"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1
That's the scriptural definition of this thing we call faith. As beautiful as it is, some of us find it a little too abstract for the stomach-turning, white-knuckle decisions faith sometimes requires of us. I prefer the statement of William Sloane Coffin, the late lion of Congregationalism and minister of Riverside Church in New York City.
"I love the recklessness of faith," he said. "First you leap, and then you grow wings."
As I write this, the church I serve has taken a big leap: receiving into sanctuary a courageous Guatemalan father of four who, despite facing the family separation that comes with deportation, is always talking about his faith in God. Every day is a leap for Lucio and his family, and I am humbled by his trust.
Lucio's faith is also instructive. He puts his greatest trust not in his lawyers and advocates but in God alone.
The line from leap to wings is neither simple nor straight. Being faithful, being the church, is hard, y'all. The process that moved us from immigrant-welcoming church to sanctuary church was far from ideal. Timelines were short. Mistakes were made. Feelings were hurt. Reality hit hard.
And still we are leaping in faith, holding fast to the God who loves the stranger. Still we leap, praying without ceasing as solid ground gives way to nothing but grace. Still we leap, sometimes struggling to love one another as well as we love our neighbors. Still we leap, delighting in the sacred bonds previously unseen.
We pray that by the time you read this justice will have come to Lucio and his family. We hope that by then some of us will have sprouted wings.
Stranger-loving God, may we trust your love enough to leap with hope, and may the wings we grow flutter us into your realm of justice and peace.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.