Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Let Us See the Statue Inside the Marble

Hebrews 11:1-16

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good report.  Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.  By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.  By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.   By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:  For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.  Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.  These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Michelangelo was perhaps the greatest sculptor the world has ever known.  His “David” and “Pieta” continue to inspire millions even today.  He is reputed to have said that “every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

In today’s Epistle, we hear that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  We are called, as Christians, to see not merely with our outward eyes, but to see with the eyes of faith.  Where others may see only a rough block of stone, we are called to see a beautiful statue waiting to be set free. 

We live in a world filled with evil – war, poverty, violence, discrimination.  Pick up a newspaper any day, and you will read many terrible things.  But by faith, we are called to see a world created by God – a world in which God’s peace and justice reign.  We are called to see in each human being not only the sinner, but a creature of God, with the potential to lead a holy life and to do great things.

It’s hard to see with that faith – and I would suggest that even if we can’t see the statue inside the block of stone, that we trust that God can see what we cannot.  In time, we can trust that God will open our eyes so that we, too, can see the magnificent work of art.

But it is not enough to see with faith, or trust that God can – we are called to act on our faith, and take up hammer and chisel to start revealing the statue trapped in the marble – even if we cannot yet see it ourselves.

Abraham was called to journey to the Promised Land from the city he lived in, and did so without having seen it.  Even when he arrived, he lived in tents and did not see the promise fully revealed.

God calls us to see the statue trapped in the big, ugly rock – but God also calls us to be a co-creator by putting our faith into action.  We are called to work for a more just world – working to end injustice, working for the recognition of the dignity of every human being, working to bring healing to the sick, comfort to prisoners, justice to the oppressed.

But is it not enough to see with the eyes of faith, and to take up chisel and hammer to act on our faith – we are also called to persevere in our faith, even when we cannot see the results.

As it says in our Epistle, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  So we, too, are called to persevere in our service to God and humankind, even though the full reign of God’s peace and justice is not likely to come to fruition in our lifetime.  Just as we are called to set out in our journey of faith when we cannot see the statue in the marble, so we are called to continue our faith in God even if we cannot see the statue emerge as a result of our labors.  We trust that God will take our efforts, and those of others called by God, some perhaps not even born, and use them to bring forth a statue even more magnificent than anything created by Michelangelo.

It is easy to become weary – to find it difficult to keep our faith and hope alive as we work to spread the Gospel.  But we are called to persevere.  Even when we find it hardest to trust, God is working to release the statue from the stone.

So let us see with the eyes of faith.  Let us take up chisel and hammer, and act on that faith.  And let us persevere in serving God, confident that one day we will reach that heavenly city prepared for all of God’s people, and behold the beautiful works God has brought forth from the rock.  Amen.