About 20 years ago Linda came home to the farm at Hancock and told me that she wanted to put a bid in on this house across the street from the school. Actually if I remember right she said that she thought we should look at some houses in Walnut to live in since it would save us money in our commutes to work.
And so I consented to look at some homes that were for sale; one of them was the house owned by Dwight and Lilah Wuster. It must have been meant to be since we did buy it and have been there now some 20 years. I have to tell you thought that I didn’t really think our loan would be approved and then we wouldn’t really move. It looks as if God had other plans.
I don’t know about any of you but I didn’t like the idea of all the work to move from Hancock to Walnut. Somehow everything got moved and we’ve both decided that neither one of us wants to do it again. That was after helping each of our children move from apartments to houses and houses to apartments and …well you know how that goes. It’s just not fun to pack up and move. But sometimes no matter how we feel about things there is something that compels us to load everything in the car and pickup and go. I still don’t think it’s much fun. Have I told you before that I don’t particularly like change?
Every one of the lessons you heard read today is about change or changes that took place because God was calling folks to step outside the boxes they were in and do something different. God’s call to Abram was a very big step, way bigger than our move from Hancock to Walnut. That was only about 18 miles and I didn’t have to walk it.
Abram heard God’s call to leave his home and move to a land that God was going to show him. He didn’t even tell him where, he just told him to go and he went.
God didn’t ask Abram to do anything other than to go. God promised him that he would make him a great nation, his name would be blessed, and his name would be great so that he would be a blessing. And then he promised that he would bless those who blessed Abram and he would curse those who cursed him so that in Abram all the families of the earth would be blessed. Abram’s response was to go forth. I like to think that of course he went, he was a nomad and that’s what they do. They move from one place to another. But even with that it took a lot of faith to pack it all up and go someplace they had never been before.
And all of this Abram did before God had given the people any laws. It was even before God had made his covenant with Abram and sealed it with the circumcision of every male of Abram’s family. God made his promises and then no matter how many times Abram tried to help God and messed it up God stayed to his plan. He fixed whatever it was that Abram messed up.
It takes faith to change, to pack it all up and move, doesn’t it? Just think about how much faith it took for this tax collector, Matthew, to pack it up and follow Jesus. How much faith would it take to turn your whole life around and do something completely foreign to the natural way you were used to doing things? Matthew would no longer be extorting money from his neighbors. What was he going to do for income?
You know that’s what I think keeps quite a few people from doing what they know God is calling them to do. Their faith is not strong enough to believe that God will actually provide everything they need. If they decide to quit a job that has provided very well for them for many years and pack it all up to do what God is calling them to do how are the bills going to be paid? Will they be able to continue to make ends meet? Those are questions most of us ask ourselves and maybe that’s what keeps us from caring for the prisoners, the widows, the oppressed, and the ones who are in need.
Did you notice in the gospel message from Matthew that not only did Jesus ask Matthew to follow him but Jesus actually did most of the following? After he called Matthew, he turned and followed him to his house to sit down and eat with all his disreputable friends. After he left Matthew’s house he was approached by leader of the synagogue who asked him to come to his house and bring his daughter who had died back to life. Jesus followed him to his house. On the way a woman who had been suffering for 12 years with hemorrhaging somehow got through the press of people surrounding Jesus to touch the fringe of his prayer shawl so she could be healed. Jesus turned and his eyes followed her. Her hope was that she would be healed and her faith was confirmed when Jesus said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”
He continued on his way following this man whose daughter was lying dead at home. The people there laughed scornfully Jesus’ words when he said that she was just sleeping. Can you imagine how that father felt then? These people were ridiculing the man he believed would bring his daughter back to him. It wasn’t until they had all been sent outside that Jesus went in an took the young girl by the hand and she got up. How hard do you think that leader of the synagogue was praying? God made his faith strong enough to buck the crowd and ask Jesus to come to his house.
Friends, God asks us to do difficult things. Most times he asks us to do things that we have no idea about how they can be accomplished. And what do we do? We think about budgets, we think about building maintenance, we think about what we have to work with and don’t often think about this great God who has promised to be with us every step of the way. It is terribly difficult for us to pack it all up, turn around, and have faith that Jesus will follow us into the new frontier where we have been told to go.
God is calling us to do his work. I believe that he will continue to call us to this ministry of serving the community where he has placed us until we answer his call trusting in his promises.
It all depends on faith and that through the grace of our loving God. God is calling us to follow him and he promises that he will follow us as we step out in faith. We are being called to move beyond our comfortable boundaries into the great unknown. Let’s work to cultivate the art of following God wherever he leads us.
Abram had faith in God. God promised he would and Abram believed him. Jesus called Matthew and his faith was such that he answered the call. The woman and the leader of the synagogue had faith that Jesus could heal and God blessed their faith.
Our faith is God’s gift of grace for us. Pray that God makes our faith strong enough to follow him wherever he leads. Thanks be to God for his gift of grace in our lives. Amen