Sunday, June 04, 2006

“Believing is Seeing”[1]

1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner portrays a farmer named Ray Kinsella who hears a voice in his cornfield one day. “If you build it, he will come,” it said. After wrestling with the insanity of it all, he decides that he’s supposed to plow up a portion of his cornfield and build a baseball diamond. So that’s what he does! As you can imagine, he become the laughingstock of the Iowa farm community where he lives. But one night he hears voices out on the field. When he goes to check it out, he finds men from the 1919 White Sox (“Black Sox”) team playing ball on his field! His wife and daughter also see them, but his extended family doesn’t. Ray’s story is a powerful example of how faith, although it may seem crazy, opens our eyes to see what may have been there all along, but we were either too distracted or simply unable to see

Seeing vs. Believing. For most of my life, I wouldn’t say that I have been a shining example of the truth that “faith is the victory that overcomes the world.” I’m much more a skeptic by nature—I question everything. I also tend to be a pessimist—a glass-half-empty kind of person. Oh I can explain theology and scripture with the best of them. I can take just about any passage from the Bible and give you a pretty good explanation of its meaning. And I can tell you all the historical and theological mistakes that lie behind the Da Vinci Code, for example.

But that doesn’t necessarily translate into being a person of faith. Especially when it comes to my personal life, I’ve tended to take the approach of “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

If I’ve learned anything from that experience, it’s this—it’s a hard way to live! Your life is defined by constantly striving rather than resting. You’re much more likely to try to control the outcome of just about everything than to let go and let God. Worry, fear, anxiety, stress—that’s what goes along with being skeptical. All you have to hang onto is how much you’ve achieved, or how much money you make, or how many things you have. And in all three of those categories, it’s never enough no matter how much you have.

Do we Believe what we Say? When it comes down to it, I guess we have to ask ourselves if we really believe the stuff that we confess! That God loves each one of us unconditionally, which means regardless of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. That Jesus the Christ really was and is the one who embodies God—whether we can explain it or not. That God raised Jesus from the dead, and in so doing broke the power of death that threatens to destroy any shred of meaning our lives might have. That God is powerfully at work in each of our lives—not only guiding us, but also bringing wholeness into our lives.

One of our confessions, the Short Declaration of Faith adopted by the PCUS in 1977, puts it this way: “God calls us to hope for more than we have yet seen. … In Christ God gives hope for a new heaven and earth, certainty of victory over death, assurance of mercy and [life] beyond death.”[2]

I think that’s one of the reasons why faith is so hard. Sometimes I think it’s a little like what it must feel to be flying blind. You have to believe in what you’ve been taught, in the documents you’re using to find your way, in the people who are helping you. You have to believe that they are leading you in the right direction; that you really are headed for a landing strip out there!

Faith is the Victory. Jesus said that faith can move mountains. I don’t really believe he was thinking literally when he made that statement. But I think he was talking about the victory of faith. Faith enables us to see things with different eyes, so that what seemed like an impossible obstacle no longer blocks our path.

Faith shows us that the lies that we either hear or tell ourselves are false and strips them of their power over us. Faith breaks the chains of fear that can bind us and paralyze us and sets us free to live. Faith is like a light shining in the darkness of despair that no one can extinguish: if we will only open our eyes, really open our eyes, we’ll see the light and the darkness won’t be quite so dark and overwhelming.

Conclusion. I probably would have been one of the other farmers who mocked Ray for plowing up good corn for a pipe dream. Or one of his family members who thought he was crazy for “seeing” dead baseball players come back to life. But it turned out that Ray’s “folly” was wiser than that so-called wisdom. Because Ray’s faith brought healing to himself, to a disillusioned writer, and to a man who just wanted another chance at bat.

That’s true about our faith also. When we make the choice not just to “believe” our faith intellectually, but to trust God with all that we are, it brings into our lives and the lives of those around us the healing power of God’s love, new life, hope, joy, and freedom.

[1] A Sermon preached 5/21/06 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX.

[2] From A Declaration of Faith, PCUS, 1977.

No comments: