Collect and Readings for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity – Isaiah 1.1,10-20, Genesis15.1-6, Psalm 50.1-8,23-end, Psalm 33.12-end, Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16, Luke 12.32-40The Prayer for todayAlmighty Lord and everlasting God, we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and Bodies in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments; that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Gospel reading for this week begins with such an affectionate reassurance. It is God's good pleasure and delight to give us the kingdom; everything is in hand, and nothing can ever tear us apart from the God who loves us. The only way separation can happen is by us choosing to walk away ourselves. So our God has us safe and expectant, knowing that there are great things in store for us both in this world and the next, even though we cannot see them.
And that is the faith God looks for in his people: believing the hope as a fact and trusting that what God has promised will indeed happen. The reading from Hebrews recalls the extraordinary faith of Abraham, God's close friend, in the way he was prepared to launch out into the unknown on many occasions, simply because God told him to. Not only did he believe that God had authority which asked for obedience; he also knew that God's responsible, caring nature would ensure that placing himself in the hands of the Lord was a sensible and safe thing to do.
So, Abraham's faith determined how he lived. That always happens; you cannot trust the one true God and go on behaving with corruption, deceit, injustice, or self-glory which you know to be totally alien to his nature. But it is, of course, perfectly possible to pretend you have faith, and go through the ritual of words and worship, while your eyes stoically avoid God's gaze, and your life proclaims that you actually despise the one you claim to worship.
It was exactly this which so wounded the heart of God about the people of Israel, to whom Isaiah was sent. How could God accept their offerings when they were living a lie? Hypocrisy and corruption creep up on us insidiously, minor detail by minor detail, so that we end up fooling ourselves that wrong is right. Sometimes we can fool others, too. But God we do not fool, and his reaction is to try to shake us out of the lie we are in, because he hates us being there and knows it causes all kinds of stress, whether we recognise that or not.
Having faith means looking seriously at the God we claim to believe in, and checking that our lives, in every aspect, in secret and in the open, are lined up with those qualities of truth, love, integrity and right action which are hallmarks of God and his friends.
Some things to reflect on:
Why are we often more ready to check our standards against other people we know than against the nature of God, as shown to us in the person of Jesus?
Has your faith in God ever forced you to take decisions which you found very difficult? Was it worth it?
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev'd Fiona Robinson