thing hoped for; Abram comes to the conviction that he will have an heir.

Abram moves or grows from the lack of faith to the presence of faith. And Jesus asks a similar growth, a similar movement, from his disciples in the Gospel today. And if he asks it of his disciples, he asks it of us.

What the disciples are to believe and what we are to believe is that “the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”[2] If you believe that, you believe all of the Creeds. If you believe that, you believe that Jesus was born, that he died, that he rose again, and that he ascended into heaven. All of those are necessary to believe that he will come again at an hour we know not.

In the words of the Epistle, Jesus’ return is the thing hoped for; we are to come to the conviction that Jesus will come again.

If we do not possess that conviction, how do we come to it? Is having that conviction the luck of the draw, or can we do something to come closer to having that conviction?

Once I knew a man of deep faith, and his priest told me how his faith developed and how it grew. In his twenties, the man’s deep faith appeared to him to be doubt. He thought he had doubt, not faith, and having doubt scared him. He had to do something to demonstrate to himself that he was open or receptive to having his faith increased.

And this is what he did. He was in the army at the time, and to demonstrate his openness to faith in the middle of the night he put on his full dress uniform, took his rifle, and stood at attention on the parade grounds, waiting for the Lord to return. “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?”[3]

He did this often. He was giving the Lord plenty of opportunity to return, and he was in word and deed showing the Lord that we was hoping and ready for his return. The man’s conviction that the Lord will return grew.

I have found it helpful over the years when I pray or read the Scriptures to remind myself what these practices are all about. They are about taking my time and my effort, and giving them to God. They are about clearing a space and clearing a time for God to be God. They are about being ready at any time and in any place to meet the Lord. “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”[4]

[1] Hebrews 11:1.

[2] Saint Luke 12:40.

[3] Saint Matthew 26:40.

[4] Saint Luke 12:40.

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