Downpayment on Life.

Homily 274 – 10th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 13, 2017

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

The gospel speaks of something called faith. And if we have but a small quantity of it, amazing things can be accomplished.

In the letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul tells us that faith is the “personal foundation of things hoped for, certainty about things that cannot be seen.”

Perhaps everyone understands that. I do not. And when I don’t understand, I do a couple of different things.

First, I go back and look at the passage in question in Greek. Not that I read or understand Greek. But I can see where the Greek words are used elsewhere – and the context gives me some sense of meaning that the translation may not.

In this instance, the key word in Greek is “hypostasis” ὑπόστασις. We refer to the persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – we are speaking of the hypostases of the Trinity.

The reality. The word-for-word translation of that Hebrews passage is “Belief is the reality of hoping of things, the proof not being seen” or “the proof being hidden.”

If we could prove the existence of God, then faith is unnecessary. The proof of God is hidden – but the reality is still with us.

You can also break down that word ὑπόστασις. ὑπό is a prefix that means “under”. We know that is someone has low blood sugar, under the normal level, they are “hypo”-glycemic. Στασις on the other hand means “stillness – without motion.”

Balance – equilibrium in the scientific understanding. The implication is “unchanging”. Something at stasis doesn’t change.

So, the combination gives us “under the unchanging”. “Holding a guarantee.”

So word study helps. What about other examples?

If we take the idea of holding a guarantee, possessing a guarantee, then we can perhaps develop a parallel.

A person with a title deed holds, and stands under, the protection of the promise or property.

We might be promised a land we had never before seen. The evidence of that land is in the form of a title deed. It is both the evidence of the existence of the unseen land, and the promise that the unseen land is ours to possess.

That is what Abraham did. He moved based on God’s promise – God’s title deed – to a land he had never seen, and in fact didn’t even know where it was.

So, faith is taking God at his word.

But there is a second part.

We have to act on it. Abraham had to physically move himself and his family, not knowing where the destination was – but knowing that it existed.

Another similar promise is a will. A will that provides an inheritance. Abraham is also described as inheriting the land.

We can make firm plans when a will is in place, knowing that we will inherit the property described.

It was by faith that Moses denied his place as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. It was by faith that he returned to lead his people out of the place, to a place unknown to them.

To a place of promise.

By faith Noah built an ark – well before it started raining. By faith, Joshua marched around Jericho.

Christ, by faith, ascended the cross, with the assurance – the certainty – that by doing so, death would be destroyed, and the thing that kept us separated from God would no longer exist.

So what are we to do? What happens when faith and our lives intersect? When a mustard seed’s worth of faith intersects our life?

We become the people of the promise. The people of the covenant, found in the body and blood of our Lord, here in this place, today.

Regardless of the ridicule and laughter of those around us.

We can live with confidence knowing that there is more – so much more – beyond this life.

We can make the journey from where we are – in a familiar place – to the unknown, the mystical, the unseen, where the fulfillment of that promise awaits.

Moving mountains is easy compared to us leaving our comfortable place.

It is where we are moving to that matters. For we are all moving toward something – heaven or hell. Toward God, toward perfection, or away from it.

Should we find ourselves walking away, moving away from God – we should repent. We should change directions. Immediately.

Not because we are afraid, but because of the promise. Because of the hope.

We can endure the martyrdom of our reputation, our power, our popularity – our very essence, as we move toward our Beloved, our Eternal Bridegroom and our Creator.

We endure, because we move not out of fear. But out of faith.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.