Earlier today, I received an email from a fellow priest in the Diocese of West Tennessee requesting a definition for the word, “Faith.” I began to respond and suddenly the spirit of whimsey seized me (as it does) and this is what came off the keys.
Dear Margaret, bearing in mind that I hallucinate, these are my thoughts on a definition of Faith.
Faith, the sister of Love and Hope, travels with their first cousin, Grace and also in the company is that scamp, Doubt. Be not deceived, sister, Doubt is no friend or confederate of the evil one. He is, as the Romans put it the devil’s advocate, raising questions, requiring new insight and maturity as the womenfolk consider their next step on the way to God. He is the life of the party every time the Virtues gather, wherever they gather for respite. So, let us be clear, for once please, Doubt is not the opposite of Faith (they are actually rather fond of each other).
No, the opposite of doubt is Certainty! The pompous twit would rearrange a two car funeral procession. There no reasoning with him at all, because if it is worth having, he has it already. He can barely stand the sight of Doubt; never been close. It is funny to watch Pompous Uncle Certain, plug his ears with his thumbs, singing the Doxology at the top of his lungs as he dashes for his happy place. If you didn’t know better, you might think that in a deep place, Old Certain may be afraid that the Good News is not true after all.
Meanwhile, Faith, with her high tolerance for ambiguity, moves on her way, often joined by her sisters. Grace shows up regularly with refreshments for the journey. It’s more fun to move into the region of hoped for and not seen, when you don’t know the surprises the Holy One has planned for those that love him. Having staked the whole wad of all that matters on the worthiness of God, Faith moves into the future toward God, remarkably serene. Oh, she has her moments. Hope is prone to wander off from time to time looking for prospects which is anxiety producing for Faith. Fortunately, love, ever loyal, is with her always. Let us mention, Faith’s best buddy, Gratitude. Everyone was ever so grateful to Grace, because, without her, The Virtue Sisters would never have gotten a hotel room that time in Billings, Montana. I digress.
When you preach, Sunday remind those good people, that Faith grows stronger with exercise. I’m sure you can actually define any of the sisters, but faith is the most sturdy when her sisters support her. And don’t forget Grace, where would any of us be if she didn’t introduce to the most interesting people in the most unusual places. You’d almost think it was all planned. Some think so, others, you know just live by Faith.
In hope, faith and love, entertained by doubt, in spite of the facts. John+