Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Life of Faith

It’s not easy trying to live a life of faith. In the first place we tend to believe that there is nothing we can’t do or fix, and we don’t need God or anyone else to give us a hand. That might prove to be true until we get stuck in a quagmire of our own doing and no matter what we try we can’t fix it. We’re stuck. Everything we try fails and it’s not until we realize that we can’t do it alone that we cry for help.

We cry to God for help or relief or maybe just a lifeline because we’ve tried everything else and nothing helped.

The writer of Lamentations is in that spot. God had warned the people through the prophets that he was not happy with them following other idols and doing things that he had explicitly warned them against doing. When God gave the Law to Moses he told them that if they did what he commanded them then they would be blessed but if they didn’t they would be cursed. It seems that they didn’t hear that last part.

You know I can understand that. There are times when people tell me something and I hear the first part but I don’t hear the last part. Then, when whatever I’ve been trying to do doesn’t come out right it’s usually because I didn’t hear all the instructions. I could write a book about all the times I’ve messed up because I didn’t follow all the directions that were given to me. Or I didn’t hear all the directions given to me.

Maybe that’s why it’s so important for us to hear the Word read and proclaimed every Sunday, even though we’ve heard this particular passage a gazillion times before. Maybe we’ve missed hearing the most important part.

In the Hebrew Bible it sounds as if you keep all the commandments then you will be richly blessed and if you don’t then you will receive God’s discipline. Many of us believe today that if we keep God’s rules then we’ll be blessed. So, if we see someone who is struggling with life we assume that they’ve not been keeping God’s rules and he has punished them. We forget the words that talk about blessings falling on the just and the unjust.

We seem to forget Jesus’ words about believing in him, loving God and neighbor, and we completely missed the part about being servants. We think that if we just do this or that then God will bless us. Friends, it doesn’t work that way.

These lives we are living today in this place and at this time aren’t easy. There seems to be a great chasm between those who have and those who don’t. The ones who have are fearful that what they have will soon be gone. The ones who don’t have much are fearful that they will never, ever be able to have anything. They don’t see anyway out. No one has much faith, either in the society in which they live or in God.

The pastoral letter to Timothy sounds like the writer is afraid that Timothy may give up on his faith when things get tough and suffering comes. He is told to stay at it, keep his faith and love rooted in Christ just as he was taught.

Jesus had just told his disciples that hard times and temptations would come their way. And pity the one who gave any of the little ones a hard time. It would be better to have a boulder tied around their neck and tossed into the ocean than to do that. That’s when they realized that what Jesus was asking them to do was going to be more difficult than they imagined. They weren’t sure they could do it with the faith they had. They weren’t sure they would be successful walking in Jesus’ footsteps, living lives serving God’s children. So, they asked him to give them more faith.

I imagine Jesus looking at them with love in his eyes and saying, “More faith? You have all you need right now.”

Isn’t that how we all kind of feel when we step out on a new venture? Isn’t that how we feel when we decide to risk investing in a new career, or begin life together with the one God has chosen for us. We’re not sure we have enough of what’s needed to be successful.

But don’t we usually find, if we take the risk, that we had everything we needed. I think that’s what Jesus was saying to his disciples, “You have everything you need right now.” “You have just enough faith. Just live it.”

I think that’s the Message for us today. We have just enough faith. Just live it. Trust in the One who gave us this faith. It is sufficient for what He has called us to do.

I don’t believe he’s asking us to move trees or mountains but Jesus is asking us to trust him, to have faith in his Word and his love for us.

Our lives aren’t easy. Everyone, every family, has problems, everyone experiences some suffering. Jesus is telling us that our calling is to be ministers to each other using the gifts we have been given to serve others and to bring glory to Him. That is our calling; that is our purpose in this life. Just as those we work for expect us to give them an honest day’s work so God expects us to give him the same.

Do we expect a reward? Do we expect to be forgiven for our sins? Well maybe, but it all depends on God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice. And part of God’s grace is the faith we have received from him.

Friends, God sent his Son, Jesus, here because he loves us. He died for us because he loves us. He defeated death because he loves us. He gives us just enough faith because he loves us. All he asks us to do is just live it.

Friends, remember God does love you. Trust and believe. Have faith and then just live it.

Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

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