If you listen to the critics of religion you would think that having faith is something for the simple-minded. In fact, much of life in general depends upon a walking in faith. We launch on careers without any guarantee of success. People fall in love and hope that their love will be met with love. They have children, which must be among the biggest blank cheques of all. In many ways, big and small, we move into the future and to do so we have to have faith that one way or another, things will work out.
God is the one who is always there, and with this knowledge we can go ahead, day by day, into the future, even when humanly speaking there seems little to hope for. We find this faith reflected in the first reading (Isaiah 49.3, 5-6). You have to remember that Jerusalem had been destroyed, the kingdom of Judah extinguished and the people deported to servitude in Babylon. In this situation the prophet speaks: God will use you in a way that will bring new life to many. You can still be part of God’s purposes. You will return to Jerusalem, and become the people through whom will come light and salvation to the world. This required faith on their part, faith indeed. And we know how wonderfully it was fulfilled.
Then there is our second reading which offers us the opening words of the first letter to the Corinthians. It would not have been surprising if some of those first Christians gathered in the house church in Corinth were incredulous when they heard Paul’s words read to them. You see, Corinth was notorious throughout the eastern Mediterranean for its loose living. Here is Paul telling the fledgling Christians of Corinth that they are to be a holy people, taking their place among the people of God. You can imagine their eyebrows raising. But of course, in giving them a reminder of their high calling, he is also lifting their hearts and their hopes, giving them faith that they can live a life worthy of their calling with the help of the grace of God. The past does not need to determine the future. This is what faith challenges them to believe, that all things are possible with the grace of God to help them.
All this leads to the gospel (John 1.29-34) where you have a wonderful example of walking in faith. Notice how John the forerunner of Jesus had to begin preaching about the Messiah without certainty about who this would be. John told all who would listen that the Christ was coming. They were to prepare themselves for this momentous event by repentance and baptism. Yet only at the baptism of Jesus did it become clear that this ministry of preaching and preparation was absolutely right. The time had come. It took faith, courage and perseverance, and walking by faith John the Baptist was given the day when he saw the Spirit resting upon the Christ. We too walk by faith and one day our eyes will open to see Christ revealed – the end of our journey, and yet the one who was alongside us all our days.