Faith, Hope and Love

Holy Comforter begins a new programmatic year this month. The following is a reflection on why church and church school are so important for all of us.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;... (I Corinthians 13:13)

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth because it was in big trouble. Some members, who could speak in tongues, thought they were better than everyone else. Conflict arose and the church was about to fall apart. So, Paul writes them a letter where he says no gift is any better than any other, all are necessary to build up the Body of Christ. And then he proclaimed that all those gifts and everything else would fade away. Only faith, hope, and love abide. So, strive for these higher gifts.

What do we mean by faith, hope, and love? New Testament professor, William Countryman, in his book the Good News of Jesus explains them very well. "Faith is trust that the message of God's forgiving love is true." Faith is trust in the "good news" that God loves you unconditionally. Faith means we trust that God is in our midst loving us, caring for us, and forgiving us, and that empowers us to come together in right relationship with God and one another.

Most people, however, do not trust that. Most of us experience a world of conditional love that moves us to think that the world is hostile and threatening. We grow suspicious of one another and try to gain advantage over one another, just like the Corinthians. We also build up barriers of protection and security against all those "hostile" forces out there. That is the origin of greed, violence, revenge, scapegoating, racism, sexism, consumerism, and all those isms that keep us enslaved and divided. But, instead of protecting us, they destroy us because they alienate us from one another.

"Hope is the expectation that God's forgiving and reconciling love for you and the world will continue." We believe that God is active in our lives, reconciling the world through Jesus. Every time we see God working in our midst, it engenders hope. Every time we see someone forgive someone who has hurt them, or reach out to someone in need, or receive the unexpected grace of God that heals us, hope is engendered. Most of us begin life by hoping that God will give us what we want. But that is not Christian hope. "Christian hope is that God will help us to grow in God's forgiving reconciling love."

"Faith and hope find their meaning in love-now and always." God's unconditional love and forgiveness given to us empowers us to love God and to love each other. "Love of God consists not in a certain set of feelings nor in respectability or knowledge. This love consists, fundamentally, in sharing your life with God." Your life is a partnership with God in love. That is our common vocation.

We live out that vocation together in the church. It is that life together that strengthens faith, hope, and love in our lives. John Westerhoff points out that God grants us those three gifts in the Eucharist. They are also the goal and purpose of our community activities, our outreach, our education offerings, and especially our church school.

Faith, hope, and love are not qualities engendered by the world. The world promotes those things that keep us divided. Faith, hope, and love, on the other hand, can lead us out from under the power of those alienating forces and into fullness of life together.

So, which do you want for yourself? Which do you want for your children?
A new year is beginning. Now is a good time to decide.