When I was a doctoral student, I enrolled in classes in Neuroscience in preparation for my dissertation. In the introductory course, each professor in the department shared their research and what they had discovered (or not) about the section of the brain they were studying.
My favorite lecture was from a scientist who was investigating sleep patterns in humans and animals. The introductory sentence of his lecture captures how exciting and frustrating research can be. After twenty years of work, this was the conclusion he realized: “The longer we stay awake, the more likely we are to fall asleep.”
The lecture then involved the different ways he had tried to locate a sleep center in the brain, with no success. Removal of targeted areas did not stop subjects from falling asleep. Changes in the chemicals associated with wake and sleep cycles also had no effect. And though more recent research has identified the structures which control sleep, the process for how it works, is still a mystery.
Much about our physiology still needs to be understood. There is not always a correlation between what we do and a part of the body that is the source for these things. I am confident that there is no faith center in the brain, even though some researchers have sought to discover it for decades. Faith in our Lord is born out of the witness and testimony contained in Scripture, celebrated in our traditions, reflected in our sermons and Bible Studies, and lived through our dedication to the Great Commission.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a part of faith stories. Stories of healing, of strength, of sorrow turned into joy, of doubt turned into hope, and of conflicts transformed into harmony and love. Nearly every day I am blessed by the ways that God is still moving in our lives and shaping us to journey with one another as we discover how God is with us and calling us to mission and ministry.
I have the privilege of hearing new ways that people in our faith communities are reaching out to invite others to be a part of our journeys. Laity and clergy are asking those in their neighborhoods how to help them and by their example inviting new faces to be part of a journey of faith.
There are times when our faith is tested. The work we do for one another doesn’t always work out as we planned. Missions that were the way we were known in our community prior to COVID, no longer resonate with us or those we serve today. We don’t see the same people on Sunday. Some have gone on to glory, others are just gone. We may be feeling as if what we do no longer matters or has meaning.
And then we hear a story of blessing, of ways we are truly making a difference. These are the mustard seeds in our lives that once they take root, will continue to grow far beyond anything we can imagine, as an expression of how our Lord is at work in our lives, preparing the way before us.
I want to share a recent event in my life which affirms God is with us. The daughter of one of my friends is experiencing a serious health issue. When it was learned that specialists would need to be consulted, her parents realized that it would be months before they could get an appointment with the proper physicians. After asking their faith community to pray for their daughter, the couple received news that they would be able to see a physician in two weeks, rather than two months or more.
What stories of faith are being manifested in you and in those who journey with you? Are you inviting others to share their witness and testimonies of faith, so together we learn that God is with us? I close with this song as inspiration and affirmation of who we are and whose we are. And Amen.