Friday, October 24, 2008

The Gift of Faith

From First John 4:18, and from the example of our Lord Jesus' life, we know we do not need to be afraid. ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη ἔξω βάλλει τὸν φόβον ... True self-giving love drives out fear.

On Wednesday evening I showed a clip from the Luther movie. Martin's spiritual father, Johann von Staupitz, comes to the monastery cell of the newly ordained priest who is battling fears, real and imaginary. It seems that Martin has lost his faith and even his mind. But Johann enters with calm counsel and the cross of Jesus, assuring Martin that God's love is stronger than any of Martin's sins.

Faith is a gift that we receive from the Lord himself, but it comes indirectly through imperfect people who are courageous enough to stand with us in time of need.

Parents do this for their children. Parents sit by bedsides and put themselves in financial jeopardy out of love for their kids. We are blessed by the faith of soldiers who "more than self their country love" and risk everything for us. Missionaries and relief workers step unarmed into relationship with strangers suffering from poverty and disease and superstition. Teachers invest themselves in the lives of young people--some of whom need a warm heart as much as intellectual challenge. Befriender volunteers spend time with people whose lives in this world just isn't going to improve.

Who are those who gave you the gift of faith? Who were those in your childhood... who in your life today helps you walk through the "valley of the shadow" of fear and death? Praise God for them, and praise God for Jesus, who carried every sorrow and every sin so we can know we are never alone.

Sunday is Reformation Sunday*, when we remember the life of courageous Martin Luther and his companions. Sunday is also Confirmation Day, when we stand beside the young people of today. Pray for each one as they stand before us, that they might continue to receive, and share, the gift of faith.

*The actual "Reformation Day" is October 31, the day when Martin Luther tacked 95 arguments to the door of a church.

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