Faith

On August 11, 2019, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Faith Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Hebrews 11 Let us dwell together in peace, let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. I have heard […]

Faith
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Hebrews 11

Let us dwell together in peace, let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken, may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

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

I have heard so much bad theology based on that line.
I had a friend who sold Cadillacs in the 80s in the Southwest. In my friend’s town there was a famous preacher who used to tell people that they should spend money as if they had it even if the bank account was empty. Their faith would provide the needed funds. Especially, the preacher added, if they tithed to his ministry. So, give a real check to his ministry, then write a faith check to someone else, andGod would magically cover all the transactions. My friend said faith checks were bouncing all over Tulsa and many a Cadillac was repossessed because the finance company didn’t care about faith checks as much as actual, legal tender.

Now, you and I both know that churches need money to do ministry and I want you to give generously, consistently, and joyfully as a spiritual practice and because you believe in the work of this church. But I don’t promise you anything other than good work and possibly a good feeling for your contributions. I believe most tithers feel blessed, but stewardship isn’t a cosmic lottery. Give for the love of giving, and for the hope of a Cadillac.

Faith isn’t magic.
Faith isn’t uncritical acceptance of dogma.
Faith is, very simply, trust.

But the anonymous writer of the epistle to a Hebrew community is specifically referring to trust in a divine presence.
That’s it. The writer is asking us to trust that there’s not a spot where God is not.
The writer is asking us to trust that God is all-inclusive, unconditional, everlasting love, a love that will not and cannot let us go.

The writer is not promising us Cadillacs or wish fulfillment. The writer is trying to assure us that no matter what happens, in good times and bad times, God is with us as a loving presence.

When things look terrible, faith tells us that the unseen God is real and is with us and isn’t leaving us alone with our disappointments and hurts.

Faith is the evidence that God is with us, not matter what is happening in our lives.

The writer brings up heroes from various legends and myths of the religious tradition. He interprets and applies them awkwardly, but what he is pointing out is that the heroes of sacred story were all on journeys. They faced the unknown, they faced difficulties and disappointments, some of them had grand visions that were not realized in their lifetimes, but they were faithful because they trusted that God was with them on the journey and would be forever. And where God is, joy is always possible.

We can’t control every situation in life.
We can influence many of them, we can choose how we respond to them, and we can trust that there will be joy on the journey, and that the journey is leading us forward into realms of infinite possibilities.
Don’t write a faith check, but trust that no matter what the bank balance says, God is with you to give you peace, hope, and joy. And with those gifs, you can probably build up that bank balance.

Now I am not telling you to not hope or work for any good thing in life. Pray for opportunities, pray for wisdom, pray for guidance, pray for resilience, pray for peace, pray for joy…apply for the job, work to improve your credit, start the diet, take the class, try the medicine…nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Hope, try, pray, work, wait..and perhaps blessings will result. But faith isn’t what made the blessings show up…faith is what reminded you that you were God’s beloved child no matter what happened.

Faith is the trust that whether or not things go my way, ultimately, all is well.

Such trust often frees us up to achieve what we desire…but hope, work, good timing, random chance all work together to make the good things happen…Faith is the trust that until the good things happen and even if they do not, I am part of God, loved by God, forever in God’s presence and therefore, all is well.

No matter what the doctor tells you, no matter what the financial advisor says, no matter what things look like, I will hope with and for you that things improve. But if they do not, it is not because you lacked faith. No, on the contrary, you can have faith that says God is good, I am one with God and therefore I am good, no matter what occurs in the realm of experience.
I used to have a friend who respond to every disappointment with the phrase, “Praise the Lord anyway.” That’s faith. When it goes my way and when it doesn’t, I will find something to be thankful for, some reason to rejoice.

Multiple times, I have prayed with people who were too sick to live but too afraid to die. They thought God was angry with them, that God would reject them. I have prayed with them and spoken with them trying to be a witness to the trustworthiness of God. And when they finally trusted that God’s love included them without condition of any kind, I have seen them make a peaceful transition.

A few times, its been the parents or grandparents of a gay or lesbian or transgender person who was afraid to die. They weren’t afraid for themselves, but they didn’t want to go because they were afraid that their Queer loved one would be rejected by God, and they didn’t want to leave them. And more than once those dear loved ones have come to trust the goodness of God and have said, “I am ready to go now, because I now know that God will not reject my child.”

With Elsie MacKay we can trust that we are one with God, and therefore peace and love and joyful living are possible. We are one with the goodness of God and we can trust that goodness at all times.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that trust in divine goodness is evidence that goodness exists.

But the writer of a letter to a group in Ephesus makes it even clearer.
That writer tells us in Ephesians 4.6 that there is “one God of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
God for, with, and in you. How could you ever be lost or separated from an omnipresent God?

And Ephesians 2.8 tells us, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God…”

Salvation is wholeness, or liberation, or well-being. You have been liberated, made whole…you are alright. This is God’s gift of grace.
By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is God’s gift.

That verse has been used to suggest that if you have enough faith, that God would be okay with you…but that’s not grace; that’s an exchange. That’s commerce.

No, by grace (something freely given) you have been made whole and wonderful and delightful and worthy of God’s goodness, through God’s faith in you.

God trusts us to be how God ministers to the world.
God trusts us to be conduits through which divine love might flow.
God’s faith in us wasn’t something we earned, it was a free gift, grace.
We are the face and hands of God, we are God’s love in action because God trusts us with the task.
We are made from God, by God, and we are filled with God…and so it is that we are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.

We are saved from needless fear by God’s gracious trust in us to be God’s body in this world. A God who so trusts us, can be trusted by us.

Trust in God’s goodness is evidence of our own. That’s the message of Hebrews 11.
People entrusted with the very goodness of God can heal the world. This is the reality of my faith, and this is the good news. Amen.

God for me,
God with me,
God in me,
I trust in your goodness.
I Am abundantly blessed.
Alleluia!
Amen.

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