The Message, August 7, 2022, "By Faith!", Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

The Message, August 7, 2022, "By Faith!", Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
August 09, 2022


“By Faith!”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

OPENING:   Birthday cake.

            Take out the birthday cake, insert candle, ask the congregation if it is anyone’s birthday today. (Peter Gray)

            Invite everyone to make a wish …

            Blow out the candle …

            So … what did you wish for? A pony? A new car? A New pair of glasses?
            World peace?
            An end to hunger? Or homelessness? Or gun violence?
            Happiness? Love? Health?

            Have you ever wondered … who are we offering those birthday wishes to?

            Is there a birthday wizard, or fairy, or genie that we are asking to grant our wishes? Or is God the recipient? It is funny … I never actually thought of that until I was mowing the lawn yesterday in the zillion degree heat!

            Who are we lifting those wishes up to?

            I cannot imagine that we are thinking that God is some sort of birthday clown twisting balloon animals for our entertainment … and then granting a wish or two to put a bow on top. God is not a party trickster pulling wishes from a hat.

            God is more than a wonderful miracle worker doing amazing things to get us through difficult or impossible situations. God is the Center, the Creator, the Originator. God is the Overseer of an ultimate reality. God is the foundation of our faith.

            It is clear that the author of Hebrews is addressing a community that is struggling with their faith. The author is anonymous. The exact date of the letter is unknown. However, we can speculate that it was written at a point where a Christian community had been formed long enough ago that some of them were starting to have questions and doubts. They appear to have been backsliding in their faith, perhaps even considering giving it up all together and returning to their old ways.

            It may be that they subscribed to the mentality of the Janet Jackson song that would be penned two thousand years later … “What have you done for me lately?”

            “Huh, God … what have you done for us lately? We worship, we pray, we live good lives … but we have not seen any benefit yet. Where is our Promised Land?”

            They check their holy blessing meter every evening to see if God had made a deposit, or not.

            The author of the letter needed to remind them of the nature of faith. Faith is certainty in that which cannot be seen.

            Faith is not making a wish and hoping that God will make it come true. Faith is KNOWING that God is with us even when our wishes do NOT come true.

            Faith and hope are related. Hope is desiring a certain outcome. Faith is believing that it will happen. Hope without faith can lead to optimism rather than certainty, and optimism can ultimately lead to disappointment if we believe that God has been unfaithful.

            Faith helps us see the long view, the larger vision of God. Faith is believing that God is with us, helping us, guiding us no matter what. Faith is knowing that God is steadfast. Faith is knowing that God fulfills promises.

            Faith looks forward. Consider the patriarchs.

            God called, Abram … Abraham, a nomad living in Mesopotamia and said to him, “I am going to give you a land. You are going to be the father of a multitude of people … a number too great to count. You name will be great.”

            God made a covenant promise with Abraham and Sarah, and in response they began their pilgrimage of faith. By faith they left the land of Ur. By faith they travelled as strangers in a strange land. By faith they travelled in the land of Canaan. They could have turned back and returned to Ur. They could have, but they did not. By faith they continued.

            Life is a pilgrimage, a journey. By faith, Abraham left a land that was known, a culture that was known, and stepped into the unknown.

            By faith, a couple that had no children believed that they would parent a great nation.

            By faith they continued even when they saw no signs of the covenant promise. By faith, they knew that God would fulfill that promise.
The author of Hebrews goes on the talk about the other patriarchs who also remained faithful, who also continued the pilgrimage that Abraham began. They never received the covenant promise but never lost faith that it would one day be fulfilled.

            The writer used this lesson help the readers understand the meaning of faith. Faith is more than simply possessing a “religious” attitude toward life. Faith is more than going through the motions of religiosity and checking the blessing tote board to see if God has made good … has paid up.

            Faith hears and believes the promises of God, the assured word that the Creator God is also the Redeemer God. Faith is more than wishful thinking; it is hope that has turned to certainty. Faith tells us that God is the Creator of a larger reality, the ultimate goal of which is the heavenly City of God.

            Our faith is what sets us apart from the world and worldly distractions or attractions.

            The same allegory that the author of Hebrews used to convince his audience applies to our pilgrimage, our journey. We too travel through a “strange” land. The struggles and horrors and pain of the world are contrary to everything that we hope the world to be. We may also travel through this world feeling like a foreigner, at times, wondering how we got here, and how we can get “home.”

            We too may find ourselves turning away from God because of the pains and struggles that we have experienced in our own lives. We may question how a loving and benevolent God could allow such things to happen to us … and begin to turn away. Turn our backs on a God whom we may feel has forsaken us.

            We may feel ourselves tempted to find favor in the gods of this world. We may decide that we prefer instant gratification. We may feel as though that City of God is too far off in the distant and unknown future.

            We may not fully understand what the “City of God” is. We may not fully understand what it will look like or feel like. And the reality is that we may not ever see it realized here on earth, or in our lifetime.

            But this letter is a reminder. It is a reminder that like those who came before us, we are called to remain faithful.

            Those of you who have been members of this church for a longer period of time know that this church family has a history of faithfulness.

            When the church burned down twenty-two years ago … by faith … the church family committed itself to ministry.

            By faith … the church family determined that they would not rebuild their grandparents’ church but would instead look forward and build their grandchildren’s church.

            By faith … we travelled through the global pandemic and maintained a vital and active ministry.

            The journey has not always been easy. There have been struggles along the way. But God has been with us every step of the way.

            So, like those before us, we will continue to be faithful. By faith, we will continue to reach, to explore. By faith, we will work, and love, and serve. And we KNOW that God will be with us. God will always be with us. Amen.


Congregational Church