Faith: The Power To Risk
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
Second Sunday in Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10

During the riots following Martin Luther King’s murder an angry, looting throng came upon a lone white man in their ghetto. The crowd beat him severely. Finally a voice said loudly, “that’s enough; we’re not going to kill him. Someone call an ambulance.”

“No ambulance’s coming in here tonight,” someone yelled back.

“Then get out of the way,” said a man moving through the crowd toward the bloody figure. He dragged the victim to his car. “Get in and hold him up while I drive,” he yelled to a young woman.

After several blocks the two deposited the injured man at a nearby hospital with neither introduction nor explanation. The man lived but never discovered who had saved his life. Somebody had braved a mob of his peers to save a stranger he doubtlessly on some level hated and whose death would have seemed puny revenge for the misery and injustice he and his people endured.

Some folks understand faith to be primarily about what God will do for them. They find their virtue in declaring His power up to any challenge. They pray fervently then wait for God to take care of business.

Other folks understand faith to be about what God can accomplish through them. Such people approach problems that seem prudent to address with confidence that God will aid their endeavors. So far, so good – but only so far.

Faith offers more than a determination to meet life’s reasonable goals: the prudently winnable battles. The point of faith is to equip us for necessary tasks no matter how impractical. Giving love that will never be returned, striving for justice that holds no promise, pursuing the common project that will never win public funding – that’s the stuff of faith. After all, did you ever see a wolf and lamb napping together? How about a lion contentedly gnawing a bale of hay?

Faith’s purpose isn’t to make us exemplary citizens, honorees of the chamber of commerce or president of the parish council. God places an astounding dream in our hearts. Faith opens our ears to its beckoning and strengthens our hearts to settle for nothing less.