Sermon preached during the 9am worship service on Sunday Feb 28th, 2021 by the rector, Rev. Steve.
May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
I want to begin this morning by thanking Kathy and Marston Watson for being our readers. We’ve begun to invite people to participate in the liturgy, by joining the zoom, which is fed to our Facebook page so that people can, once again, lend their voices and their faces and their fabulous backgrounds to our worship. While we continue to wait for a time when we can see one another gathered in person for that worship. So I want to say thanks to them for being willing to volunteer their time and give their devotion and their voice to our worship. And I want to, it being lent. I want to make a confession. My confession is this. When I sent the bulletin to Marston and Kathy earlier this week, I sent them the wrong bulletin, which means they read readings that are different than the ones that are printed in the bulletin that all of us are looking at the follow along with.
I’m not going to say they read the wrong readings. They just read different readings than the ones we’re looking at. They read the right readings because they read the ones I sent them. But even in that difference between the readings they read and the ones we followed along with something important is revealed about the lessons and about our worship this morning and on this occasion in particular, and that’s this one year ago was the second Sunday of lent approximately one year ago. This is the second Sunday of lent. Apparently every year in lent the readings that we hear involve Abraham and his journey, and a reflection from Paul about Abraham and his journey. The sum total of which are an invitation for us to consider. What does it mean to have faith? What does it mean to have faith? Both in the story of Abraham and in Paul’s reflecting on the story of Abraham, the central theme is faith, the faith of Abraham and the faith of God.
And I had intended to allude to, to refer back to the 12th chapter of Genesis, wherein the story of Abraham and his journey begins because the reading that was printed in the bulletin, a different one than the one that I sent to Kathy and was from the 17th chapter of Genesis wherein it says, God calls Abraham and says to him, go from your father’s house to a land that I will send you an I will make of you a great nation. And your offspring will be more numerous than the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore, et cetera, et cetera, peculiar. Isn’t it that the reading that Kathy offered for us from the 12th chapter of Genesis sounds a lot like the reading that we might’ve heard from the 17th chapter of Genesis, they echo each other. And the reason for that is this, the promise that God makes to Abraham and the journey to which God calls Abraham is not a straight shot from a to B.
If you go back and look at the 12th chapter of Genesis in verse one, it says, God called Abraham out of the land of earth. And he said these things to him, that’s verse one of chapter 12, what God promises Abraham is that he will dwell in the land of Canaan and there produce the story generations of offspring. That will be so numerous that no one can count them by about verse seven or eight. They’ve arrived in Canaan. You might think to yourself, wait a second. Doesn’t the story take longer than that? Well, it’s true. It does. But in about eight verses, the promise has been fulfilled and Abraham and his wife, Sarah have arrived in Canaan and are settled there. And then in verse 10, it says this, there was a famine in the land and Abraham and Sarah and their family had to leave for Egypt.
And they sojourned in Egypt for many years. And thus begins the long wandering meandering story of Abraham and his seeking the promise that God had made him faithfully pursuing the path that God had laid before him, even though it takes many chapters of the book of Genesis and many decades of Abraham’s life, it goes on and on and on and on. And the meaning of this story and the point for us is this, the journey that God calls us to the faith that God asks of us to trust in the promises of God is not a straight forward A-to-B journey. It’s not a single straight road with no obstacles, deviations, detours, or side quests, as the kids say. Sometimes in preparation for preaching, I’ll go up and walk the labyrinth at the top of the church’s property. And the labyrinth of course designed the way it’s designed to do demonstrate for us what a life of faith looks like.
It doesn’t go right from the entrance straight to the middle, which is the goal we seek and, or the promise that God has made us it winds around and around that around sometimes people call it a maze, but a labyrinth is different than a maze because in a maze you can actually get lost. There’s dead ends. There’s wrong turns. The point of the labyrinth is that even though it wanders, and even though it appears at times to be arriving at the center at the goal of the journey and then turns away and takes you seemingly so far away, that you feel like you’ll never get there. Even though it does all those things. It’s only one path, and it only leads to the center in this way. The labyrinth is like the promise of God. It may not be as simple, short, and direct as we would like it to be, but it always leads to what God has promised, the lives that God has given us the lives we are called to live. And the faith that we’re invited to respond to with our own faithful seeking is like that.
Now this past year, we’ve experienced an example of what that’s like, the clue that it was not the year that we thought it was going to be is in the mistake that I made sending Kathy and Marston the wrong bulletin. Because when I used my email program to attach a file and it opened up the little folder on my computer, where the bulletin’s live at the top of the list was lent to, and I selected that bulletin, attached it to my email and sent it to them. But my folder had the items in it ordered in order of the oldest one first and not the newest one first. So that means that lent two from a year ago was the first time we had to start emailing out bulletins to people because that was when we had to start worshiping through the internet like that.
Yes. And at the time we thought it was going to be a couple of weeks. It was mid-March. Easter was mid to late April last year and we thought, all right, Holy week is going to happen. This is a blip. We’ll have to put in things on hold for a couple of weeks. We’ve got some provisional resources. We can do this for a little while. It’ll be a straight shot from point a to point B and then we’ll be back where we want to be. Now, here it is a whole year later, we’ve been round a lot of curves and taken a lot of detours and being led far away from the place where we thought God was going to bring us and where we want to be. And maybe, maybe our faith has been tested.
Maybe our faith has been tried a little bit in this past year. Maybe there’ve been times when it’s been hard to believe that God is still leading us to a land of promise. Hence Paul’s reflection on the story of Abraham. What evidence did Abraham have that God’s promises were going to come true? Zero, zero evidence. That’s why Abraham’s entire project is a project of faith, his own faith, by which he continues to persevere along this incredibly meandering winding path, which includes by the way, the promise of children Haftar, he and Sarah are already in their eighties and have ceased the ability to bear children, all kinds of meandering, detours, and what Abraham discovers by his faithfulness is the Supreme reality of God’s faithfulness to us. There really is nothing that can interfere with God’s love for us, faithfulness towards us. As Paul reflects in the version of the story that Marston read, he brings life to the dead and calls into existence.
The things that do not exist, a detour such as the one that we are traveling on might be a hardship for us, but it’s nothing for God. And it’s no reason for God to stop loving us or stop being faithful to us. So the path, to walk it is for us to discover how to be more faithful and to discover by so doing how faithful God is to us. And of course, all this culminates for us who are Christians for us, who follow Jesus in the example, and the teachings of Jesus, himself, who in this morning’s gospel makes it as plain as he possibly can. That if we follow him, there’s going to be some hardship. There’s going to be some challenges. There’s going to be some days, maybe weeks, maybe months, maybe years, when we might feel a tinge of regret, we might wish we had not taken up our cross and followed him because it’s hard.
It’s hard to trust in the goodness of God when things feel dis-aggregated disconnected, painful, frightening. When we grieve, when we feel like we’ve lost so much, it is difficult to, to trust that this is in fact, the path that God has invited us on, which is why Jesus tries to make it as plain as he possibly can. So there’s no confusion. It’s not going to be a straight shot from a to B with no difficulties. And in fact, the stronger we grow in our faith, the greater, the challenges we will be met by because every victory of faith produces a new plateau, a new horizon, and a new height to ascend, to only calling us to greater, greater faithfulness and a greater discovery of the limitless faithfulness of God. This is our Lenten journey, but it’s also our lifelong journey and the degree to which we can embrace and celebrate lean on each other. As we’re able to walk together what we call, the Pilgrim way of lent, then our own faithfulness will always be met by God’s faithfulness until we grow and grow and grow into the beauty and the life and the courage and the Valor that God has given us and revealed to us in Jesus, whom we call Lord and savior and who leads us in the way.