What happens to our lives when we have lost faith? What happens in a culture, a society, a household, to our own hearts when we have lost faith? What happens when we can no longer see a better world? What happens when we can only see the way things are? What happens when our souls no longer soar and dream and inspire us to endure the momentary troubles, knowing they are light compared to the glory of better days, better times ahead? What happens when we fail to see past the “mid-construction” chaos and inconvenience? What happens when we cling to what is and wish it will always remain the same?
What happens when our hopes and desires and dreams have been dashed or disappointed for the sixth time? And there is not a seventh in you? What happens when they are dashed a tenth, and you are not willing for an 11th? What would happen in this world if corruption, disease, injustice, murder, violence, and exploitation were all accepted and no one saw a world beyond? What happens when we come to a place where we can see no further? What happens when you dismiss the invisible and practically impossible potential of the unknown?
What happens when the Red Sea stops us? when Goliath makes us run? when Pilate intimidates us? What would happen if the medical profession surrendered to Polio, measles, HIV, cancer? What would happen if societies could not see beyond slavery, discrimination, segregation? What would happen if we could not see beyond polluted air, contaminated water, mass shootings, polarizing politics? How would history read if there was no faith? What would happen if humans, like cows, were completely powerless to change anything about their world? I wonder, if cows had the gift of faith, if their history and future might be different than one that has devolved to mass containment and on display in the butcher sections and steak houses throughout the land? If cows had faith, I imagine they would lead a crusade to make the world Hindu or Buddhist, don’t you think?
The opposite of faith is not atheism. I do not think religion is the exclusive source of faith. In fact, too much of traditional and institutionalized religion dissuades the vibrant cultivation of faith and in its place encourages acceptance, obedience, and resignation. Seeing and being convinced of a better way than the way things are now is threatening to those who like to keep things the way they are.
People can argue what they want about whether there is a God or not. They can argue which path is the right one? But nobody argues about the significance of faith. When you have lost faith in yourself, in your partner, in your community, in your children, in your government, in your society… when you no longer can see the road up ahead, being better than the place we are presently, if we have lost faith… then we are lost, indeed!
Without faith, we exchange the pain of swimming against the tide, for the anguish of being where the tide is taking us. Without faith, we will lose hope and die where we have been assigned instead of dying upon the path to somewhere else – leaving those who inherit the journey to complete it forward. Without faith we will despair our children, trouble our parents, and resist our elders and teachers. Without faith, the unseen world of tomorrow will be dystopic instead of redeemed, renewed, resurrected.
I have always marveled at the heroes of history and how they prevailed against the crushing resistance of their day. Winston Churchill against the siege of Hitler, Martin Luther against the grip of the medieval church, Jackie Robinson against the white rule of Major league baseball, civil rights activists, labor organizers, environmentalists, restorers of downtowns, defenders of the powerless, protectors of the land, the waters, and the air. How could they have done what they did against overwhelming odds? Faith. They did not see only what was all around them, they saw what could become. Faith gives vision and conviction for what is not yet but must be if God’s kingdom of life and love and joy and equity and mercy and grace and forgiveness and community was to be on earth as it is in heaven. Faith inspires hope even when all seems lost. Faith creates life even when death is eminent. Faith moves mountains, topples tyrants, brings down barriers, changes the world.
What do we have if we have lost the gift of faith in our life, in our community, in our society and in our culture? What would happen if we could no longer dream, imagine, create, believe? What would happen if the sacred stories of the world made the Goliaths, the Pharoahs, the Caesars, the Herods, the Sanhedrins, the violent, the powerful, the arrogant — the blessed people of God? It would be a different story all together.
The gift of faith is granted to those who need it and who receive it, not to build their own kingdoms, but to bring forth God’s kingdom of love and life and peace and joy and goodness and wellness and kindness and community. We cannot dismiss the power of faith in our life. God help us if we have lost the gift of faith in our life. Amen.