Tag Archives: Faith

Hear, O Israel – October 11, 2015 (NL Week 5)

This sermon was composed and preached by Elysia McGill, a member of St. Paul’s who filled in for Pastor Andrew while he was on vacation. We apologize that audio is not available for this sermon, but we hope that you are blessed by it nonetheless. Our congregation certainly was.

Sunday’s Reading:
Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9

+ Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the Unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Today we gather in celebration, a celebration of welcoming a new sister in Christ through the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  It is a time for us to remember and reflect on our own baptisms and the promises that were made on our behalf.  It is a chance for us as members of St. Paul’s to reflect on how we are supporting each other through the baptismal promises.

In today’s reading there is so much to digest and take away.  The Commandments are at the heart of our lesson but honestly it’s not what caught my eye or my heart.  The last verse is what stuck with me.

One of my favorite ways to reflect on Bible passages is to use my Message version. So here it is from the Messgae, Chapter 6, verses 6-9.  Write these Commandments that I’ve given to you today on your hearts.  Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children.  Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street.  Talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.  Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder, inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

What a wonderful scripture for us on this day of Abby’s baptism!  As parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles and people of God and St. Paul’s, let us take a closer look at this passage.

We are charged with certain responsibilities when we bring our children to be baptized.  We are to live among God’s faithful people, place scripture in their hands and according to this passage, talk about God’s Commandments wherever we are.

Matt and I are not perfect parents by any means.  We have always tried to do right by our girls, providing for their needs, giving them opportunities and instilling good values that they hopefully will carry with them as they grow and eventually leave to make their own ways in the world.

We have brought them to church, Sunday School and talked with them about their faith lives.  In short, we are doing everything we can to give them a strong foundation to build their lives upon and pray that it is enough.

What we don’t do a great job about however is talking to our godchildren and other young people here at St. Paul’s about their faith lives.  As Lutherans I’ve discovered that we at times are reluctant to share and talk with each other about our faith and the good news of Jesus.  Through my work with the Nebraska Synodical Women’s Organization and the Women of the ELCA, I am trying to get better about talking and sharing my faith, but it’s scary.  We don’t want to be rejected or scorned for our beliefs.  Mady is probably going to kill me but she has actually inspired me with by her own faith journey.  She is not afraid to share the Gospel…ever.  If someone needs a prayer or to be prayed with, she’s your gal.  Through her actions, she is helping her sister find her own faith life and helping her dad and I guide our faith deeper.

So, how do we live out the baptismal promises?  We talk about the Commandments from the time we wake to the time we fall into bed at night.  We talk to our children and our godchildren and others at church about our faith.  We show our love of God with our whole hearts and not be ashamed or scared to show it!

Times have and are changing.  The Commandments haven’t changed but perhaps the way that we talk and discuss them needs to.  Maybe we need to make them more user friendly in order for our kids and those not familiar with the church and it’s teachings to understand.  We need to be prepared to tell them why we believe the way we do.  Don’t tell someone that they are wrong in their faith and beliefs, be tolerant of each other and enter into a discussion with them.  Perhaps you will gain new insight and perspective into your own faith.  By modeling these characteristics, our children will learn about God’s love first hand.

My dear Brothers and Sisters, take today as a new start in your faith journey.  If you’ve never prayed with your children, start.  Walk in the path that God has given you and you will have the life that He intends for you to have.

Remember to care for one another physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Pray for one another in good times and in bad.  Call your godchildren if you can, say a prayer for them.  Be encouraging of each other here at St. Paul’s and wherever you go.  Ask questions if you have them, don’t be ashamed of what you don’t know.

But most of all be proud and be bold in sharing and talking about your faith and the Gospel.  Never be ashamed of your love for Christ.

Abby, Izzy and Evie, and all of you little ones here today, we here at St. Paul’s love you and all that you do.  Today all of us gathered here promise to help you grow in your faith and teach you the best we can.  We also promise to learn from you, listen to your questions and comments and together grow in God’s love for us all.  May God’s love surround, comfort, strengthen and bless you all forever.  Amen

The Book of Hebrews: Week 5 – September 6, 2015

Sunday’s Reading:
Hebrews 11:1-12:2

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Sometimes I think we Christians have an “Old Testament problem”. That’s not true of all of us, of course, and it’s not true all the time, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that at least some of the time, we find ourselves struggling with the Hebrew Scriptures. At the most basic level, we modern and post-modern people tend to favor what is “new” over what is “old”, and so the way we’re accustomed to talking about the two testaments tends to lead us to prefer one over the other. On another level, because we think so highly of Jesus – for reasons that are both obvious and perfectly valid – we tend to think more highly of the parts of Scripture that refer more directly to him. By the same token, I think we find the descriptions of “church life” in Paul’s letters and instruction about the Christian life to be more compelling because they seem more applicable to our lives. When it comes down to it, I think the Old Testament gets short shrift in our thinking because we find it more difficult to connect with the stories of the people of Israel.

As people who sometimes have an Old Testament problem, we would do well to pay attention to what’s going on in today’s reading from Hebrews. That’s because we find in chapters eleven and twelve a compelling case that the Hebrew Scriptures are much more relevant to us than we often think. Far from being filled with stories about people whose experience with God is too distant from us, the Old Testament is brimming with stories about people whose lives are surprisingly similar to ours. The people highlighted in today’s reading are not extraordinary characters, but ordinary people who responded to God’s call on their lives and who found their lives transformed by that call. Some of these stories are more familiar than others: Abraham and Noah generally get more airtime than Abel and Enoch, and Jacob’s life is recounted in much more detail than Isaac’s or Sarah’s, and yet all of them are lifted up by the writer of Hebrews as examples of faith to be emulated.

Scripture records nothing about Abel except that he gives a sacrifice to God, and that his brother Cain kills him because he is upset that Abel’s sacrifice is found to be more acceptable than his own. The only things we learn about Enoch are that he was born, that he had some children, and that one day he was simply taken up to be with God. These two individuals don’t appear to do anything remarkable, and yet their stories are remembered because of how God was involved in their lives. We know more about the others – Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob – and what we learn about them is not that they are particularly remarkable people in themselves, but that they are chosen by God – sometimes despite themselves and their questionable characters – to fulfill some part of God’s purpose in the world, and that they respond in faith to the call that God places on their lives.

It’s important for us to note that the kind of faith they display is not simple or easy or convenient. It is a trust in God claimed over and over again amid the peaks and valleys of their lives – like the trust shown by Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, who step out in pursuit of promises whose fulfillment is long-delayed, leaving much behind in the process. It is a trust that God is able to bring the ordinary out of the extraordinary – as in the cases of Abel and Enoch, whose lives are mysteries that nevertheless testify to God’s care and concern even for those who are virtually unknown. It is a trust that echoes through the centuries, a trust that forms an unbroken chain linking us with those ancestors who heard God’s voice in many and various ways, a trust that carries us through times of uncertainty. It is a trust that lives in us because it has been passed down from generation to generation and continues to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit’s presence within us and around us.

It’s that last point – the point about this trusting faith that lives in us as much as it did in these noteworthy ancestors – that is perhaps the most remarkable. The writer of Hebrews is not merely trying to connect us with our forerunners in faith. He is making the claim that our lives are the continuation of a story that goes back to the beginning. Just as the stories of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and yes, Jesus, bear witness to God’s activity in the world, our stories bear witness to the fact that God is still speaking, still present to those who are being tested, still listening to and responding to the cries of the world, still receiving the prayers and praise of our earthly worship in the heavenly sanctuary. There’s both challenge and promise in that reality. The challenge, of course, is that we’re called not just to talk the talk – that is, to say or believe the right things about God in Christ – but to walk the walk (or, to use the metaphor in chapter twelve, to run the race). The nature of discipleship, after all, is to follow, and Jesus isn’t standing still. The promise, on the other hand, is that we’re not responsible for blazing the trail on our own. The path has already been forged by Christ and well-worn by countless saints who have walked it before us. More than that, the great cloud of witnesses who have already completed the course are now cheering us on from the sidelines, encouraging us by their own example, and pointing the way to the finish line where Christ awaits.

I started out today with the claim that we in the church sometimes struggle with an Old Testament problem. That’s a problem we need to face head-on, because next week we’re going to be diving back into the Old Testament part of the Narrative Lectionary. From September through mid-December, we’ll be making our way through the Hebrew Scriptures. Beginning with the Garden of Eden and moving through the words of the prophets, we’ll be exploring how God has moved in the lives of ordinary people to make the extraordinary possible. We’ll continue to see how those stories reverberate into our present and reveal the character of a God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. We’ll find our own stories mirrored in stories that were written centuries ago and worlds away. Most importantly, we’ll be blessed by the knowledge that God’s love and mercy and grace reach across time and space to envelope us and inspire us to be God’s people in the world even as they were poured out upon our ancestors in the faith. As we begin that journey anew next week, let us pray that our “Old Testament” problem might be transformed into an appreciation for God’s Word – a word that speaks from Genesis to Revelation and is always relevant! Thanks be to God! Amen.

Confessing the Faith – Week 1 – July 12, 2015

Sunday’s Reading:
1 John 1:1-10

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

These words comprise what is often called the first article of the Apostles’ Creed, the subject of the series we’ll be exploring over the next four weeks. The word “creed” comes to us from the Latin verb “credo”, which means “to believe” or to “profess”, and has most often been used by the Church throughout the centuries to refer to one of the statements of faith which were drafted by church leaders and theologians in the early centuries of Christianity and which, since that time, continue to be accepted by a large number of Christians throughout the world. The Apostles’ Creed probably didn’t assume the form in which we have it today until sometime in the fifth or sixth century, but, as the name implies, it contains statements about God that we can trace back to the days of the Twelve who walked with Jesus and received the commission to go out to baptize and teach the nations.

The text before us today is from the First Letter of “John”. Most scholars today would disagree, but it has been a common – though certainly not universal – belief throughout the centuries that this letter and the two that follow it were written by the same John who was called to be a disciple of Jesus in the first century. Whether that belief is true or not, this passage has something in common with the Apostles’ Creed: it claims a link with the earliest days of the Church, the days in which it was still possible to receive firsthand the testimony of people who had seen and heard and touched the Lord. Like the Apostles’ Creed, 1 John reminds us that what we talk about when we talk about God is not some distant or abstract concept, but a real, living, breathing, active presence in our world and in our lives. This is an important point, because all too often the Creeds seem to be nothing more than relics of a bygone era, dusty old words that once held significance but are now spoken as a nod to our less enlightened past. In truth, the Apostles’ Creed, which we recite weekly for the vast majority of the year, is not a quaint symbol from the past, but a powerful and consequential connection to the story that gives us life and binds us up with the Church throughout time and space.

So what difference does it make to profess this faith, this trust, this allegiance to God “the Father”, the “creator of heaven and earth”? Martin Luther, our forerunner in the faith, pointed out that this article of the Creed states clearly the fundamental distinction between God and the rest of creation. As much as we human beings assert our dominance over the affairs of the world, in the end God is God and we are not. As Christians, we find in this confession of faith a profound truth about God’s care and concern for us and for everything that has been made. Luther said as much in his explanation of the First Article in the Small Catechism, a book he wrote to serve as a guide to on-going religious education in the home:

I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property—along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.

At the risk of pulling us too far off course, I’d like to take a moment to point out that a belief in God as our creator does not require us to dismiss the contributions of science to our understanding of the world. Scripture and faith deal with questions of ultimate significance, purpose and intention, questions that science is ill equipped to handle. As such, it is my conviction that science and faith can (and should!) work in tandem. A Christian who wants to take both seriously might look at it this way: “Who brought creation into being? God. How did God do that? Through the processes, the phenomena, the complex web of life that we can observe and study in nature. Why did God do it? God only knows!”

That might seem like an unnecessary side trip in our exploration of the Creed, but I think engaging with such issues is a key part of ensuring that the Creeds remain a robust part of the life of faith. If we believe that God has given us all that we have, including the gift of reason and the drive for exploration and discovery, then surely the pursuit of knowledge through scientific inquiry cannot and should not be foreign to us as people of faith. On the contrary, we are compelled to seek deeper understanding of God and the world God made, for our sake and for the sake of the creation.

Besides this declaration of our understanding that God is our creator, the other aspect of this confession, of course, is the identification of God as “the Father almighty”. This is a really important point, because it speaks to the fact that we have been invited into a more intimate relationship with God than the one between creator and creature. As 1 John puts it, the testimony of Scripture and of the Apostles is that in Christ we are welcomed into fellowship with God, and that God desires to be united with us through God’s Son. We know that fellowship especially by the “means of grace” that form the center of our life together: the proclamation of the “word of life”; the regular practice of confessing our sins and hearing God’s promise of forgiveness and renewal; the life-giving meal we receive in the sacrament of Holy Communion; the fellowship we share with one another that strengthens us for life in the world; and, of course, the sacrament of Holy Baptism, which we will be celebrating and witnessing [tomorrow morning] in just a couple of minutes. By water and the Word, Quintin Donald Campbell will be welcomed into the family of God the Father almighty, who will claim him as a beloved child and join him to the crucified and risen life of Jesus Christ. Through that same water and Word, Quintin will receive the gifts of forgiveness and grace, and he will find a welcome in this community of faith, gathered around these signs of God’s power and presence and united in the confession of faith that grew out of the experience of the first people to bear the name of Christ. In that very real sense, we will all be witnesses to the Word today, and we will all be strengthened by our fellowship with the one who is light and who invites us to walk in the light by grace through faith today and every day.

Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice this day in the testimony of the apostles which continues to be our heritage in an age of constant change. Let us give thanks for the gift of Holy Baptism, by which we are called and claimed and sent out to serve God and our neighbors. Let us bless God for welcoming us into his glorious light this day and always. Finally, let us pray that, through the words of this Creed, we might bear witness to your power and presence in our lives and in the life of the world. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Elisha Heals Naaman (All Saints’) – Sunday, November 2, 2014 (NL Week 9)

Sunday’s Readings:
Complementary Text: Matthew 8:2-3
Preaching Text: 2 Kings 5:1-14

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Today’s text is in many respects well-summarized by the title on our lectionary inserts: “Elisha Heals Naaman”. Elisha was the prophet of the Lord, a task he inherited from his teacher, Elijah. He was called to proclaim the word of the Lord to the king of Israel, which was the nation comprised of the northern ten tribes that broke away from the kingdom of Judah after Solomon died in 922 BCE. The text before us today takes place around 100 years after the division of Israel and Judah, and concerns the great healing miracle that Elisha was able to accomplish for Naaman, a well-known and wildly successful general serving the army of Aram, Israel’s neighbor to the north. Naaman, despite his many great victories, was held back by the fact that he suffered from a debilitating skin disease. Our text calls it leprosy, but in reality it could have been one of any number of other diseases of the skin that often led people to ascribe sinfulness or uncleanness to those who suffered from them. After hearing about the healing power of the prophet Elisha from one of his servants, an Israelite girl captured in a raid, Naaman sent money to Jehoram, the king of Israel, in return for the healing that he expected to receive. Jehoram, of course, had no idea how he was going to be able to heal Naaman, and worried that the whole thing was nothing more than a pretext for the king of Aram to declare war on Israel. Elisha heard about his concern, and summoned Naaman to come to him, rather than to the king. When Naaman arrived, Elisha sent a messenger with his instructions, and the general was furious that he was not accorded the respect he felt he deserved. It wasn’t until Naaman’s servants pointed out how ridiculous his anger was that he followed the prophet’s instructions, washed seven times in the Jordan, and was cured of his leprosy.

I mentioned that the title given to this story is in many ways a good summary of the story, but in one very important aspect, it falls short. While most of the action in this story seems to center on the most powerful and influential figures – Naaman, the famous general; Elisha, the renowned prophet; Jehoram, the king of Israel; and Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram – a closer look at the narrative reveals that it is, in fact, the unnamed servants that move the story forward and help make this miracle possible. Consider this: without the Israelite girl who first told Naaman’s wife about the prophet Elisha, he may very well have suffered from leprosy for the rest of his life. Or consider this: Elisha never speaks directly with Naaman; instead, an unnamed messenger delivers the prophet’s message for him. Or, perhaps most importantly, consider this: when Naaman is ready to pack up in disgust and return to Aram without heeding the prophet’s call to go and wash, his servants dare to speak to him in his anger and give him that sage advice: “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13).

I think it’s significant that on this All Saints’ Sunday we hear a story of God’s power being displayed to the nations, and that the most compelling testimony to that power is made, not by the powerful and important, but by those who in most circumstances would be overlooked. I’ve mentioned often that I think we are too quick to use the language of saints for people that we regard as extraordinary, and too slow to use it for ourselves, especially when we regard ourselves as being decidedly ordinary. As we contemplate the power of the gospel this day, and as we call to mind the body of Christ that transcends time and space, I’d like to share with you this reflection on the significance of the communion of saints:

To those who know a little of Christian history probably the most moving of all the reflections it brings is not the thought of the great events and the well-remembered saints, but of those innumerable millions of entirely obscure faithful men and women, every one with his or her individual hopes and fears and joys and sorrows and loves – and sins and temptations and prayers – once every whit as vivid and alive as mine are now. They have left no slightest trace in this world, not even a name, but have passed to God utterly forgotten by men [sic]. Yet each of them once believed and prayed as I believe and pray, and found it hard and grew slack and sinned and repented and fell again. Each of them worshipped at the Eucharist, and found their thoughts wandering and tried again, and felt heavy and unresponsive and yet knew – just as really and pathetically as I do these things. There is a little ill-spelled ill-carved rustic epitaph of the fourth century from Asia Minor – ‘Here sleeps the blessed Chione, who has found Jerusalem for she prayed much.’ Not another word is known of Chione, some peasant woman who lived in that vanished world of Christian Anatolia. But how lovely if all that should survive after sixteen centuries were that one had prayed much, so that the neighbors who saw all one’s life were sure one must have found Jerusalem! What did the Sunday Eucharist in her village church every week for a life-time mean to the blessed Chione – and to the millions like her then, and every year since? The sheer stupendous quantity of the love of God which this ever repeated action has drawn from the obscure Christian multitudes though the centuries is in itself an overwhelming thought.*

Brothers and sisters, today we hear the story of our God acting powerfully in the life of a complete stranger, bringing healing and wholeness where before there had been suffering and shame. We call to mind our kindred throughout time and space who were joined to Christ and freed for lives of loving service as they heeded the call to “wash and be clean.” We rejoice as eight remarkable young men and women prepare to gather with us and all the saints around the Table of our Lord to receive a foretaste of the feast to come. We delight in the Word that sustains us in our time of need, calms our doubts and fears, and gives us the strength to be Christ’s body in the world each new day. Most of all, we celebrate the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power of his resurrection has won abundant and abiding life for us and for all the saints – past, present, and future. On this all Saints’ Sunday, as we remember those saints who have been so important to us – people who nurtured us and helped us to know and experience the love of God – let us also stand in awe of God’s grace in the lives of all those saints, both known and unknown, who helped the deposit of faith come to us, and let us celebrate the great gift of knowing God’s love through them so that we might pass it on to others. Thanks be to God! Amen.

*Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, Adam and Charles Black (London: 1945), 744-45.

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Lectionary 19) – Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday’s Readings:
1 Kings 19:9-18
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. +

 You can’t blame the disciples for being at least a little freaked out. It’s true that at least a few of them were seasoned fishermen who were likely well acquainted with the sudden storms that swept across the Galilean lake from time to time. It’s also true that those fishermen were no strangers to being out on the water in the middle of the night, working late to try to bring in a big catch so that they could relax during the hotter daylight hours. Matthew even tells the tale of another instance in which the disciples were caught out in a boat on a rough sea and needed a little divine intervention to get them out of that difficult spot. This wouldn’t have been uncharted territory for the disciples if not for one crucial fact: during this late-night voyage, Jesus wasn’t in the boat. He wasn’t even in the neighborhood. For all they knew, Jesus was still miles away, and they were trapped on a boat that was being tossed around like a rag doll. In fact, the original Greek text seems to indicate that this was no ordinary storm; the words used to describe the plight of the disciples and their boat are the same ones used to describe the experience of people who are being tormented by demons or evil spirits. That’s the situation faced by these twelve men: in the darkest part of the night, sometime between 3am and 6am, they were being thrown about by a storm, when through the mist they spotted the faint outline of a figure walking across the water toward them. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I would have reacted much the same way that those disciples did: with fear and trembling.

The disciples had no way of knowing that the shadowy figure that was approaching them on the waves was Jesus. That is, of course, until Jesus addressed them: “Take heart! It’s me! Don’t be afraid!” It’s exactly the kind of thing you’d expect Jesus to say, and yet the circumstances were just too extreme to allow them to believe that it was really him. At least not without a test. So Peter opened up his big mouth and asked for a sign: Lord, if it really is you, order me to come to you on the water! Jesus indulged him: Come on, then! And he did. He stepped out of the boat, got a few steps into his walk toward Jesus, then remembered where he was and plummeted into the crashing waves. It’s a wonder he was able to say anything at all, but he somehow managed to sputter, Lord, save me! Wouldn’t you know it? Jesus did just that. He reached down, dragged him out of the water and into the boat, and then climbed in himself. It was only then that the wind ceased, the waves begin to calm, and the disciples could make their way back to land.

So often when this story is read it turns into a sort of object lesson: Be like Peter, but not too much! Take that first step out of the boat, but keep your eyes fixed on Jesus or you’re going ot be in real trouble! We read the Lord’s response to Peter’s flailing and sinking as accusatory: You of little faith, why did you doubt? And subconsciously we convince ourselves that the problems we face are somehow our own fault, as if having more faith would prevent us from being buffeted about by the storms that sweep into our own lives from time to time and knock us off our feet. I think I’ve even preached this text that way before! I’m not sure, however, that that’s a helpful way to read this story. Consider this: There was no relationship between the disciples’ faith and the storm that threatened to overwhelm them. They were simply following the command of their teacher when it hit, and they tried everything in their power to navigate on their own. The storm just happened. So is there anything to learn about faith from this story? I think so, but I think what we have to learn less about the quality of our own faith and more about the kind of God who calls us to trust. In that earlier story I mentioned, when the disciples needed Jesus to bail them out of another storm, they responded when he spoke to the waves by asking, “What kind of man is this that the wind and the waves obey him?” We might ask the same sort of questions today. What kind of man is this? What kind of God is this? Scripture testifies that the God who calls us to faith is a God who isn’t content to leave us alone in the midst of the chaos. This God is the one who strides across and through the waves to speak words of peace and strength to us: Take heart! It’s me! Don’t be afraid! This God is the one who came to live among us in the person of Jesus Christ, taking on our humanity and bearing our experience in all its heart-warming bliss and gut-wrenching sorrow into the very presence of God. This God is the one who suffered cross and grave and rose again so that we might be free to trust in God and not in ourselves.

Yes, we are called to faith. But our faith is often weak. We are tossed about by the changes and chances of life, by inexpressible joys and sighs too deep for words. Only one person in human history has demonstrated perfect obedience to the will of God, perfect faith in the one we call Father, and he did not escape this world’s brokenness any more than any of us have. That doesn’t mean that faith is irrelevant or insignificant, but that what makes our faith meaningful is not how much of it we have or don’t have. Instead, what makes our faith meaningful is remembering the object of our faith, the one to whom we have been joined, the one who claims us for lives of costly service and priceless love and grace. It is that we have been bound up with Christ, the one who meets us in our need and speaks, not with a voice that shatters mountains or shakes the earth, but with a voice that carries through the storm: Take heart. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.

Brothers and sisters, today we are gathered in the presence of the one who promises to meet us when the waves threaten and offers us peace unlike any that this world can give. As we go out this week into an uncertain world, may the song on our lips speak not of the weakness of our own faith, but of Jesus, who calls us to trust and grants us the faith to proclaim: On Christ, the solid rock, we stand; all other ground is sinking sand! Thanks be to God! Amen.