Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
And then the writers lists people who live "by faith" - like Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham. The verse about Abel is one I had not really thought about:
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s.
Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts;
he died, but through his faith he still speaks.
The story of Cain and Abel has always been an important one to me. It is two brothers who each offer a sacrifice to God: for Abel, the shepherd it is the firstborn of his flock; for Cain the farmer, it is produce of the land. And God had regard for one and not the other. Cain subsequently killed his brother. When I have preached on this, I have focused on Cain. His anger, the "sin crouching at the door," and God's ultimate mercy.
This morning I find myself thinking about Abel and his "faith" that enabled him to know what was an acceptable sacrifice. On reflection, that makes sense because I believe that it is our deepening faith that enables us to "discern" what it is that God wants from us. And then there is the punch in the gut that the "faithful" one is the one who gets murdered and then the realization that death - even here in this Genesis story - is not the end. How about that?
This verse is a reminder that living "by faith" is very different from the success models of the world and God's work is often hidden.
This morning as I watched the news a technology CEO came on with a strong message about the velocity of change technologically in the world and how if companies and nations don't keep up we are going to be left behind. As soon as I heard that I thought - that is an anxiety producing message!
Even for people like me who are out of the work force. Just ask my grandchildren - I have trouble still using my I Phone! I can so quickly feel left behind.
But I start this day trying to remember that God created me to be in relationship with God and my brothers and sisters. And that I am called to live in the world but not of the world. The message from Richard Rohr is about St Francis:
His phrase "left the world" did not mean leaving creation.
It meant leaving what we might call the "system."
Francis left business as usual, and he began what he called an alternative life, which at that time was called "a life of penance" or abandoning the system.
He decided to live a life focused on alleviating the needs and the suffering of others instead of a life of self-advancement.
And so my hope is that somehow I really am living "by faith." That my choices are coming out of my relationship with God and like Abel discern the offerings that God wants from me. And know that while the cultural message tends to be one of scarcity - God keeps promising us the abundant life.
Here is a blessing for today
May the God of FAITH be with you,
sending you miracles and teaching you to expect them.
May God show you thinks that can be seen only in the darkness.
May our faith see you through the unknowns in your life, calling you to trust the unseen presence of god in them.
May your faith serve as a beacon to light the way for other pilgrims on the way.
May the blessing of FAITH be upon you.