I'm going to begin my reflection with the words from Mary Foskett, Professor of Religious Studies at Wake Forest:

One of the most humbling and uplifting congregational milestones one can experience is the celebration of a church’s anniversary...

Because of the human tendency to see the events and challenges of our time as being particularly difficult or momentous, it is easy to overlook what generations before us had to face and overcome. Occasions like church anniversaries provide us opportunities to look back and learn from those witnesses to the Gospel who preceded us. Truth be told, every community experiences a season of discouragement or listlessness at one time or another. In such a season, calling upon the memories of those who have gone before us can be a powerful source of encouragement and inspiration.

The opening verse in our first reading today is one you might know well. We often define faith as belief in thing we can't see and when I was younger, I took that literally. I felt I was asked to believe in something that was more of a myth than a reality. It wasn't until I started going to church as a young adult that I discovered I needed to change my definition of faith. Faith is more than asserting that some belief is true. Faith is always rooted in trust. Trust forms within a relationship and that relationship takes work and practice. God decided that our faith should be rooted in the promise that God is with us through the long-haul. God doesn't make a commitment for a moment; God chooses to be with us, forever. The opening verse in this reading isn't defining faith as only a belief. Rather, it's a promise that faith forms as we live our life. And that living takes time.

A tool we can use to discover the faith God has given us is the practice of self- reflection. We're invited to remember where we were, what we were doing, and what truly happened. We're called to finally recognize when we met Jesus. And we're asked to name those moments when Jesus felt far away. Even if we're ashamed to admit all those times when Jesus was far from our thoughts, that's okay Self-reflection is never easy and will bring up experiences that we need to process. But when we look back, we do more than grow nostalgic for a romanticized version of our past. We end up reaffirming the hope we've already been given in our baptism and in our faith. No matter what is happening in your life right now, you are bound to the promises of God. That promise has already been made real in the lives of your family, friends, and in those who came before us. You are part of something bigger than yourself - and that promise will be what carries you through.