Faith is not Blind
Pentecost IV (O. T. 11); June 12, 2016
II Corinthians 4:16-5:10
If you would like, you can find your pick of things to be troubled about. Another mass shooting, this time in Orlando, the aches and pains some of you are experiencing, a diagnosis of uncertain implications, what to do with your children through the long summer. At two recent Rotary meetings I heard about human trafficking in Omaha and about the presidential campaign.
Although we need to keep our sight broad, still it was this year's campaign season that kept coming to mind as I read Paul's words, "We walk by faith, not by sight." That's because some folks who talk to me about it are not simply troubled; they are frightened. "I'm afraid of what may happen if _____ is elected," many have said to me. And that got me thinking about why I am not afraid.
Because God has given me faith. Faith in God, yes – more on that in a bit – but also faith in our nation. I'll talk about the nation because of the fear folks have expressed, but I could talk about any number of other things we can have faith in. I recall about 20 years ago, during a recession, an investment advisor in my congregation was troubled for his clients. I told him, "Have faith in God; have faith in the market." So talking about the national presidential election is simply an illustration. I've told you before about the conversation I had with the man who insisted that with the election of Barack Obama as President, the United States would be destroyed within five years. I told him I believed that the nation is stronger than that, and our institutions are more durable than that. I still believe that.
But why do I believe that? Jingoism? Unthinking nationalism? Blind faith? No, because faith is not blind. I have faith in our political process and in our national institutions, but faith is not blind. Faith is built on experience and on understanding and on trust. We, as a nation, have experienced political campaigns like this year's before, and we are still here and doing well. And I have read our constitution and thought about it and even preached about it. So our experience as a people and my own understanding come together to urge me to have faith in our national institutions and not to be afraid.
But even more, I have faith in God. That means that even if family or nation or other institutions fail, God can still be relied upon. "Surely, Pastor, faith in God is blind!" No, it is not. Faith in God is not invented just to keep us whistling in the dark. Faith in God is built on experience and understanding and trust. We look first at our experience of God.
That's what the Bible is for. Our memories are not very long. Do you know the difference between and American and an Englishman? The Englishman thinks 100 miles is a long distance and the American thinks 100 years is a long time. God has been at work among God's people for thousands of years, but without the Bible to remind us, our experience of God would go back no further than our own adolescence. We remind ourselves that God rescued God's people from slavery in Egypt, that God kept the promise to restore the people to Jerusalem, and that God sent the Messiah to be born of Mary and to offer his life on the Cross. Because we see what God has done, we have faith.
Above all, we have faith in God who raises the dead. Yes, Paul says, "We walk by faith, not by sight," but while saying that he is talking about his own hope of resurrection by the One who raised Jesus from the dead. Sometimes you don't see something not because it is not there, but because it is too far away. We do not see with absolute certainty that all will be well with our society, and that God will protect God's Church, and that we will be raised from the dead. We do not see; we have faith. But that faith is not blind. That faith is built on the experience of God's activity in the past and our understanding of who God is.
Yes, you may object that you and I did not directly experience the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is true. So another element of faith is our willingness to trust those who witnessed Christ raised from the dead. Can we trust Peter and Andrew and James and John? Can we trust Mary Magdalene and Paul and Matthew and Mark? I think I need another sermon to argue for why we should trust them; let it be enough for now that I trust them at least as much as you trust me.
I am often apprehensive and uncertain and there are things that I'm afraid of, but when people say that our current circumstances frighten them I realize that I am not afraid, for God has given me faith. Faith is not blind, but faith is able to see the power of God at work in the world. Faith is confidence in the One who raised Jesus from the dead.
Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master
Benson Presbyterian Church