“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.”
Have you ever considered what it was like at the very beginning- any beginning?
The beginning – that place where you and I find ourselves with a road before us – unclear about where and how we will make the journey. There is no map, no GPS, no clearly marked road – just a vision of something better, something we’re not sure we can actually see but we deeply believe it is there. It could be a glimpse of a road with another person; a glimpse of a road with a new job or opportunity; a glimpse of a road with a new place of residence or nation.
As we begin to lean into 2017 and our 300th anniversary, the celebration mantra is “Born in Faith. Rooted in Grace. Living into Hope.” I’ve begun to think hard about what was going on in this very young nation at our very beginning, at our birth. The American experiment was in its infancy. Its “citizenry” was complicated – wealthy colonizers eager to expand their wealth in a new land; unwanted people and convicts released from prisons sent to the new world on behalf of nations that did not want them; and an enslaved people from west coast of Africa stripped from their rights as human beings and forced into labor after their families were torn apart and separated. Then there were those from other nations whose governments were also trying to find a place in this new land. It was a complicated formula for any nation, for any beginning. In many ways, it is amazing that hundreds of years later this formidable experiment continues to take shape through us – with all our differing views and imperfections. So what is it that drives a disparate people to a place of hope – even when circumstances seem untenable?
One of my favorite movie series is Indiana Jones. In one of the series, Indiana Jones the archeologist is seeking the Holy Grail. There is this great scene when Jones finds himself on the edge of a cliff and is spoken to by some “God-like” voice who says he needs to cross to the other side if he hopes to find the grail. He hesitantly looks in front of him – it is a long way down; there is no way to cross. He looks behind him – and the evil villains are in hot pursuit. Not much of a choice – so he closes his eyes and reluctantly steps into the abyss. And then – what had been invisible becomes visible– a bridge forms allowing him to safely cross to the other side.
There is something profound about the human spirit I believe is God-given. Perhaps it is our being created in the image of God by the life-giving breath of God. But there is a deep yearning to believe in more than what we can see. Isn’t that the definition of faith? – that willingness; that openness to believe what is not clearly before us. For us as a Christian people, it is that very faith that prompts us forward, gives us courage to fight injustice, and breathes peace into our weary spirits – especially at those times when the world seems crazy (and it does seem crazy).
I am confident it was this faith that not only birthed a nation, but also birthed a heritage and tradition of which we are a part as Presbyterian Christians. It was the beginning of the beginning – that place from which we must step away in order to move forward in hope. Each of our worshipping communities was formed by this kind of faith and hope – as places to gather, equip, encourage and serve each other and the world.
In many ways we are at another beginning. It is our beginning. It is our moment to imagine what our witness can be over the next 300 years. It is our moment to step into the abyss before us – embodying the hope of the Gospel. I cannot help but wonder what they will write about our witness 300 years from now. In the meantime, I am eager to write the “story of us” together – convicted by things yet unseen and hoped for.