In pm's words
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August 8, 2016, 8:00 AM

the one about faith...


Sermon from August 7, 2016

Sermon Text: Luke 12: 32-40

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

As we read through all of our scriptural texts today, there is one underlying and common theme. As the famous 1980s singer George Michael and later the band Limp Bizkit (which made it famous for my generation) put it – You’ve gotta have faith.

Who here thinks faith is easy? Or if it comes ‘naturally’ to those who are of God? If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that faith is not an easy endeavor. Whether it is having faith that you’re going to pass that coming test, or that your boss will notice you for that upcoming promotion, or even your favorite team will finally win the big one – in your lifetime. All of those take ‘faith.’ As a fan of the Texas Rangers I know how deep and sometimes how ‘foolish’ faith can appear.

As we read through all our texts this morning, we see that Abram, the initial audience of Hebrews, and those gathered around Jesus were called to faith in much deeper ways than a sports outcome. They were rocked with hardship and yet still lifted up in hope and assurance that what God promises will come.

Take the Genesis account from our first reading, Abram (who later will be called Abraham) is pretty bold here. He, in a way, has the audacity to ‘take on’ God. God has promised to reward him for his, yet Abram snaps back, “Really? Will this reward be something other than children because I’m old – not getting younger mind you – and I have no little ones to call my own.” Think about that for a moment. God has said – to Abram’s face – that he will be rewarded. He is a chosen one of God, and those who God has made promises – covenants – with are never left alone. God always comes through. 

Yet, Abram knows he’s getting older and so is his wife. They know the reality. And they struggle with coming to terms with type of faith that God has asked of them.

We too can find it hard to ‘live into’ the faith in which we’re called. Faith that God is present here in this place.  Faith that God listens, cares, and protects us. Faith that Christ has died for us. Faith that God might use each of us for service in the world. Yet, with each of those times that we are called to ‘have faith’ the specter of ‘doubt’ seems to always crash the party.

And even when we feel we have deep faith, so much of our world attempts to curb and stomp it and snuff it out. The continued violence against one another, the incredible hostility between people in our country drawn over racial, political, & theological lines, the systems in which we live that continue to perpetuate divisiveness in our country and world. So much seems to be speaking against and laughing at our faith.

It may be a laugh like Sarah when she’ll soon be told that she will bear a son. It may be anger directed at God because things have not gone smoothly. It may be the pestering question of ‘really?’ like Abram here that seeps into our minds, takes up residence in our hearts, and doesn’t seem to get the notice that we don’t want it there.

Imagine, if you will, as Abram responds to God in this audacious sigh of “Really? REALLY?” and God pulls him aside and points to the sky saying, Abram, my son. You will have heirs and they will come from you and will be as numerous as the stars.

Now, picture the night sky that Abram probably could see. A sky so full that we don’t get to see because of the intrusion of the world around us. Electricity – lights from the city and our homes. The noise that distracts our attention as cars drive by and sirens wail out in the distance. Even here in Newberry, we can see more stars than those in Spartanburg or Columbia, but I can guarantee you it is nothing compared to what Abram was able to see on that night. Imagine the immense security that each time Abram stepped outside into the night he could literally see God’s promise before him. It may not have been on his time frame, but God did come through with that promise of heirs and descendants.

So, this got me thinking – how many stars are actually out there. On a clear night, removed from the worldly lights around us – with perfect vision, you’d be able to see about 9,000 stars (in both the northern and southern hemispheres together). Get a pair of binoculars? That number jumps up to about 200,000. A small telescope? 15 million. A large observatory? Billions.

But, let’s dive even further. Astronomers are guessing that there are probably about 400 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone. In the observable universe there are potentially 170 billion galaxies. Each one they assume could potentially be home to the same number of stars that our galaxy holds. Of course, some could be much larger or even perhaps smaller too. But, if we multiply the number of stars in our galaxy to the number of galaxies potentially in the universe you get around 1024 stars. That’s a 1 followed by twenty-four zeros. A septillion. Of course, that is only what we can see; the universe could be much larger than that.

That’s a lot of descendants. A lot.

Which leads me to our Gospel reading. Here Jesus is bringing assurance to those gathered around him, who he affectionately or possibly pointedly, calls ‘little flock.’ Though, he might literally be talking to a small group since not many then (and not many now) follow Jesus’ call of selling everything – giving to those in need, and following Jesus with faith.

Fear not. Have faith.

Those are tough things to follow and to live into. What Jesus asks of us, what God calls for us, what the Spirit guides us to do is not easy.

In this talk, Jesus tells of another short story where he recounts the servants who stay up late waiting for the master to come home from the wedding feast. Now, I am almost certain that those gathered around Jesus who heard him say things like, ‘be ready!’ or ‘dress to go!’ and even ‘stay awake!’ were not thinking that it would be for positive things. This is a sort of apocalyptic foretelling of the future.

A time where Jesus calls his followers to continually be watchful of things to come and to live a life that is ready ‘to go’ when that time comes. But, even as I read those words and imagine Jesus saying that to me and to us today, I cannot help but look back to the first verse in our Gospel reading – ‘fear not.’

Fear not. Have faith. It might not be the doom and gloom others have made it out to be.

For you see, when the master returns the roles have been reversed. The master comes home, not to be served by those around him, but he comes home to be in service. Where those who have ‘stayed up’ and ‘kept watch’ are now being served by the one who has returned from the feast.

Fear not. Have faith.

We are a people of faith. A people who, through Jesus the Christ, have been grafted into the tree of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We are a people – through faith in what God has done in Christ Jesus – that has faith that the promises of old extend and surround us. Extend to us in love, grace, mercy, and acceptance. 

We are a people washed and welcomed into this community of love. A community of believers who can look to the stars – in all our myriad ways – and see the promise of God before our very eyes. We are a people who place trust and faith in God and not in the world and individuals around us. Where we place our ‘treasure’ securely in God’s favor and grace. For we remember that where our treasure is; our heart will be also.

It isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is what God calls for us to do. When we have that lingering doubt (and all of us experiences those moments of doubt throughout our lives), we can look to the night sky and see the promise God made to Abram and know that it is for us as well. That we too are a part of that.

That God created all of that wonder and awe; so too did God create me – and you – and even that interminable grouch down the street. We all are created in love and grace, saved through God’s work in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. All of us.

And though those promises of God and those covenants may not occur within a timeline or timeframe that we at times would want to better serve our needs; we remember that God does come. Has come. Will come. The Son of Man returns from the wedding feast. He returns in joy to be in service with and for those around him.

Don’t fear. Have faith. God’s got this. Amen.

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