Monday, April 9, 2012

Faith From God
Sermon by Jonathan Firme

I am here this morning, again, to talk with you about faith. It seems this is a popular theme for me to get when I speak to you. I have talked about the faith we needed to get us through our hard time, commended you on the faith it took to pass an aggressive budget. I even discussed my faith in a football team winning the super bowl! I really feel like standing up here, trying to convince you all to have faith would be like, well, preaching to the choir. I want to talk about a slightly different kind of faith.
We have to have some understanding of what faith even is. If we look at the reading from Hebrews, and I am using The Message here, it says:
   The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.
     So, according to a very reliable source, faith is a trust in God .
I often consult the dictionary when tackling questions like this, and Merriam-Webster states that faith is firm belief in something for which there is no proof”. Hmmm, that is interesting.
    Perhaps my favorite is from Kahlil Gibran, who said , “Faith is a knowledge of the heart, beyond the reach of proof.”
     If we weave all these ideas together, we have a better understanding of what faith might be. Having faith in something, in our case, God, is a fundamental belief, is independent of proof, or, for that matter disproof, that we know to be true in our very soul. There is nothing you could show me that would cause me to stop having faith in God.
Just in case you are missing Steven this morning, I want to share a movie I recently watched.
     There is a scene where Chris is in a homeless shelter, at a worship service. He is in tears, holding his son close to him. This one scene made me think. He is able to get through all this because he has faith that he will succeed in order to provide for his son. That thought made me think again.
Does God share in this faith? Did God have faith that Chris Gardner would prevail? I think so. I started thinking, is faith one of those 2 way streets.
      Let me share a prayer by Thomas Merton, "My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone"
      Merton says that his desire to please God, pleases God. Just like Chris Gardner in the movie Pursuit of Happyness, he takes comfort, knowing that what he is trying to do is right. And though there may be times when we don't quite know which way to go, we know that God will lead us along the right path. More importantly, if we have a desire to please God, God will help point us in the right direction. Sometimes this may require a kick in the seat of the pants, as it did with me, but God is not above doing that.
       Of course, for this to happen, you have to be open to the idea of God, and trust in him completely.
     Mother Teresa famously said, “I know that God will never give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much.”
     I know that God asks a lot of us. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming. But, doesn't the fact that we are asked in the first place indicate that God, indeed, has faith in us to get through?
     Didn't God have faith in Job?
     Don't we all have faith that our children will be able to use what we taught them to get through life and be successful? Doesn't God have faith in us, his children?
     I ran it past one of my summer coworkers, and she said, “No.” No, it was not faith. God cannot have faith in us, because we are not worthy of his love. We flawed, somehow, in our very creation, and therefore, we do not deserve to be loved by God, perhaps not anyone. Take comfort in the fact that God loves you anyway.
     We even had a guest speaker come in here one Sunday and tell us that we are all sinners, not worthy of God's love.
     That doesn't comfort me! That belief is not what got Chris Gardner out of a homeless shelter and into a better life for his son! I don't believe that. I cannot believe that. I cannot believe that God would create us, love us no matter what, give up his very own son for us, offer us eternal life if we have faith in him and love him, if we were not worthy of it! If we didn't deserve it! I do not think that is a healthy way to start out your belief system.
     God created man, human, kind. God gave us all free will. Why did he do that? We could all be hard wired to be exactly the same religion, the same beliefs. That would make is a lot easier for God, wouldn't it? There would be no sinners, no sin. Instead, we have free will. He gave us the ability to stray from his pasture, because he believes in us! He loves us, and he has faith that we will return to him. God believes, beyond the reach of proof, that we will serve him, as we were created to do. God has faith in us! I thought that was a very empowering idea!
     I wasn't sure about helping with Sunday school when I first moved to Wyoming, but God believed I could do it. I wasn't sure about presenting talk about it time, but God was. I certainly never thought I could get up here and speak to a congregation. God, however, believed in me, and that gave me the strength to do it. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. God, who has faith in me!
     There are people in here who work with children, and you know that you cannot tell a child they are worthless, and expect anything good from them. There are people here who work with adults, and the same thing applies. We all absolutely deserve to be loved by God, otherwise, he wouldn't love us and take care of us.
     John Shelby Spong, during a seminar in Chicago, said, “Self denigration is a regular, and a major part of human worship, and it is never healthy.”
Wow! I like that! A God who allows us to be human beings without fear. A God who knows that we have to travel along the path of our life to be completed, to be rounded out, to put the finishing touches on what he created us to be. A God who empowers us to go out and experience the world, because he has faith in his creation. God has faith that we will have faith in him!
     I told you about Dr. Suess writing Cat in the Cat because he wasn't afraid to fail. Imagine what you could do! Think of yourself simply as an incomplete body of work, and set about the business of completing yourself, in the image of God, with the assistance of God himself every step of the way.
     When starting 7th grade, kindergarten, college, a new job, retirement, buying a house, moving, running a church without a pastor, all these things that life brings to our feet, knowing that God has faith in us to do it right, and that he will be there if we don't, is an awesome feeling!
     Spong continues, “We need a religion of wholeness that empowers us to be deeply and fully human, that calls us beyond the limits of our fears, beyond the limits of our survival mentality. To stop thinking of ourselves as fallen sinners who need to be saved and to begin to see ourselves as incomplete human beings who need to be called more deeply and fully into life.”
       God is calling us to be more deeply human. Remember Thomas Merton's prayer? Nor do I really know myself,” he not a complete human being, not a finished piece of work. “and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.” though he tries to please God, he may not succeed entirely “But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” God is pleased because we are trying, not punishing us for failing! God knows that we will fail on occasion, because we are incomplete. He accepts that in us, and has faith that we can become more complete.
     God wants you to test the limits of what being human means to us.
     Jesus Christ was fully human. Are you?
     Move beyond fears and self imposed limits. God has faith in our ability to do this. God has faith in you, believe it or not, like it or not. And if you have faith in God, you will begin to believe that you can do anything you set your mind to, because Christ strengthens you.

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