Sermon on Faith - August 11th

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

 John Steinbeck writes:

A dying people tolerates the present, rejects the future and finds its satisfactions in past greatness and half remembered glory.

Karl Barth writes:

Faith in God’s revelation has nothing to do with an ideology which glorifies the status quo.

And T.S. Eliot says, in his preface to Transit of Venus: Poems

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go

So it is with our 2nd lesson for today (and next week) where the writer of Hebrews talks about the faith of the “heroes” of our bible, who trusted in God above all else.  And their trust led them to do great things, unexpected things, things that might, at face value, seem crazy to us in this day and age.

Why? Why would they do such things?

Because faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And their faith was not in themselves; not in friends and family; not in pipe dreams and wishes.

No.

 Their faith was in God, the Creator of the Universe.

As my theology professor, sainted Robert Jenson used to say:

Our faith is in God – the One who raised Jesus from the dead.

 Two scientists were on a field trip in the mountains. They discovered a baby eagle in a nest on a jutting rock, just below the top of a dangerous cliff.

The eaglet had been deserted, and they wanted to rescue it.

They asked the young son of their guide if they could lower him on a rope to fetch the little bird.

The boy was not at all enthusiastic about their plan, so he declined. They offered him money, then doubled it, but still the boy refused.

Finally, one of the scientists asked in despair: "Well, then, how do you propose that we save the baby eagle?"

The mountain boy replied: "I'd be glad to go down to rescue the bird for fre,e if you'll let my dad hold the rope."

 The boy knew his father, and trusted him.  He was willing to step out in faith – climbing down the side of that mountain, because he knew who was holding the rope to keep him safe.

So it was with Abraham and Sarah.  They trusted God.  Having moved from the well-known safety of their home and family to a new land, God had been with them and protected them through great trials.

God had not let them down.

And the promise to be parents of a great multitude of people – while long in coming – was a promise that they trusted.

GOD IS FAITHFUL, even when our faith falters.

Lesslie Newbigin, in his article:

Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty in Christian Discipleship states:

The confidence proper to a Christian, is not the confidence of one who claims possession of

demonstrable and indubitable knowledge.

It is the confidence of one who has heard and answered the call that comes from the God -

through whom and for whom all things were made:

"Follow me."

William Barclay

To the writer to the Hebrews faith is absolutely certain that what it believes is true and that what it expects will come.

It is not the hope which looks forward with wistful longing;

it is the hope which looks forward with utter conviction.

This Christian hope is such that it dictates all a human's conduct.

The Christian lives in it and they die in it; and it is the possession of it which makes the Christian act as they do.

It is belief in God against the world.

If we follow the world's standards we may well have ease and comfort and prosperity;

if we follow God's standards we may well have pain and loss and unpopularity.

It is the conviction of the Christian that it is better to suffer with God than to prosper with the world.

In the book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego are confronted with the choice of obeying Nebuchadnezzar and worshipping the king's image or obeying God and entering the fiery furnace.

Without hesitation they choose God (Daniel 3:1-30 ).

The Christian attitude is that in terms of eternity it is better to stake everything on God than to trust to the rewards of the world.

The Christian hope is belief in the spirit against the senses. The senses say to a person: "Take what you can touch and taste and handle and enjoy."

The senses tell us to grasp the thing of the moment;

 the spirit tells us that there is something far beyond that.

The Christian believes in the Spirit rather than the senses.

The Christian hope is belief in the future against the present

It is easy to argue: "Why should I refuse the pleasure of the moment for an uncertain future?"

The Christian answer is that the future is not uncertain

because it belongs to God;

and it is enough that God has commanded and that God has promised.

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to say that it was precisely because the great heroes of the faith lived on that principle that they were approved by God.

Every one of them refused what the world calls greatness and staked everything on God--and history proved them right.

What is God calling you to do today?

What is God calling you to be this week?

Where is God calling you to go this month?

Who is God calling you to embrace with God’s welcoming love this year?

Do not despair.  Do not falter. 

If God is calling, he will show you the way.

You may not know the end result – but, as Dr. King said: 

Take the first step.

You will not send the end of the stairway,

but God is not only at the END of the stairway –

God in Christ and his resurrection Spirit

is holding your hand to guide on the steps themselves.

Paul Milholland