The readings today remind us of the important intersections between hope, faith, and healing. Hope requires faith – a belief in things yet unseen. How do we visualize things yet unseen so that we can anchor our hope? Thankfully God provides amazing prophets like Isaiah who paint vivid pictures that we can contemplate to anchor our hopes. When I read this passage from Isaiah I feel my spirit being lifted just in contemplating the joy and completeness of God’s image for creation. An image of perfection and a sense that the image comes from a loving God offers us hope, much like the hope that comes from someone clarifying for us our abilities. Sometimes we cannot see our own giftedness and hence fail to have hope in what we bring to efforts to bring about a new earth in which all people will be God’s delight. Similarly, it can be hard to see the kernels of wholeness and reconciliation in the messiness of our lives and our communities. Contemplating images provided by prophets of our time as well as the prophets of old can inspire and guide us.
While images of what is possible serve as headlights for hope, gratitude and faith power the engine. How can we believe that the inspiring images are worth pursuing? Faith in the goodness of the source of the images gives us confidence. However, our confidence is bolstered even further by recalling with gratitude all the ways in which we have already seen and experienced God’s wholeness and healing in our lives. Thus, the powerful verses of the psalms, such as the ones for today, provide essential exercises for building up the gratitude and faith that can help sustain our hope. The telling and retelling of the ways that the Lord has rescued us builds our own faith and the faith of others in our community.
The beginning of John hints at the negative consequences of weak hope and faith. The prophet has no honor and healing does not occur. People who lack vision perish. Those who had seen, heard, and told of the works of Jesus in Galilee could rejoice, welcome Jesus, and have hope to ask for healing. When Jesus challenges the faith and intentions of the royal official, the official remains rooted in love for his child and faith in the healer. Perhaps we see in Jesus an embodiment of the psalm verse that “his anger lasts but a moment; a lifetime his good will.” When it becomes clear that the purpose of the healing is not for the ego needs of the royal official nor as needed proof before the official would believe in Jesus, the anger subsides and healing commences. The royal official does not turn away or give up when he does not see the healing right away and when Jesus chooses to heal in a different way than the official asked. Instead, when Jesus proclaimed his son healed, the official believed and took the next steps. He did not refuse to leave until he had proof, but went on his way and was given the grace of proof along the road.
Thank you Lord for the prophets of old and the prophets of our times. Keep the vision of your love and your purpose for creation ever before us. We thank you for the ways in which you have saved us and healed us. Help us to share those stories with others to strengthen the faith and hope in our communities. Grant us the grace of faith and hope that allows us to confidently keep taking the next steps while rejoicing in the glimpses you provide of your work towards a new creation in our midst.
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