Sunday, June 26, 2011

Faith, Trust, Grace, & Harvest Work

          The Scripture lessons we heard read this morning are about faith, trust, grace, and God's work here on earth. Every one of the writers had faith in God.  Abraham, David, Paul, and Matthew, they all had faith and they trusted in God and his plan. 

          Abraham trusted in God so completely that when he heard God’s voice tell him to he took his son, Isaac, into the wilderness to a place God showed him, to offer him as a sacrifice.  We can't even imagine doing that and I'm sure Abraham wondered too. But, he believed in his God, our God, so completely that he prepared to do what God has instructed him to do. Maybe he believed what he told his son, that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice, or maybe not.

          We may read this lesson and think, “What kind of God would ask someone to sacrifice their son as a test of loyalty?”  Remember that the nations surrounding the territory where Abraham lived practiced child sacrifice.  So, he was familiar with it.  That doesn't mean he accepted it or thought it was right, but God spoke to him and he trusted him.

          So, when he heard God speak he prepared everything that was needed for a proper offering and sacrifice and he was ready to follow through. And then, God did, indeed, provide the lamb. Abraham had faith in God; he trusted God.

          His faith wasn't always this strong. Sometimes he didn't trust enough and then he did what he thought was best and found out that it wasn't.  Like when he told the people that Sarai was his sister instead of his wife.  That wasn't the best thing to do. It’s a good thing that God watched out for him because it could have been disastrous. So, you see he wasn't always so faithful. For the most part, though, he trusted God to care and provide for him and his family; and he was considered righteous by his ancestors because of his faith.

          David also trusted God. He was revered as a leader who had a very strong faith in God. He trusted God to protect him, to help him defeat his enemies both at home and those in the nations surrounding Judah.  Even when he made mistakes, and he made some doosies, he trusted God. 

          He trusted God because he knew that God loved him. Even though he experienced dark times when he didn’t feel God’s presence he trusted that he was there. David is a great example for us who struggle with the same feelings of anxiety and depression and loneliness. 

          But how do we get faith? Can we make our faith stronger? Is there a magic chant or something that we can recite that will give us faith or more faith?

          Friends, that’s where grace comes into the picture, we might have a basic beginner’s faith in God but it’s only through his grace that our faith grows and gets stronger.  I don’t know how God does it but I believe that every gift we receive is because of God’s grace. We don’t deserve any of it yet God blesses us with his grace and our faith is because of God’s grace. No matter what I do I’m not able to make my faith stronger. There are no calisthenics that I can do to increase the size of my faith.

          Our faith, yours and mine, only grows through God’s grace. We are justified by grace and sanctified, saved, by the grace of God through Jesus.  We’d like to think that we can save ourselves but friends that’s just not possible.  It’s only through grace that we are saved.

          We have been conditioned to believe that there’re no free gifts. And so we have a real problem with God’s grace because it’s free.  We’ve been taught that nothing is free, everything has a price. That’s why we miss God’s grace sometimes.

          But if we don’t accept this free gift of grace what do we have to look forward too? It’ll all be over when our bodies wear out, if we don’t accept God’s gift of grace.

          Afterwards come the works, but they’re not to pay God back for his gift. This work God calls us to we do because we love him and can’t imagine doing anything else. 

          Now some of us think that in order to truly work for God we have to be a missionary in Africa or Central America or China or some remote outpost somewhere in the world.  That could be right, but Jesus said we don’t have to start with something huge like that. We may be called to give a cup of cool, refreshing water to a neighbor.  Or we may be called to sit with a friend who’s struggling with grief or pain or a scary diagnosis.  Or we may be called to just be a friend to someone who has no friends, right here in Walnut.

          Jesus knew this work wasn’t going to be easy and so he said don’t be overwhelmed by it. Start small and work up to the larger tasks. And remember none of us are in it alone.  “We are intimately linked in this harvest work.”

          Friends, faith, trust, grace and the harvest work God calls each of us to, that’s what our lives are all about.  We’re all in this together. And God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are with us every step, every minute of every day until he calls us home.

          Thanks be to God for his loving, forgiving grace. Amen.

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