|Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on February 27, 2013 at 1:40 PM|
Genesis 15:15:1-12, 17-18
So, those of you who were here last week- we talked a lot about trust. And how Jesus was really good at it and how we stink at it a whole lot of the time. And we talked about how freeing and amazing it would be if we could trust God with our lives, our stress, our insecurities and all the rest of the stuff that is too much for us to carry. And we got a chance to think about one thing that we do trust God with and what a blessing that is. And we got to thin about how we might train ourselves to trust God with a little more in the future.
So, how’s that working out? Did bringing to mind how good it might be to trust God make any difference? For me it did cause me to think more about trust and think about how I should trust more, but it didn’t get me all the way there. I still need a little more help on that so I figured we could go back to talking about trust this week.
So, who do you think of as a hero of the faith? Someone that you look to when you’re struggling to trust God? Maybe you look to people like Mother Teresa or a grandmother or a friend- someone who seems to never waver when it comes to following what God wants of them.
I have a few people that come to mind as heroes of the faith- people that trust so well that I hope to be like them someday. But I’ve got a bit of insecurity, so I must admit that sometimes I like my faith heroes and mentors to be a little flawed, a little more like me. They give me a little more hope when I struggle.
That’s why I like Abraham. He was gung ho and impetuous and daring in trusting God and would go full speed ahead, kind of like Peter, and then he’d stop, kind of like when the roadrunner stopped running when he realized there was no ground below him. And then, the roadrunner and Abraham dropped like a rock.
God promised Abraham that he would have a land and he would have more descendants than he could count. That was pretty much the dream back then- our version of being famous, having a great house and having a statue built in our honor after we die. It was an awesome promise, but not one that’s really easy to believe unless you’re pretty arrogant.
But Abraham wanted to believe it. He wanted to trust this God who he had known in the desert. So he trusted like the best of them at first. He uprooted his family and started heading toward the land God had promised him. But then he realized what he had done- we risked it all on a voice he heard. And now he was in the midst of people he didn’t know who may hurt him. So, he freaks out and passes his wife off as his sister and lets her get to know the king better because he’s not completely sure that God’s going to keep him safe among all these strangers. Strike 1 for Abraham.
But God (and the king) set Abraham straight- a little knock to the head- and he’s off to trusting again. Well, he’s walking to the Promised Land and all, but he’s still not sold on this promise of God quite yet. And that’s where we meet him in the lesson from Genesis. We get to hear him pestering God with those questions that he’s asked over and over again. “So, you said I’d have descendants, but you know I don’t have a kid, right?” And “You said you’d give me a land, but I’ve been walking for like 5 years and nothing. So, about that. . .” I’m working on this trust thing, but you’re not making it easy. How about a little sign?
You know the feeling? Trying to trust that God’s got a hold on us when crappy thing after crappy thing keeps happening. Or trying to trust that God has a plan for our future when doors keep closing in our faces? How are we supposed to have faith when we can’t see any proof that the promise is real? How do we keep on trusting when we’re discouraged and frustrated and when everything seems to say that promise won’t come true?
If Abraham’s any indication, we start bugging God in these moments. That seems to be allowed. Sometimes the church gives folks the impression that we should be strong enough to trust God without ever questioning. And I’m thankful that in this space and in our ministry, we understand although that would be awesome, it’s probably not going to happen. Questions are going to be a part of our faith and instead of being a problem, those questions are simply opportunities to continue a conversation with God.
Because did you notice what happens when Abraham asks questions? He’s not reprimanded for his unbelief. Instead, God takes Abraham’s questions as an opportunity to show up. Abraham doesn’t get yelled at for doubting. Instead, God brings him outside to say, “Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.” God spoke the promises back to Abraham and gave him a sign in the sky that he could remember every night.
And then God does some weird God-stuff, asking Abraham to set up a bunch of animals as if he’s going to sacrifice them. And after Abraham spends an afternoon chasing vultures away from them, a flaming torch appears to pass through the animals as a sign of God’s promises. A sign that God can be counted on to be faithful. And as weird as it was, every time Abraham closes his eyes he can see again that flaming torch sealing the promise that God gave him.
So, maybe we’re not into trippy visions much, but a little Old Testament-like, dazzling God-display would be nice, wouldn’t it? Not that we wouldn’t doubt it, too, but really, it would be nice to get a little reassurance every time we doubted or questioned. We’d like to have something to hold onto to help us with that trust thing.
God promises us the Holy Spirit to guide us, but seeing a good tongue of fire dancing on someone’s head would be a nice assurance that the Spirit wasn’t just our imagination. And God promises us forgiveness and love, but it might be a bit more convincing if it were said in a booming God voice as the heavens were ripped open. It would be nice to have something to cling to and know for sure. Something to help us when our trust is shot.
But we don’t choose what God gives us to hold onto. Abraham didn’t choose a vision of the stars or a flaming sword vision. He simply had the opportunity to trust what he’d been given. And so do we- we get the choice of clinging to the simple, holy things that God gives us.
It seems too simple and too churchy and too trite at times, but God gives us water and bread and wine. Regular things that are signs of God’s greatest promises. Things so abundant that we’ll run into them over and over again throughout our days. Things so ordinary and yet so filled with promise that we cling to them for our very life when we are hopeless and questioning.
In baptism, our God called us by name and promised us that we will always be a child of God. Always. No matter what we do. God united that promise to the water so that the two would become one. God chose to use water, something that we touch every day. God chose something so basic so that every time we wash our hands or jump in the pool or wash the dishes we could feel that reminder of God’s gracious calling of us. When we cannot trust that we are God’s treasured child because of all the things we’ve done wrong, God invites us to trust the water. When we cannot trust that God calls us beloved because of how others have rejected us, we can reach out to trust the water. When we cannot believe that God has a hold on us when things are terrible, we can trace that cross on our foreheads and trust the water.
And God chose to be connected to the most wonderful of ordinary things- breaking bread and sharing wine and a meal with our brothers and sisters in Christ. But for all those under 21-folk or those who choose not to drink, Christ can be remembered when we share any other festive drink together- whether it’s sparkling apple juice at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving or Cheerwine with friends from camp.) Christ bound the promise of his presence to a joyful, holy, celebration meal. To the great goodness of bread and drink.
So when we are lonely, so lonely that it feels that like no one can fill that emptiness in us, Jesus invites us to hold this bread and know we are in the presence of one that dearly loves us. And when we are broken and destroyed with guilt, we can feel that grape juice on our throats and trust God’s forgiveness even when we cannot forgive ourselves. And when life is overwhelming and it seems like too much, we can touch that bread and know that we are invited into a meal and a community and a love that has no end. When we cannot trust the promises alone, we can hold that bread and that cup and feel God’s promises to us. And as we go about our days, we can touch all bread and drink as a reminder of the joyful meal we share here.
In this life we will have moments of weakness, we will have times that our faith is slippery and there are far more questions than answers. But in those moments especially, God comes to us to answer us. To give us something to hold onto. It may not be what we would choose to trust in, but it is holy and good. And it is something that we can cling to to help us trust God’s promises. So, people of God, I invite you to dare to trust the water. Trust the bread and drink. Trust the community that gathers around it. And dare again to trust the One who is always faithful.