Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Most of the time the world doesn't much care what God or the Church says. But when a natural disaster like hurricane or tornado happens or a tragedy like a Newtown or Boston, then everyone wants to know why God would allow it to happen. Maybe we don't want God nosing around in our private lives but we do expect answers. So religion and God have become the place of last resort to answer what bothers us and to make sure we are still good with God.
When we banish God from the public square except in emergency it is not God who suffers. We shut ourselves off from the power of His grace to overcome fear. It is not God who needs to come to us but we who need repentance – the acknowledgment of our failed and fickle will before God's gracious and good will. What God seeks of us is not that we understand Him but that we trust Him. We trust Him not when we have no choice but always.
Today we heard the call of faith one more time. Faith is not some course of last resort when all else fails but the path of life when we think we can see clearly and seem in control of our lives. Faith not for emergencies but for life. Abram was childless and getting old. His hope of a future were fading fast. He could not see how his future could change. But in the midst of this despair, God came to him with a vision of the future Abram's eyes could not see. It was a future he could own only by trusting in the Word of the Lord.
Abram barely saw the Lord and he could see nothing of the future. He was lonely and surrounded by his fears and his enemies. He was just like you and I are. He did not want to trust what he could not see. He wanted to see before he took the great leap of faith. Yet he took the Lord at His Word. Hebrews tells us that it is precisely this that counted Abram righteous before the Lord. And history tells us that this trust was not misplaced. From one man and him as good as dead the Lord brought forth descendants as many as the stars of the heaven and the sand of the seashore. Abram's eyes lived not to see the many but only to see one son yet by faith he saw the whole of God’s future because He trusted in the Lord’s promise.
In the Gospel Jesus calls the anxious and fearful to look around. Life is more than food and the body more than clothing. The birds of the air and the flowers of the field are anxious about nothing and have nothing but today. Yet God feeds them, clothes them, and cares for them. You are of infinitely greater value to him than birds or grass, so why do you live with anxiety, fear, doubt, and worry? Do you think that God who supplies all the earth will abandon you in your need?
Fear not, says Jesus. The good and gracious will of God has prevailed. He has given you the Kingdom. He has given you the kingdom in your baptism – His greatest treasure. Here is all you need for life and for eternal life. God is no “what if”; He is the because of faith. We know this God through the story of Abraham. We saw the Word of the Lord unfold through time until the promise of a son resulted in a nation and this nation brought forth THE Son, God’s Son, and our Savior, the Son of God in human flesh and blood. Scripture is the story of promise given and promise kept. It is not that you have nothing to hold onto, you have the Word and promise of God, yesterday and today. You have Abraham’s story.
Just because you cannot see the outcome or even the hand of God at work does not mean God is absent. Nobody needs faith or God when you can see the ending. It is when you grope in the darkness that you need the light. Faith is not a what if. Faith is a because. We trust in the Lord because His promises were kept and the promise He has given us in Christ is sure.
This is the God whom we know in Christ. This is the God who has cared for us in all our needs, redeemed us apart from our merits or worth, and who still acts in mercy over us and for us. Fear does not drive us to God; hope invites us. Each week we come here as people bidden by hope, by the story of what God has done, and the promise of our own future sealed by the Spirit in our baptism into Christ.
Nature’s beauty lies not in the picture of it all but in the wonder of the God who cares for that which means nothing. The beauty we see in nature is the hand of God at work, reminding us that if He cares for these things that come and go, how much more does He care for you and me, for whom Christ died and in whom God has invested the very blood of His only Son.
God is no stranger to us. We approach Him not with fear and trepidation – as a last resort. No one trusts a stranger. It is the first lesson parents teach their children – never trust a stranger. But God is no stranger to us. That is the next lesson we teach our children. God is no stranger. This is why we have Sunday school and Bible study – that we might come to know God through His Word, the God whose friendship was sealed in the blood of His Son on Calvary. We trust in God's good will because we have seen that will – in the promises made and kept to Abraham and Sarah, in the care for the grass and flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, and in the eternal cross on which His love shines like a beacon to fearful and lost sinners. We know God as trustworthy friend. We learned this from saints like Abraham. They have taught us our faith is not misplaced. We see it in the cross, in this font, in the voice of absolution, and in this Table. This is the God who keeps His promises. Trust in Him and you will not be disappointed.
Fear not, little, flock. For it is Your Heavenly Father's good pleasure to give You the kingdom. As once He gave it to Abraham in the promise of what was to come. As once He gave it through His Son, the promise fulfilled. As He continues to give that promise in our baptism, in the absolution of our sins, in the proclamation of His Word, and in the bread and wine that is Christ's body and blood.
He is not ashamed to be called our God. We come here each week and by our very attendance we acknowledge that we are not ashamed to call Him our God. Let us not exchange this confident joy for the darkness of fear, doubt, anxiety, and worry. Let us not allow our trust to waver. Keep your eyes upon Jesus. Look at the world around you as Christ bids you to look – Consider the birds of the air... the flowers of the field... the promise of God to people like Abraham... the incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus... Fear not, for the Father has chosen to give you the Kingdom and all things in Christ. This is what we eat and drink with joy at this Table – the promise that is our food, our joy, and our delight. Amen.