Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Sermon- June 8, 2008

"And A Little Child Shall Lead Me"
Gen. 12:1-9 ; Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
June 8, 2008
Lake Harriet Christian Church
Minneapolis, MN

About a month ago, Daniel (my partner) and I were in Grand Forks to visit his brother and sister. We stayed at his sister's house in Grand Forks and decided to take her kids, our nephews, Alex and Issac to breakfast. Daniel took Alex in his Smart Car and since that car is a two-seater, I borrowed his sister Christine's car and drove little Issac.

On the way back, Issac was excited, telling me about the new house they were going to move into. He wanted to show me where the house was. I was a little wary, since I didn't think a five-year old would know how to get to this new place. But I relented and decided to listen to him, knowing that if he couldn't figure it out, I knew Grand Forks well enough to get back to their current house.

So, I listened and allowed a five year old in a booster seat in the back give me directions. "Turn here," he would say, I would do as told. "Turn here." Within a short amount of time, he said "Here it is!" Lo and behold, we were in front of the new house and he began talking about where his new room would be in the house. I was amazed that this little kid had been paying attention so well, to be able to tell his near 40 year old uncle how to get to his future home.

His mother and father now have an organic GPS system, at least until said system turns 18.

What was so interesting about this little adventure is that I basically placed my life, or at least that little spec of my life, in the hands of someone that hadn't even entered kindergarten yet. I had no idea where we were going and if we were even going to get our chosen destination. It was truly a journey of faith.

Today in Genesis, we are introduced to Abraham. Here was this "mature" person, living in somewhere in or around modern Iraq. He has a wife and is just living normal life. Then out of nowhere, he hears the voice of God who calls him to pull up stakes from his comfortable life and move to a new place where God will make him the father of a nation.

Did I mention that has 75 years old and his wife Sarah was no spring chicken either.

The thing is, he does what God tells him. He leaves all that is familiar and moves to where God tells him to go. A man in his mid-70s begins a journey of a lifetime, at time when most people think the journey is over.

When I was younger, I remember hearing about this story and about what a great example Abraham was. When God called, he just took off and did what God said. I have to say that bothered me. I didn't like this view of Abraham (still don't) because it wasn't real to me. I didn't understand how one could marvel at someone who never questioned or doubted if this was the right move or even wondered what in the world he was doing. I mean, if I were in his shoes, I would have some questions. Here I am at an advanced age, being asked to move to some place I've never been and expected to be the father of a nation when my wife is way, way past childbearing age. To paraphrase Dickens, I would be wondering if this was all the result of undigested food.

I have no idea how Abraham responded, but we know he listened to God. He took a step of faith, not knowing how everything was going to turn out, but trusting God's promises.

In our Gospel reading, we encounter two examples of faith. Matthew the tax collector, who was called by Jesus to follow him and the woman with an issue of blood, who believed that if she just touched Jesus; garment, then she would be healed.

All of these stories give us insight into what faith means. We hear that word a lot in our culture, but in many cases we really don't know what it means. In some cases we think faith is something we possess, meaning if we have enough of it, everything will be okay. For others, faith is about adhering to certain doctrines or creeds. If we believe in this doctrine or that creed, then we have faith. But in today's stories, we don't see either example of faith. What we see here is people who are trying to trust God, step by step.

The other thing that is notable is that for Abraham, faith isn't a one-time event, but a process, a journey. It's a journey where there will be setbacks and wrong turns, but it continues. It's a journey where we follow God, step by step, even though we don't have all the answers.

Our own journey of faith is one where God is calling us out from the familiar and into new territories. And we will make wrong turns, but the journey of faith continues on. When I was in college, faith was presented to me as having the answers to all of life's questions. I don't know if I ever believed that. Faith isn't about certainty or having all the answers. Instead, it is about believing even though you have questions. It's about even living into those questions, knowing that God is with us every step of the way.

Faith is not only taking those uncertain steps, but it is also acting as if we have nothing left to lose. I want for you for a moment to look at the illustration on the front of your bulletins. To me, if there is an image of what faith is, then this is it. You see a picture of a hand reaching towards a man. His back is turned to the hand, he can't see what is happening behind him. You can feel that there is a sense of desperation behind this person's hand. It looks as if the person has nothing to lose in the way the hand is reaching out.

This picture is showing us the story of the woman in today's gospel. The woman has spent years spending money and going to doctors to be healed. And now she hears of this rabbi that can heal people. She doesn't even want to face him, since she is considered unclean. All she wants to do is simply touch his clothing. She believes if she can do this, she will be healed of her sickness. In Matthew, she doesn't even get that far, when Jesus turns around and says, her faith has made her well, and you know what? It did.

Faith is about taking journeys and about taking risks. If we expect faith to be safe, then it isn't faith.

For the past year, this congregation has been on a journey. It seems at times that we are walking without a map and we wonder if we will ever arrive. But maybe, being on the journey is the point. Maybe we are to have faith that God will do something with this small band and not be so concerned "arriving," whatever that means.

To follow Jesus doesn't mean that we have arrived. We haven't. Instead, what it means is that day by day, we take step by step, not knowing where God will take us, but knowing that God will be with us and changing us more into God's likeness.

I am reminded of a song I heard nearly twenty years ago. The song is called "Sometimes Step by Step" and it's by the contemporary Christian artist, the late Rich Mullins. Many churches have made the chorus into a song in and of itself and it has been sung in churches far and wide. The chorus goes like this:

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Step by step. That's what faith is all about. We take one step, not sure of where God is leading us. And we take another and another. And like Abraham, we will get off course at times. We will stumble. But because of the grace of God, we can get back on track and follow God, step by step, learning to follow the ways of Jesus, learning to be in relationship with God and with each other.

When I was younger, I believed faith was something that you had to have in massive quantities. I was always worried that I didn't believe enough. But in the end, faith is not about believing enough, it's about trusting God and acting like there is nothing to lose, because God is with us.

It's ironic that the person leading me around Grand Forks, was named Issac, the name of the promised child of Abraham. It was by placing trust in this little one that made the journey interesting.

May it be so with us. Amen.

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