The Sunday Sermon: Holy Cross a Community of Faith
+In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
As we come to the second Sunday of November, we are mindful that we are quickly approaching the Advent Season. In these last three weeks as we approach Advent, I want to take the opportunity to preach to you three topical sermons based on a verse from Saint Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13 verse 13: “13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Over the next three weeks, I want to address these three “abiding” virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love, and I want us to encourage us to consider their meaning for you and I as a Parish Family.
So, this morning, I am entitling my Sermon: “Holy Cross, a Community of Faith.”
What does it mean that you and I are called to be a community of faith, or to put it another way, a community shaped by Faith.
Now, the dictionary defines “Faith” as “Confidence or trust in a person or a thing.” Confidence or trust. Those are powerful words.
One time, when I was on a Boy Scout, my troop went down to Albany, to a rock climbing Gym. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I am deathly afraid of heights. I once stopped helping put siding on a house because we got over the first floor window. Me and heights don’t get along.
But there I was in this rock gym. I had to muster up the courage to climb the rock wall, and I knew that if I didn’t look down, I’d be okay. But, there was another element: I had to rely on another person, on the ground, to be the one who would make sure that if I did lose grip of the wall, I wouldn’t fall to the ground. That was the Belay man and he was the one holding the rope tied around my waist.
I had to have enough confidence and trust that the person on the ground wouldn’t let me fall and get hurt, enough trust and confidence, enough Faith, in fact, to overcome my doubt and fear enough to start climbing that rock wall.
Now, I told you all that, because really, I want to say that the kind of faith I to have in that person on the other end of the rope and the Kind of Faith that shapes our Christian community aren’t the same kind of Faith.
And the reason they’re not the same is because, while the words “confidence” and “trust” are strong words, they are also in some ways inadequate in our context.
The Virtue of Faith, the Kind of Faith that Saint Paul tells us abides is something much stronger, something, perhaps, even more powerful.
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Trust and Confidence are strong words, words that ring true to our earthly relationships, but when it comes to God, we need our relationship to be founded on something much strong: Assurance and Conviction.
By faith, Hebrews tells us, Noah built the Ark, assured and convicted that it was God who was telling him how he was to be saved from the destruction of the Flood. It was by Faith that Abraham left his homeland with the promise of an inheritance, it was by faith he sojourned in a foreign land; it was by faith that Sarah, in her old age, was able to conceive a child.
I want to suggest to you that if Noah, and Abraham, and Sarah, among others I’ve not mentioned, only had faith in God to the level that I had faith to the guy on the other end of the rope, you and I wouldn’t be here today.
The faith I had in that belay man on the other end of the rope was just enough trust and confidence to hold me from falling a few feet from off the ground. It was enough trust and confidence to get me up the wall, but it was a 100 percent trust and confidence. I wasn’t sure and convicted that that person would save me.
For us to be a community shaped by the theological virtue of Faith, we need to cultivate a faith in God, based on assurance and conviction in the promises of salvation. Not a faith which still has it’s doubts and uncertainties. That’s worldly faith in others.
As a Church, we must have a faith in trust God which has no doubts in the promises which he has made to us: The promise to be with us always even to the end of the Earth; the promise to send to us the Holy Spirit, whom we may call upon for comfort; the promise of Salvation – freedom from our sins and the gift of everlasting life.
Faith, an absolute assurance and trust in the power and promises of God, is the foundation of our Christian Life. Yet, it is only the foundation, the beginning. Saint Peter tells us in his Second Epistle, Chapter 1:
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. 5 For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; 11 so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we begin in faith, we are called to grow in virtue, knowledge, self control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and finally love. If we fail to be growing these things, as Peter tells us, we have forgotten the life to which we have been called: New Life in Christ.
A Holy Cross shaped by Faith, then, is a Holy Cross which is growing in these characteristics, a parish which is growing together in the New Life of Christ by growing in virtue, knowledge, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love.
And so, I want to ask you two questions this morning: How are you and we growing together in this new life in Christ? And what things do we need to do as a parish and as individuals to grow even more in the new life which God has given us?
Brothers and Sisters in Christ: We have our Parish family, founded on Faith, and it has been given to us by God, our Heavenly Father. This parish Family is not our own, not ours, but his. And we are called today and every day, to live out our lives in obedience to his will, with the assurance and confidence that his will for us is perfect. And that his love for us is perfect. And that we may perfectly love him.
And so today, in our worship, let us rend our hearts to him, in love and prayer and praise, ever ready to receive his will for us and to amend our lives to live according to his promises in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is what it means for us to be a Community of Faith, grounded in Him who is, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!