The virtue for this month at Saint John’s School is faith. I think all priests are familiar with the topic of faith but recently I’ve been pondering what faith is like when seen as a virtue. In our Anglican tradition, virtues help shape our moral life and acts. The Religion Department is teaching our students that virtues are ways of behaving even when no one is watching. At Saint John’s, we pass along the virtues that Christ taught us even if sometimes those virtues go against the tide of culture.
At our Wednesday chapel service last week, we celebrated the Three Kings and their worship of the Christ child. But, because of our faith-virtue-theme, I changed the first lesson from our ordinary lectionary reading to Hebrews, chapter 11. In this extraordinary chapter, the author wrote the well-known phrase, “Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.” The author used Abraham as an example of being certain of the things we cannot see. Faith made Abraham obey God who called him out of his own comfortable lifestyle to leave his country. It was faith that led Abraham to give up his palatial house and live in tents in the wilderness. Confident of the hope from God, by faith Abraham lived in the wilderness and waited for the city of God.
For Abraham, faith was a virtue – something to be lived out, even against the tide of culture. I suspect that when Abraham was packing up and ready to leave his wealth and comfort behind, his friends and relatives must have thought he was crazy, like Noah’s neighbors probably thought when they saw him building an ark. This is just not what someone of his age and societal statue would do. In a very real sense, Abraham walked away from his retirement plan, his health care benefits, golf cart and private golf course, his dream house and all the other things he built up from his career. He did this by faith.
So did the Three Kings. They had faith of things they were certain of but could not see. The Three Kings/Wise Men/Magi, left their comfortable homes and literally lived in tents as they sought the Christ child. And, if you’ll let me walk out on a theological limb for a moment, the Word; that was with God, and was God, by whom all things were made; the Word left the comforts of the living Trinity and became flesh, born in a humble dwelling to humble people. Now that’s faith!
I was visiting with a parishioner who had been pretty darn sick but was on the mend. Confident in hope of God for healing and restoration, the parishioner was expecting to attend church on Sunday. It was visible faith; she certainly lived faith as a virtue and she belonged in our Chapel Service last Wednesday as an example to the kids just like Abraham, Noah, the Three Kings, and the Living Word.
My visit to her reminded me that, although I am pleased that she is healing well, we are living in tents of flesh – as described by Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians. But as our earthly tent diminishes, we can have confidence and faith in the resurrection and in our true home, the one with God that is not made by human hands, but rather is prepared for us through God’s grace - the home that we are sure of but cannot see.