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Be Filled with Faith, Hope, and Love

June 7, 2021

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green proclaiming, ’The Lord is upright; he is my Rock.”  Psalm 92: 12-15

When I was growing up it was common for a teenage girl or young woman to have a hope chest made of cedar.  Over a period of years, she received gifts from family friends and relatives consisting of items to set up housekeeping upon her marriage. Cedar chests were used because they were sturdy and repelled insects.  The hope chest represented the hope of love, marriage to a faithful husband, and the beginnings to create a love-filled home. When I was a teenager, I spent a summer afternoon with a cousin who showed me everything in her hope chest.  As she carefully removed each item, she described who had given it to her and the occasion of the gift. She had a growing collection of bone china, blankets, linens, and other household items. 

I was reminded of cedar hope chests in meditating on Psalm 92:12-14:  “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.”  

Like a hope chest, the Scripture lessons for next Sunday speak of faith, hope, and love.[1]  Like hope chests, we are filled with hope, faith, and love when we depend on Jesus.  Paul confirmed the importance of these three pillars in our walk with God: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13.


Cedar trees, like palm trees, are tall trees.  They grow up to 120’ high and can be up to 30’ wide in circumference.  They stand strong in the mountain winds, and are prized for their strong wood.  Cedar wood has been used since ancient times for shipbuilding and other construction projects.  When our faith is like a cedar of Lebanon, it is strong and sturdy and will not waiver in the winds of circumstance.  Like the cedar and the palm, faith that is tall and long-lived will “bear fruit in old age and stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92: 14).  

Paul explains why Christians who “live by faith, not by sight” are optimistic: ”That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going” (2 Corinthians 5: 6-7, The Message).   During our lifetimes we have faith not because we have seen Jesus in the flesh, but because we know that he suffered, died, and was resurrected for our sins. We know that these things are true, even though we haven’t seen Jesus.

Jesus described how the kingdom of God grows in the world, just as our individual faith grows over time: “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade” (Mark 4: 30-32).   Christianity started out with Jesus and a small band of disciples, but quickly grew into a global community of believers.  Likewise, our faith begins as a small seed and continues to grow as we delve deeper and deeper into the Word, and as we reach out to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ who help nurture our faith.


Only God can bring us true hope.  Ezekiel spoke to people of his own generation, but his words also foreshadowed the hope of the coming Messiah. Using a cedar sprig as a metaphor for the Messiah, Ezekiel brings hope to the people.  He explains how God will plant a tender shoot– the Messiah–who will be the beginning of a strong kingdom that will shelter many: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches . . . I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it”  (Ezekiel 17: 22-23, 24b).  God kept his promise and sent his Son who died for our sins.  His death planted the seed for what would rise up to become a great kingdom. 


Paul tells us that of the three–faith, hope, and love–the greatest of these is love.  It was the Father’s love that sent Jesus to us, and Jesus’ love for us that made him willingly go to the cross for us: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5: 14-15).  All that we do should be motivated by Christ’s great love for us. The Message translation of verse 14 is “His love has the first and last word in everything we do.” 

 Love covers many transgressions.  When we are filled with the love of Christ, there is no room in our souls for long-standing anger, resentment, or bitterness.  When love washes over us, our blood pressure drops, and we rest in God’s loving arms.  We are peaceful and at rest.

The Scripture texts for next Sunday invite us to fill ourselves with faith as tall and strong as a cedar, hope that our faith will continue to grow from its tender shoots to a long-lasting faith, and the love from above to fill every cell of our bodies.  God’s Spirit inhabits the heart and soul of every believer and leads and guides us along the way.  

It is the Spirit living within us who prays for us when we are too weak, anxious, broken, or otherwise impaired to pray for ourselves.  The Spirit feels our groaning, aching, and despairing self.  Our tears fall on the Spirit who intercedes on our behalf.  When we cannot pray for ourselves, the Spirit is there for us.  

Be filled with faith, hope, and the love of God, and he will stand with you–as strong and as unmovable as a cedar tree.

Prayer: “Father in heaven, words cannot measure the boundaries of love for those born to new life in Christ Jesus. Raise us beyond the limits this world imposes, so that we may be free to love as Christ teaches and find our joy in your glory.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen” (Frederick J. Schumacher, Ed., For All the Saints: A Prayer Book for and by the Church, p. 75). 

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Psalm 1; (Psalm 92:12-15 used in this blog); Ezekiel 17: 22-24; 2 Corinthians 5: 1-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34.

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