"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Picture a lecture hall filled with 20 something-year-old students at a fancy divinity school. It's the end of the spring semester, our final New Testament class. We're feeling pretty good about ourselves, full of knowledge, ready to share with all who would listen.
At the end of his lecture, Professor Malherbe closes his Bible, looks up from his notes:
"I want you to remember that in the churches you will serve, toward the back of the sanctuary Sunday after Sunday will sit a quiet, elderly woman and man who will know more about faith than you will ever know."
There are so many things I do not remember of the notes I scribbled in my Bible. But I remember Professor Malherbe's final words as I string together words for the memorials for Bob, Peggy and Mary Jean, sit alone with Irene, holding her hand, in these last hours of her life. Giving thanks from a grateful pastor and church, for all they have taught us about faith. The kind of kind of faith that shows up Sunday after Sunday in the same pew. Waits, with coffee in hand, for the Bible class to begin.
The faith that is here not because it is easy, but because there is no other place they would rather be.
The faith that walks, when to walk is to stumble, through the death of the son, the diagnosis of cancer, the stroke that takes their strength away, through the slow steady losing of memory that cannot keep pace with the notes they've left pinned around the house.
The faith that takes the hand of their beloved and walks them to the nursing home, where each day, spoon in one hand, hers in another, he feeds his wife soup.
The faith that looks up and says, I am ready to die when the time comes, and today, I am ready to live.
No, not the fancy and heady kind of student's faith, full of words and argument, but the kind of faith that I pray to grow into. The kind of faith they are teaching me to live in the quiet, steady patterns of my life.
Thank you, God, for those who show us what faith is all about and inspire us to live such a faith in the patterns of our lives.
Peter Ilgenfritz is a Minister and Member of the Leadership Staff at University Congregational United Church of Christ, Seattle, Washington.