St Alban’s Episcopal Church
Saturday, March 4, 2023
Lent 2 – continued
Leave what you know – and go into the unknown Trust as faith
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say?” Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. “Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or his descendants through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only the adherents of the law but also those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) – in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gave life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist.
Reflection on “faith” by Laura Jean Truman
(She later wrote that in case anyone doubts it, she does not believe that there is no way to know God except through conscious knowledge of Jesus – but that this is not that essay. This is a reflection on John 3:16 and the trauma it can cause to serious Christians -)
We’re saved by faith, not by works, Paul says, and even faith is a gift from God, “so that no one can boast.”
The way I learned about faith growing up made faith just like another work. Faith was the decision to accept Jesus Christ, so you went to heaven. People who did not accept Jesus Christ went to hell. I wasn’t sure (still am not sure) how that doesn’t make faith a “work.”
I’ve heard people say, “It’s just accepting a free gift!” But the decision to accept “the free gift” is still a choice! It requires knowing something. And it’s a hard choice, and it can require bravery, or lack of trauma, or conversely TONS of trauma, or willpower, or hitting rock bottom, or never hitting rock bottom.
Or for goodness sake, it means not being raised in a healthy religious environment of an entirely different religion that you’re never tempted to leave, because it is safe and whole and loving.
A whole host of things outside our control determine who “just accepts the free gift” and who doesn’t.
I’ve circled around this for twenty years, because I felt so strongly in high school that I was only interested in God so much because of some magic, some big grace, something pulling me that was outside my control. I looked at people I loved and some of them didn’t have that pull. It was hard to imagine that I was going to escape eternal punishment and they were not, just because of the pull of grace that I wasn’t “choosing.”
Paul as I read him resonated with me -faith was a gift from God, so that no one could boast (this is why I was a brief and enthusiastic Calvinist my sophomore year.)
I had so many open doors of mentors and holy places that were happy accidents, or big gifts, or grace.
It was really hard for me to imagine a kind of God who gives you grace, but not your neighbor whom you love so much. And the consequences are forever.
I don’t think Jesus Christ is only the Savior for the people with no trauma around Christianity, who were securely attached as kinds, or that God just saves people who have the emotional and spiritual and social resources to “choose God back.”
We have so many things that block us, in this life, from seeing God. I can’t imagine a good God who lets those things block us from him forever. That doesn’t fit the rest of the Bible’s story.