Sermons from St Faith's     


The Gift of Faith
Fr Neil Kelley's last sermon at St Faith's, June 17th, 2012 

If you had to try and describe the word faith to an alien from outer space what would you say? And if you had to sum up “faith” in two minutes what words would you use?

Without the Christian Faith none of us would be here. Some of us would not have met. This Church would not exist and there would be no need for priests. There’s a thought!

In today’s second reading, Paul speaks about faith and about how, as Christians, we live by faith rather than sight. If we were being sensitive to those who are blind we could paraphrase his words to mean we believe in what cannot be proved rather than what can be proved.

Faith is crucial. It is central to our common life, central to the life we share together. However it is something we often find difficult to explain or even embarrassing to speak about. Call a meeting after church to discuss a new hymn book or a coffee making machine and people will stay behind. Call a meeting to discuss mission and outreach and people find they aren’t free!

One of the greatest difficulties of trying to be a person of faith is that the closer we try to come to God the harder the devil seems to work! We so often feel powerless when faced with so much suffering around us in the world, or closer to home; perhaps suffering (physical, spiritual or emotional) in our own lives. That suffering can indeed lead some people away from God. But it can also draw people closer to Him. Whether we are looking at the lives of the saints or our own lives, we can’t dodge the issue of pain and suffering. We can’t come to God and ignore the Cross. As Herbert McCabe puts (it in his book God, Christ and Us) “Faith is not a pair of rose-coloured spectacles for looking at the cross”. The saints encourage us because they are witnesses to the fact that faith can overcome doubt and life can overcome death.

I guess that if we had a competition to see who had made the biggest mistakes in their life I might well win it! Part of coming to church each week must be to think again about our lives. We must think about the things which please God in our lives and the things that ultimately, we know, displease him. You and I know that deep-down truth. Maybe there are things in our lives which have to change?

Re-read the Ten Commandments. In the days of the BCP we heard them read at every Eucharist (or at least they should have been!). Not fashionable these days I know. How many of you can recite the 10 commandments without having to look them up?!

A lively faith will lead to spiritual growth. But not without first examining our conscience and seeking the healing love of God. You see the difficulty is not so much whether God can forgive us or not – He can forgive any sin repented of in penitence and faith – the difficulty is, can we love and forgive ourselves? Do we believe in forgiveness? Do we live as people who have been forgiven? Are we proud to be (to quote the hymn) ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven?

There has to be faith for forgiveness to work!

The saints weren’t people who had an academic relationship with God, they had a living relationship with Him. There is a difference between knowing about Jesus, and knowing Jesus. We can come very close to the story; we can know it off by heart; we can have all the pictures in our minds; we can even say our prayers. But unless we know Him, then we are not connecting to Him.

God connects with us, and will do very shortly, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. And as we hold out our hands we receive His very life-force.

The Body of Christ, given to us in this Eucharist, is a body which gives life, yes, but a body which was first broken. Broken for broken people in a broken world, so that we might have life, and have it in all its fullness.

That is what we receive in faith. That’s why we say Amen. The Body of Christ. Yes please. Yes I want to believe. The Body of Christ. Give me the faith to believe it.

We break this bread to share in the suffering and resurrection as members of the Body of Christ. And in faith we receive Him. In faith we are sent out. In faith we gratefully receive the gift of forgiveness. We remember that “Faith is not a pair of rose coloured spectacles with which to look at the Cross”.

Let the saints, and especially our patron, S. Faith – let them inspire and encourage us on our earthly pilgrimage with God as we seek to walk by faith.

Some 1700 years ago a young girl accepted death rather than compromise her faith in her Lord. Her faith was so strong; faithfulness to the teachings of her Lord came first. It is unlikely we will ever be called to make the same sacrifice. Where does God come on our list of priorities? That young girl, whom we now know as Saint Faith was indeed worthy of that name, Faith. Faith was not just her name – it was her life. Could that be said of us? What impression will our Christian lives make on our generation? What, if anything at all, are we handing on to future generations by our witness? Saint Faith and indeed all the saints remind us of our ultimate destiny where one day, pray God, we will rejoice “with angels, and archangels and the whole company of heaven” in the ceaseless praise and worship of almighty God. If the growth of this church depended on your willingness to share your faith with others, what growth would there be? Or is it someone else’s job?

Let us pray at this eucharist that our gift of faith may be strengthened. May we indeed walk by faith rather by sight. And may our faith be a witness to the world around us so tha

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