Tuesday, August 10, 2010

All I got!

This week I had a visit from a friend who I have not seen in 19 years.
We were close when we worked at camp together back when we were teenagers.
She has been through some things in her life since that time.
She has lived a lot and seen a lot.
She got married, had a kid, and got divorced.
For a while she was homeless, or lots of times on the brink of being homeless.
Currently she got remarried, and is working as an administrator at a Church in North Carolina that does a lot of work with the homeless.
She sees things that you and I might never see she has experienced things that you and I might never experience.
When she was hear visiting we started to talk about our faith and she asked me how we continue to have faith in circumstances where everything seems hopeless and lost.
In her daily work she sees a lot of unhappy endings.
She sees people who don’t make it or who don’t get better.
Where is our faith in God in such times?
She told me it was easy when we were 17 or 18 to have faith at camp calumet.
It was easy to feel like everything would work out surrounded by love, but in the real world well faith is not that easy.
Our conversation really challenged me, because the simple answers we often give in such times seemed to be too shallow and trite.

I have a week now to think about that conversation.
And I have had a week of reading and thinking about our text for this morning.
All of them about faith in difficult circumstances.
Our first reading is about the promise of God to Abram.
The problem is that the promise is that Abram will have many offspring and he and his wife are very old.
For Abram there can be no more important thing in life than having a child with Sara, but it seems impossible now.
How can he believe God is such circumstances?
This seems like an impossible situation.
In the Gospel Jesus speaks words of comfort to his disciples while on his way to Jerusalem.
The disciples do not know what is about to happen.
They do not know how much they will need to cling to these words about not being afraid in uncertain times.
Finally in the letter to the Hebrews the writer tells us to keep faith even though all things seem to the contrary.
And in Hebrews we get the best definition of faith.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

“The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
To my friend this is the answer to her question.
We don’t know why or how everything works out.
We can’t see it.
We have faith anyway.
We have faith because we believe that God is faithful.
I don’t know if that is the most satisfying answer but it is all I got.

In our baptisms what we receive is a promise from God.
It is not a promise that says for the rest of our lives everything will be perfect.
We don’t know what life has in store for us.
We don’t know all the paths we will walk.
We don’t know if we will dream big dreams that someday come true, or if we will have some really hard times.
What we do know today for certain is that God promises to be there with and for us always.
What we are given in our baptism is hope in things yet unseen.

Someday we might be having a problem a dilemma.
Someday we might be in some trouble that we can’t fix.
And in that moments we might feel guilty like we have failed.
Don’t do that to yourself.
Don’t blame yourself because life is not perfect.
Not everything in life is someone’s fault.
Not everything is about choices we make.
So don’t carry all that guilt around because it is just not helpful or productive.
Instead remember Jesus words.
“Do not be afraid little flock.”
Instead of feeling guilty or blaming others simply have faith in God.
Deal with the consequences of your actions in a responsible way, learn from it and grow in faith from it.
Remember the promises God makes to you everyday.
They are promises of life and life in abundance.
Have faith that God has something wonderful in store for you.
Have faith that God is teaching you something in this very moment.
Remember in your baptism God made a promise to you have faith in that promise.
Faith is what we receive today as we gather to ask God to be with us in whatever condition we find our lives.

Faith is all any of us really have.
It is what we all cling to deep in our souls.
Because without faith we become cynical about the world and others.
Without faith we are lost to sin and death.
Without faith what we see in the world is the end of the story.
People are born, they pay taxes, and die.
That is a life without faith.
With faith we see that our true home is not here it is in heaven with God.
With faith we see purpose and meaning even in the pain and hurt.
With faith we live not as mortals but as immortal.

This morning here the words of Jesus again, “Do not be afraid little flock.”
Do not be afraid.
All of us who have come to this place this morning Jesus is speaking to us and telling us not to be afraid of all that life is throwing at us.
Instead have faith that indeed it is God’s pleasure to give us the kingdom of God.

Faith this is the only answer I got.
I don’t know if it is good enough to convince anyone of anything.
I don’t know if someone whose life has been real hard will buy into it.
Because the thing is I can’t give you proof that God is working all the time.
Faith is believing in the promise of what cannot be seen.
That is always the dilemma we are in with faith.
When someone says, “yeah all that God stuff is great but show it to me. Prove that things will work out.”
We can’t show anything.
All we can do is believe through the Holy Spirit in what God’s word tells us.
All we can do is have faith that God will come through for us and the world.
What I do know is that a life with faith is better without.
Even now that I am older and I have seen and lived some things I still cling to my faith in God.

As I was talking to my friend I told her that we all have some scars on us in the last 19 years.
We are not as optimistic as we were back in our teenage days.
However, I believe we still have God.
We still believe in that promise that God made to Abram, that Jesus makes to us, and that the Holy Spirit continues to whisper in our ear.
The promise that was poured over us in the water of our baptism.
The promise that tells us not to be afraid.
The promise that the psalmist sings this morning, “Let your steadfast love , O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

So let us continue to have faith.
Let us continue to have assurance in the things hoped for, conviction in the things not seen.
So that we may always know the love of God and hear the words of Jesus, “do not be afraid little flock.”

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