As I’m writing, it’s the first full day of Fall and Fall changes are certainly in the air. The temperature is down. The ever-present Summer humidity has evaporated. Gnats are being replaced by love bugs. And maybe, just maybe and hopefully, the huge Covid surge we’ve endured is going away. I am so ready. It’s time to move forward. What does that look like? Coming out of our holes, cautiously ending our isolation and hibernation, and, with caution, reengaging. It means, once again, practicing faithfulness. I’ve been learning about faithfulness, more than ever, in these last months. So much depends on it. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that the original language of scripture uses the same word for faithfulness as it does for faith and that means that having faith isn’t a one time transaction we make with God. Faith is an ongoing event. Faith is faithfulness.
I’ve learned that everything, absolutely everything, is based on God’s faithfulness. The gospel, the astounding news that sins are forgiven, death is dead, and that we can truly come home is based on God’s faithfulness to every promise he ever made. I’ve learned that Jesus, his cross, his resurrection, are the revealing of God’s faithfulness to those promises. We all, because of Jesus, become the family of Abraham that blesses the world. Promise kept.
I’ve learned that the cross does what it does, it works if you will, because of the faithfulness of Jesus. Here’s how the story goes. Adam, humanity, is made to live in connection with God. Adam abandons faithfulness and follows the serpent’s voice. He’s faithless. He loses his position. All the tragedies of the sin and death we know are loosed in the world. But Jesus, the new Adam, comes. The serpent tempts him too. But Jesus is faithful. The serpent tries to destroy him. But Jesus is faithful. When he has been abandoned by everyone, even by his Father, it seems, Jesus remains faithful, to his Father, to his call, to his purpose, all the way to being crushed and killed. That faithfulness that reclaims everything. What was given away is regained. God, finally, has a faithful partner, a new Adam. The serpent loses his power. The old sins are forgiven. Death loses its grip. The faithfulness of Jesus wins everything back.
And I’ve learned that faithfulness in everything is required of us. It’s our faithfulness to death, too, that makes us like Christ. Faithfulness in all things, even in and to our church. Today it’s considered normal to treat a church like we treat restaurants. We go to whichever one we fancy, this one for a while and then that one or that one. We can’t do that. We have to be faithful and planted in one. That’s how we grow. Eugene Peterson called it “A long obedience in the same direction.” St. Benedict called it “stability” and required all who joined his monasteries to vow it. Before Benedict monks would frequently jump from monastery to monastery, staying a year or two here or there, looking for something elusive like a more spiritual leader or a place where they could “have their needs met.” Benedict discovered they were most likely running from their own issues and knew the only way to face those issues was to stay. So the “vow of stability” became one of Benedict’s rules. Monks who joined vowed to stay in one monastery for the rest of their lives. To this day that’s what Benedictine monks do. And it’s what we need to do. We need to practice faithfulness. It forces us to grow. Be faithful. In attending. In listening to the Word and living it. In giving and supporting financially. In serving. In loving each other, even people like me. In standing with each other and for each other. Faithfulness to our church develops and reveals our character. Be faithful. Always. Just like your Father.