Strength of Faith

Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away.

Over the next twenty-six weeks we are going to focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we can walk in Strength of Faith.

In the text of today’s Epistle, we hear Paul say that we aspire to please him [i.e., God], whether we are at home or away. Hearing that immediately took me back to the days of family vacations. At home or away.

The first family vacation I remember was to Florida, Coral Gables, and my Uncle Frank’s house. Both of our families had been touched by tragedy, the loss of my dad and Frank’s loss of his wife, his children’s mom. This was still a pretty fresh memory for all of us.

This time gave us some freedom from those thoughts. I recall each thing we did, the visit to the breach, the salt water of the ocean, shells, going to the Venetian Gardens and its beautiful pools, running away after taking a wedge out of the green on a very nice golf course (I think they’re still looking for me). Being with my cousins. Visiting Ma Easter, an in-law to Uncle Frank, a great, very funny, and vivacious southern woman. Going to the planetarium and seeing moon rocks.

Some of this was culture shock, most just plan fun, and parts even scary. Life is like that, and the overriding question is: How do we approach life? Paul was writing about how we are to live. He boils it down to living in the strength of faith.

The love of God encompasses everything. Grounded in God’s love through Christ’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s communion, we can be what we have been called to be; commending ourselves with confidence to everyone regardless of circumstances, regardless of where we are.

In fact, all that we do while we are in our bodies will be manifest before “the judgment seat of Christ” – the moment when Christ, coming in power, will judge all. This reference to Christ’s “judgment seat” and how we are to live is not a threat or something we should fear, but rather a promise and an expectation of the fullness of the kingdom for those who live in strength of faith.

Although we live in a world where tech savvy, wealth, power, and the call to constant conflict with neighbors seem to override and even wipe out thoughts of God’s steadfast love, justice, and righteousness, we can be confident that God, and we who live His way, will prevail in the end. 

Our “transformation” into Christ’s image takes place not in some otherworldly place, only at the end, but here and now in how we live. Here is where we need to live and act in strength of faith, to go the way of Christ when we feel the pull to conflict, greed, the need to repost criticisms, to finger-point, to REACT. God’s grace is sufficient power to overcome, to live in strength of faith and to be truly Christian.

In
advance.

“Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Two weeks ago, we reflected on God’s wake-up calls delivered through the prophets. Delivered to us too so we might be found awake and ready.

Last week, we focused on God’s proclamation of a truth, through His angels, that most would consider hard to believe. For God does things in vastly different ways. We come to realize, by faith, that God’s proclamation is God’s reality that He provided in advance so that we might have a chance to live up to His vastly different way. 

Today we consider the rejoicing in store for us, right this very moment, and to come upon Jesus’ return.

Each of these themes, wake-up calls, proclamation, and rejoicing are things given to humanity in advance of Jesus’ coming. We are reminded of them now because Advent is that time in advance of His returning. He is returning in power and might to take up those who are awake, to fulfill all His proclamation, and to gather us in rejoicing.

Isaiah tells us that the very earth, all of nature will exult, rejoice, and bloom. In his time of anticipated rejoicing, Isaiah reminded Israel to strengthen itself, to build itself up, to cast out all fear. Nothing should be upon us that would hold us down. So today, let nothing stop us from rejoicing. Let us prepare ourselves to enter singing, crowned with joy, and meeting together with gladness.

St. James clues us in: Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. Do we think anyone will win who is just standing by asleep, unhappy, thinking it will never happen for them? Is just going through the motions enough? No! It is for those who are making it real, living up anticipating, and glad right here, right now, in this place, in this City, in this family.

Listen carefully again to Jesus’ very word: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” He has given us the best reason for rejoicing in advance of His return. He has told us, in advance, we are greater than John the Baptist. We are powerhouses of faith, strong to withstand because in advance we are awake, living up, and rejoicing.