"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!"… We must meet one another doing good.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/pope-francis-good-atheists_n_3320757.html)This is what Pope Francis said in a sermon a couple of weeks ago.
Some were shocked by it. I am not. Jesus has redeemed everyone, those with faith and those without, as put beautifully in one of our prayers:
“Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace” (BCP p. 101)That prayer from our Morning Prayer office is a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for humanity, it says what we believe, but it also says more, as a monk from SSJE put it:
“As Episcopalians [Anglicans] we often claim that praying shapes believing: we can show people what we believe, by how we pray. But it is just as true that believing shapes living: we can show people what we believe, by how we live.” - Br. James KoesterThat prayer not only states what we believe, but how we are to live it too, as that prayer continues:
“So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.” (p. 101)Our faith compels us to live it in our hands, in our bodies, to honor his name. So people will know Jesus by what we do: a faith that is made by the Spirit of God and the choices that we each make, that shows forth in our lives.
"The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God."These words were spoken by the crowd in our first reading after they witnessed an extraordinary sight and their hearts turned back to God. Elijah challenged the people to follow the Lord their God, the God of their Ancestors and not Baal. But they stood silent, only after they witnessed the fire consuming sacrifice, did they return to their belief.
Like those Israelites, we must decide who we give our faith too. And there a lot of Baals out there, seeking our allegiance, our faith. These imposters of God will readily take our sacrifice, they seemingly give us what we want, but in the end, down deep, we know its not right and we remained unfulfilled by what we receive from them.
Elijah the Prophet was sent to help the Israelites understand their faith and their journey with God, to make the right decision. St. Paul was sent to help the first Christians understand their faith and their journey and to continue what they had been taught.
“Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”St. Paul reminds the Galatians and us, that our faith isn’t about pleasing people & seeking their approval, but following that call, the Spirit of God in our lives, to do good, to bring love and healing to the world. Sometimes we are shown that faith by people we would never even guess would have such faith.
In Capernaum, Jesus is asked by a Centurion to heal a slave he valued highly (or was very important to him (he loved)), and Jesus does just that… On the surface, the healing doesn’t seem so extraordinary, that’s what Jesus does, he heals people… BUT, We should note a few things: a Centurion (Gentile) asks a Jew, a Centurion (an occupying soldier) asks one of the occupied for help, he understands his authority and he understands Jesus authority, and in the end, he humbly begs Jesus not to come, because he is not worthy and Jesus word alone will heal the servant. Jesus was amazed by all this:
"I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."Some who knew the centurion testified to his faith and generosity by how he helped build a synagogue. The centurion is the ultimate other in Israel in the time of Jesus, same as the lepers, outside the faith. And Jesus praises his faith, heals his servant, and reminds us that faith comes even from the other in our midst, a hated enemy, a non believer…
So maybe, from what Jesus did, we should worry less about how that faith is expressed by others & focus instead meeting one another doing good, by reaching forth our hands in love.
In a world, where the Baals seeks our life & faith & status quo, our challenge is to choose the good, and not worship or fear those gods, but instead live out of that God given faith that is inside you and me, that is set ablaze by God’s spirit, that we may remake our world with the hope & love we have. In the words of one faith community:
(O God) Those who work for change suffer resistance, So make us Strong
Those who do new things sometimes feel afraid, So make us Brave
Those who challenge the world as it is arouse anger, So grant us Inner Peace
Those who live joyfully are envied, So make us Generous
Those who try to love encounter hate, So make us Steadfast in you. (& your love Amen.) ~ The St Hilda Community