Scripture: Hebrews 11:1-6
One of the great lessons of the Covid-19 Pandemic has been discovering what really matters in life. During this pandemic, we have come to realize what we thought really mattered in life, does not matter as much as we thought.
Attending sporting events; Rams and Chargers football games, Lakers and Clippers basketball games, Dodgers and Angels baseball games, Galaxy soccer games, and the Kings hockey games really don’t matter as much as we thought. Attending concerts, entertainment venues, restaurants, shopping, being in a crowd and being part of the crowd really don’t matter as much as we thought.
With the wearing of face coverings, social distancing and the lack of physical contact. With anxiety, loneliness, and depression from isolation and quarantining. With fear, emptiness and trauma from death all around us, the pandemic has taught us volumes about what really matters in life.
We have had to learn just how to survive to see another day. In this pandemic, or plague, or purging or whatever you want to call it, tomorrow has not been promised to any of us. With more than 600,000 deaths from this virus alone, many who started out with us in March, 2019 are not here with us today. We have had to learn just how to survive to see another day.
In an article in Time Magazine entitled, Your Post-Pandemic Bucket List, Susanna Schrobsdorff shares some interesting insights of the hope that we have for post-pandemic life. Chief among the hope she says is the chance to grieve in person. Covid has robbed many a family the opportunity to grieve in person the loss of their loved ones during this season. The recommendations of health departments, federal, state and local governments limiting the capacity for physical gatherings for funerals has denied families the opportunity to let tears flow openly and wildly she says in communion [and community with those who care about their grieve and sorrow].
According to the CDC projections there are still tens of thousands of us who will not make it to see the end of the pandemic. With new strands and variants of the Covid-19 virus surfacing, more sorrow, and more loss, and more trauma are between here and there. It is something she says that our bodies know with shoulders tensing for long awaited “normal” to return.
So what do we do and how do we handle the situation we are facing? She suggest that we project our happiness onto an imagined future. In a secular sense the projection of happiness onto an imagined future is what we understand in the sacred sense as faith. The Hebrew writer says it is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (V.1).
The fundamental lesson that the pandemic has taught us is that faith matters. Describe it however you want to describe it, but faith matters. Faith is how we have survived to see another day. In the midst of all that we have seen; face masks, social distancing, lines outside of grocery stores, limited purchases on toilet paper and paper towels, we didn’t know when and we didn’t know how, but we did know that things would get better not because of empirical evidence but because of divine assurance.
In her article Susanna calls it projecting happiness onto an imagined future, but in his letter the writer of Hebrews calls it faith. In Chapter 11 he tells his first century Jewish audience why faith matters.
Faith matters he says in Verse 2 because by faith the elders obtained a good report (V.2). By faith the ancestors and saints of the old covenant obtained divine approval. According to Dr. John MacArthur, God bore witness on their behalf that they lived by faith. God bore witness that they had confidence and a solid conviction of divine assurance of a future reality.
That’s what we discovered in this pandemic. We survived to see another day by the divine assurance that things were going to get better. We survived to see another day by confidence that trouble don’t last always. We survived to see another day by a solid conviction and a feeling that everything was gonna be alright.
People who had not been to church in a month of Sundays, started listening to church on their phones. People who had written the church off as irrelevant, started watching church on their televisions. People who considered themselves spiritual but not religious, started viewing church on their tablets, their laptops, and their computers. During this pandemic, we have discovered that faith really matters because by faith we have divine approval.
Then the writer of Hebrews tells these believers faith matters because by faith they understand with their spirits what they could not understand with their minds. By faith he says in Verse 3 the worlds were framed by the word of God so that the things which are seen were made from things which were not seen (V.3). The physical universe was framed by the word of God. God spoke and out of nothing, God created something. God spoke and out of the invisible God created the visible.
That’s why faith matters because it helps us understand that which we could not understand. It helps us make sense out of non-sense. It provides us with symbolic meaning to a reality that we don’t understand.
I don’t understand why more than 600,000 people have died from this pandemic and hundreds of thousands more during this pandemic. It is inconceivable to me that so many people have lost their lives during this season. It is something that transcends my ability to comprehend and wrap my mind around.
It is only by faith that I understand that they have transitioned to a place better than this place. St. Anselm and Augustine both affirm this truth in their credos; “I believe that I might understand”. It is by faith that what I do not understand, I will understand better by and by.
And then the writer tells these Hebrew believers faith matters because by faith they please God (VV.4-6). Abel, Enoch, the ancestors and saints of the old covenant were accepted and approved by God because they believed in God. Without belief in God, the writer tells them that it is impossible to please God. If they come to God, they must believe that there is a God, and that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him VV.4-6).
Sisters and brothers, faith matters because it matters to God. That’s the real lesson learned in the pandemic, what matters to God is really what matters. Faith matters because faith matters to God. It is impossible to please God without faith.
By faith we will obtain a good report. By faith we will obtain divine acceptance. By faith we will obtain divine approval. By faith we will understand with our spirits that which we could not understand with our minds. By faith we will understand it better by and by.
Here’s how Charles Tindley says it:
We are often tossed and driven on the restless sea of time
Somber skies and howling tempest oft succeed a bright sunshine
In that land of perfect day, when the mists have rolled away
We will understand it better by and by
By and by when the morning come,
[When] all the saints of God are gathered home
We’ll tell the story of how we overcome
For we’ll understand it better by and by.
Sisters and brothers, faith matters!
The Rev. Dr. Kelvin Calloway is the senior pastor of Bethel AME Church in Los Angeles.