Tuesday, August 31, 2010

love in practice

“love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams. It may very well kill you”  

~Fr. Zossima in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov

Sunday, August 29, 2010

+++Rowan on writing

from Faith and Theology blog...

Rowan Williams, discussing the process of writing:

"Something which will be familiar to anybody who has ever tried to do serious writing ... is the sense in which you only discover what you have to say in the doing of it. Saunders Lewis, the Welsh poet, used to quote somebody saying – a child saying – 'How do I know what I think until I see what I say?' and I have always resonated rather with that. And that means that for me in writing even a straight forward prose essay or a short book or a lecture, there is that awkward moment when ... the engine is turning over a bit and you are wondering exactly at what point you are going to discover what the argument is. That's a warning really about the first four pages of everything I have ever written!

"Writing isn't translating something in here onto the page. Writing is an act. If it were just transference, no doubt you could plug in the electrodes and something would neatly type up what was going on inside your head.... Writing is an act, it is an action of self-discovery and an action of trying to put something into being."

Mountains and all hills

  • Psalm 148
  • Laudate Dominum

1 Hallelujah!
Praise the LORD from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the Name of the LORD; *
for he commanded, and they were created.
He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth, *
you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
tempestuous wind, doing his will;
Mountains and all hills, *
fruit trees and all cedars;
10 Wild beasts and all cattle, *
creeping things and winge!d birds;
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;
12 Young men and maidens, *
old and young together.
13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD, *
for his Name only is exalted,
his splendor is over earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up strength for his people
and praise for all his loyal servants, *
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The gift of this day

We can easily fall into the trap of forgetting the most basic gifts that we have been given.  The gift of this moment, the gift of this day, the gift of our particular life.  As Jane Kenyon writes in her poem, 'it could be otherwise,"  indeed!

Prayers for gratitude on this day,

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did 
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and 
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know, 
it will be otherwise.

Source: Collected Poems

hat tip to "Inward/Outward" blog

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Romero's prayer

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view …
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”

Archbishop Oscar A. Romero

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good works

Some desert wisdom...

A brother asked one of the elders: what good thing shall, I do and have life thereby? The old man replied: God alone knows what is good. However, I have heard it said that someone inquired of Father Abbot Nisteros the great, the friend of Abbot Anthony, asking: What good work shall I do? And that he replied: Not all works are alike. For Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him. Elias loved solitary prayer, and God was with him. And David was humble, and God was with him. 

Therefore, whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe.

Read the Psalms!

From the Daily Office this morning, Psalm 1.  The book of Begins with "Happy are they,"...I would say that "Happy are they who read the Psalms."  And the long monastic tradition seems to have agreed with this sentiment.  Monks and nuns prayed through the psalms in corporate worship very very quickly - within a few days.  If you visit a monastery or convent today even for a few days, you will get a fair dose of the Psalms.  A bishop I know said over and over that "the Psalms were Jesus's prayer book."  And they were on his lips often.

So, Read the Psalms!

Start with Psalm 1, which we read today in Morning Prayer.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

  • Psalm 1
  • Beatus vir qui non abiit

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
Their delight is in the law of the LORD, *
and they meditate on his law day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
everything they do shall prosper.
It is not so with the wicked; *
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, *
but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Shrine Mont soon!!

I'm looking forward to going up to Shrine Mont for our parish retreat in just a few weeks.  Shrine Mont is the conference center of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and a wonderful place.

Can't wait!!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

The downside of Luke 10

I think the downside of Jesus "breaking the Law" by healing on the Sabbath in Luke 13:10-17 is that it gives some justification for our modern / post-modern total disregard for sabbathkeeping.  The upside of this passage is that Jesus is not going to be hemmed in by silly requirements, he's not going to refuse healing for one who suffered for 18 years just to placate some religious professionals who were too caught up in the minutia of religious requirements.

However, don't think that Jesus didn't believe in Sabbath!  He certainly did, and certainly believed that rest and turning toward God was essential for living the abundant life.  Going to pray, taking time away, getting out to the desert were all essential and core experiences for Jesus.  These were not mere "breaks" from lots of teaching and healing and proclaiming, nope.  These were the core, the heart, the guts, the skeleton of his very life and ministry.  Are they are the core of ours?  Were they are the core of the religious nitwits of his time?  Probably not.

So, yes!  Get busy healing, and if you need to heal and do ministry in violation of some silly nitwits, do it.  However, at the core of our life should not be earthly treasures (remember the readings just recently), but rather, our core should be in turning to God, and in prayer, rest, Sabbath, and penitance.  From there, and there alone can our ministry emerge full and abundant.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Luke 13:10-17

10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Santos Woodcarving Popsicles...

Visited Chimayo, New Mexico today, and visited the wonderful shop that was the inspiration for this blog. Along the way, took some photos of Chimayo and a brief video.  I will be posting them soon.  We even ate some popsicles from the shop, and bought a few things.  Here's the original description of "Santos Woodcarving Popsicles" from 2007...

The inspiration for this blog came from the photo that was taken at Chimayo, New Mexico in front of a shop. What I really love about this sign is that these three items are not expected to be advertised together, they point to the holy, but also to the everyday, and make no excuses for the everyday and the holy merged and unified.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey


A hermit said to a brother, "Do not measure yourself against your brother, saying that you are more serious or more chaste or more understanding than he is. But be obedient to the grace of God, in the spirit of poverty, and in love unfeigned. The efforts of a man swollen with vanity are futile. It is written, 'Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall' (I Corinthians 10:12); 'let your speech be seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6) and so you will be dependent on Christ."

Let us sow love

In Santa Fe, it seems appropriate to offer up a prayer attributed to St. Francis - patron saint of this wonderful place!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Illumine this night

Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, and illumine this night with your celestial brightness; that by night as by day your people may glorify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Sunday, August 15, 2010

15 August 2010 Sermon

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon 15 August 2010
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Greenwood, Virginia
The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

Stark images emerge from this mornings readings.  In Isaiah, we hear what is supposed to be a “love song,” but it is unlike any love song that I have ever imagined.  The vineyard starts as a fertile hill, and the beloved clears it of stones and plants it with the best vines.  Next the beloved builds a watchtower and hews out a wine vat in it.  But the vineyard yields wild grapes, not the cultivated ones.  And so, the vineyard is left, unprotected, and it will be devoured, overgrown, the walls destroyed, and the vines trampled.  Even the clouds will not give water for growing. “[For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;] he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!”

The image of the vineyard that is laid waste continues in the Psalms reading.  Here, the psalmist cries out to God to have mercy upon the vineyard, to have mercy upon God’s people, so that the vineyard might grow again.  Crying out to God, the psalmist hopes there may still be a root of the divine plant.  Crying out to God, the psalmist prays there may be mercy amidst justice. “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.”

Images and metaphors of judgment still ring in my ears from reading today’s Gospel.  Jesus is full of righteous anger, full of judgment for his hearers who have been listening, but clearly do not understand.  The Kingdom of God will turn everything on its head.  This is not a mere pastoral visit.  This is a visit from the Lord!  Remember why God turned to sending his son, after all.  It was only after the covenants were forgotten, it was only after the prophets were killed, it was only after the vineyard had not born fruit that God sent Jesus into the world – to redeem it, yes, but also to judge it.

So, how do Jesus’ words ring in your ears?  I have to admit, I was hoping to avoid talking about the righteous anger and judgment of Jesus.  [Perhaps we could have done an instructed Eucharist, or I could have written a poem this week.]  But, there it is.  The Lord has come into the world.  The Lord has come into the vineyard, and things will never be the same.  Get ready people.  Get ready.

Jesus is calling out his hearers.  Jesus is calling out his hearers and letting them know that the Kingdom of God is going to rattle things up.  Even the cherished relationships of father and son, of mother and daughter, and of every family will be shaken.  The vineyard is not yielding up the good grapes.  So, some recultivating will be needed.

Where is the good news in all of this?  Well, first of all what is “good news” for the entire land may require some changes in our corner of the vineyard.  But, I think one place is to look is the letter to the Hebrews.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, . . . “
This great cloud of witnesses includes the saints who have gone on before us.  Included with these saints is the friend and colleague of St. Francis, St. Clare whose feast day was just last Wednesday.  St. Clare was well acquainted with vineyards, and when you walk from Assisi through the gates of that marvelous city, you can walk down the hill through rows and rows of vineyards.  St. Clare was a model of humility, and of holy poverty.  She fled from her parents’ house, to find freedom and peace in a life of radical prayer and poverty, causing [most likely] anything but “peace” in the household.  Her model of repairing her corner of the vineyard was to not only reflect upon “where she puts her treasure,” but also to walk the talk.

Where do we put our treasures?  Are they in barns that will mold and rust?  Or, have we stored them up for us in heaven?  I speak as one who has far more “stuff” than I need, and after reading a recent New York Times article about a couple who gave everything away (except 100 possessions!), they have found happiness like never before.  Would beginning to repair, restore, and recultivate our corner of the vineyard begin with our own stewardship and spending?  Could the radical life, prayer, and poverty of Clare and her spiritual brother, Francis, be a model for me – or for you? 

The judgment embedded in today’s readings should be a cause for concern, they should be a cause for waking up, for embarking on the work of transformation.  For Clare, the encounter with the living Christ meant leaving behind the life she had known.  For us too, the encounter with the living Christ means turning to a new life, ever turning to a new way of living.

Judgment in the text is not the sole part of the story for the one who judges us is the one who created us. The one who judges us is the one who loves us.  The one who judges us knows us better, even, than we know ourselves.  Judgment and grace are intertwined.  Judgment and loving-kindness (chesed) are intermingled.  Judgment and love embrace us.

And, so, we are loved, and we are also asked to step up to the plate.

I think we can glean at least 4 lessons from our readings today that will help us step up to the plate. 

From Isaiah
1)  We are to tend the vineyard that we have been given.  This means the earth, and it means the creatures of the earth, and it means God’s people.  We are to care for, support, and build up the vines, teach the youth, help the needy, care for the sick, and show up for our neighbors.
From Psalms
2)  We are to pray real prayers.  We are to really ask God for what we need.  God does not want whitewashed spirituality.  God does not want the projected image that we push out into the world.  God made us.  God knows us.  Ask God for what you really need.  Be frustrated, angry, sad, melancholy, joyful, depressed, ecstatic…Be yourself! Be thankful for all you have.
From Luke
3) Things are going to get topsy turvy when you begin to live authentically.  When you embrace a new way of life, you may not get the kudos you crave – conflicts may arise even in the relationships very very close to you.   Get ready.
From Hebrews
4)  Pray, knowing that there is a great cloud of witnesses accompanying you on the journey.  Clare, and so many others, have gone before.  And, once you pray, pray for discernment for how to follow the road – how to run the race that is set before you. 

I, Clare, a handmaid of Christ, a little plant of our most holy father Francis, a sister and mother of you and the other poor sisters, although unworthy, beg our Lord Jesus Christ through his mercy and the intercession of his most holy Mother Mary and of blessed Michael the Archangel and of all the holy angels of God, of our blessed father Francis, and of all men and women saints, that the heavenly Father give you and confirm for you this most holy blessing in heaven and on earth: on earth, by multiplying you in grace and his virtues among his servants and handmaids in his Church Militant; in heaven, by exalting you and glorifying you among his holy men and women in his Church Triumphant.
I bless you during my life and after my death, as I am able, out of all the blessings, with which the Father of mercies has blessed and will bless his sons and daughters in heaven and on earth and a spiritual father and mother have blessed and will bless their spiritual sons and daughters. Amen.
Always be lovers of your souls and those of all your sisters. And may you always be eager to observe what you have promised the Lord.
May the Lord always be with you and may you always be with him. Amen.
From the final blessing of Clare of Assisi, quoted in The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, translated and edited by Regis J. Armstrong (New York: New City Press, 2006).

“Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness” - Tolstoy

What I am living for

If you want to identify me ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the things I want to live for. Between those two answers you can determine the identity of any person.”

~Thomas Merton

Saturday, August 14, 2010

15 August 2010 - sermon image preview

Well, the sermon isn't quite put to bed, but some fine thinking this week about these images of judgment from tomorrow's readings, these stark images of a destroyed vineyard, and these stark images of what the Kingdom of God will look like.  But, I hope I have found that the Good News is embedded even within these images - I hope I've found it - embedded in the "cloud of witnesses" from Hebrews, and even the sense that with the coming of Christ, all things will be turned around, turned inside out, and Lord knows we need some help turning things around!

So, here is the image preview of tomorrow's sermon (courtesy of wordle.net) - very nearly completed ...


~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

John 5 and Monty Python

Today's reading from John 5 always reminds me of a bit from Monty Python's Life of Brian...

...and, there is a lot of truth there.

Are we ready to take up our mat and walk, or are we content to just stay at the healing pool?

Jesus seemed to have strong opinions about it, "Do you want to be made well?"  "Take up your mat and walk!"

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

John 5: 1- 18 (NRSV)
1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids-blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" 7 The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Stand up, take your mat and walk." 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, "It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." 11 But he answered them, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Take up your mat and walk.' " 12 They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take it up and walk'?" 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you." 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Be obedient to the grace of God

A hermit said to a brother, "Do not measure yourself against your brother, saying that you are more serious or more chaste or more understanding than he is. But be obedient to the grace of God, in the spirit of poverty, and in love unfeigned. The efforts of a man swollen with vanity are futile. It is written, 'Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall' (I Corinthians 10:12); 'let your speech be seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6) and so you will be dependent on Christ."

Friday, August 13, 2010

An (all too) easy faith of American Teens

Wow, this article struck me right where I live, and I feel resonances of it in the work I've done in both churches and in schools...this is a MUST READ, even if you don't agree with all of it...just how dumbed down is the theology and description of the Christian life that we offer our adolescents (and our adults and other children?).




Take a gander...

Here's a bit of it:

Faith, nice and easy
The almost-Christian formation of teens
In 1984, Marvel Comics created a new nemesis for Spider-Man. The character would be a symbiote, inspired by what parasitologists call the weaker of two organisms inhabiting the same space. The weaker organism can draw life from the stronger, and in the most dramatic cases it siphons off its host's nutrients before the host realizes what's happening. The symbiote survives, but the host is seriously weakened.

Once Marvel Comics had a new symbiotic character, that character needed a host. It struck a bargain with another character named Eddie Brock: the symbiote would give Brock its power in return for Brock's life energy. But of course symbiotes from outer space cannot be trusted. Once the symbiote had inhabited Brock, it absorbed his life energy and morphed into the evil Venom.

Has something similar happened in American Christianity? Has a symbiote taken up residence without our knowledge? Yes, say Christian Smith and Melinda Denton, who are principal investigators for the National Study of Youth and Religion (a study of congregations in seven denominations). They're seeing an alternative faith in American teenagers, one that "feeds on and gradually co-opts if not devours" established religious traditions. This faith, called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, "generally does not and cannot stand on its own," so its adherents are affiliated with traditional faith communities but unaware that they are practicing a very different faith than historic orthodox Christianity. If teenagers wrote out the creed of this religious outlook, it would look something like this:

• A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.

• God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

• The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself.

• God is not involved in my life except when I need God to solve a problem.

• Good people go to heaven when they die.

The rest is HERE

We will see God

The Wind Will Show Its Kindness
Meister Eckhart

A man 
born blind can easily
deny the magnificence of a vast landscape.

He can easily deny all the wonders that he cannot touch,
smell, taste, or hear.

But one day the wind will show you its kindness
and remove the tiny patches that
covered our eyes,

and we will see God more clearly
than we have ever seen

Source: Love Poems From God, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, posted at "Inward/Outward"

Monday, August 09, 2010

Uh oh!

Take a gander at the reading from Luke that we'll be reading in the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday...."I came to bring fire"..."Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division"..."father against son and son against father"...."mother against daughter and daughter against mother"..."you hypocrites!"

I read this passage, and I wonder how it might be heard by churchgoers in their Sunday best clothes, sitting in comfortable pews, coming to church for a bit of peace and respite at the start of a busy week.  I wonder  who it was that Jesus was speaking to...and whether, just maybe, this passage is specifically for those who have gotten a bit too comfortable.

Now, we all know that no matter how comfortable we might be, we can always claim to be in some pain, we can always claim that we have been wounded, and are carrying burdens that make even the most visible signs of comfort (wealth, health, possessions, privilege) into pain and suffering.  But, let's get real, for many people in the United States, we earn in the top 5% or 10% of the world's population, and for many in our pews the number may be closer to the top 2% or less.  Of course, comfort is not all about wealth, health, possessions, and privilege - but it sure can help.

So, how will we be hearing these words today - that Jesus is not here to be codependent to our lame claims of victimhood.  Jesus here sounds like the demanding coach, the boss who is supportive, but also demands much, the parent who is able to both express affection and practice tough love.  Jesus paints a picture of turmoil, that the Kingdom of God will turn everything on its head - even our cherished relationships.  The Kingdom of God will shake us to the core, and will clearly "afflict" those of us who are all too "comfortable."

Uh oh!

I'd like to say that I was ready for this kind of Kingdom.  I'd like to say that I wasn't so comfortable, and was prepared for this inbreaking of the Spirit - which will certainly come with more than a few sufferings.  I'd like to say that I wasn't one of these privileged ones, that I was fully radicalized, like the Sons of Liberty in Boston in the 1770s, or the philosophes in France before the Revolution, or like the Freedom Riders in the Civil Rights Movement.

Jesus' words are sticking to me this week.  My homiletics professor said it is good to preach to the point where the "shoe pinches the foot"...well, unless I wimp out...I think I better take on Luke this week.  Let's see where it takes me.

Uh oh!

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

Luke 12:49-56

Jesus said, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:

father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

Morning has broken

Good morning!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

8 August 2010 Sermon - Pentecost 11

image courtesy of wordle.net

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon – 8 August 2010
Proper 11
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Greenwood, VA
Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

The Letter to the Hebrews is neither a letter, no is it written to Hebrews.  It is most likely a sermon or a treatise and its name comes from its approach to Christianity, namely it is defined in Judaic terms.  We don’t know who wrote Hebrews either. 

Other than a few quotations that are cherished chestnuts for Christians, many people have never read Hebrews in its entirety.  Have you? Hmmm.

The book presents a reasoned argument for the absolutely supremacy and sufficiency of Christ who is the revelation of God’s grace.    The author’s elaborate analysis is based on the Old Testament – arguing that Christ is superior to the prophets, angels, and Moses.  Finally, Christ is the superior High Priest who has offered a full and true sacrifice, obliterating any petty sacrifices of the past.  And, this is not a distant and mysterious event, for Christ has become one among us, and by his presence, his Incarnation, God is with us – Emmanuel.

The reading for this Sunday from Hebrews reads, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  This is one of those cherished chestnuts of the Christian scriptures.  But, what does it mean?  A key is to look at the words translated “assurance” and “conviction.”

First, what is translated “assurance” could also be more tangibly translated “substance,”…so, this thing called Faith is the very substance of things hoped for.  Faith is the tangible, feel-able, solid aspect of things hoped for.  Second, conviction can be translated as proof … The proof of things not seen. 

Things “merely” hoped for become things of structure, they become tangible.  Things unseen become not only seen but they become proof.

Faith is the substance of hope, Faith is the proof of the unseen. . .