Walking by Faith

June 19, 2012 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III, STS

Pentecost 3/Proper 6B (Lectionary 11)

St Stephen Lutheran Church

June 16/17, 2012

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Around here the Lutheran camp of choice is Camp Lutherlyn,

but I spent my camping summers at a place called Camp Nawakwa,

nestled amidst the apple orchards of Adams County north of Gettysburg.

During my college years, I was a counselor there for two summers.

But whether you went to Camp Lutherlyn, Camp Nawakwa,

or some other camp,

you might have participated in something like this.

Under the supervision of a counselor,

a camper would be blindfolded,

and then asked to navigate some sort of outdoor or indoor obstacle course,

relying only on the leading of another camper’s guiding by hand or voice commands.

 

You remember. That sort of thing was called a ‘trust walk.’

It was an old standby for Bible studies when we counselors didn’t know what else to do

or we didn’t like or understand the lesson we were supposed to be teaching.

The lesson of course, was that when we can’t see what was in front of us,

we have to trust our guide.

We have to have faith in the person leading us.

Later, of course, we counselors would explain

that this is what living as a Christian is like.

We can’t see the road ahead,

but God will lead us, and he won’t steer us wrong,

he won’t let us fall.

as long as we trust him and have faith in him.

 

It’s a good lesson,

but frankly, life is a lot longer of a trust walk

than five to ten minutes in a controlled environment.

After the trust walk, the campers would take the blindfolds off.

As Christians living a real life, we don’t get to do that.

At whatever stage we are in our life’s journey,

we don’t get a glimpse into the future,

we are only surrounded by our present.

And that present can be like a blindfold,

either lulling us to sleep or terrifying us beyond measure.

 

We run the danger of being lulled to sleep

when our present seems secure.

We forget that we are sinners in need of grace,

we forget that we are living in the shadow of death,

and we forget that there is evil in this world

that is too great for us to overcome on our own.

But if life seems too big to overcome on our own,

if our problems catch up to us,

if our sin convicts us,

and if we walk in the valley of the shadow of death,

we may very well be terrified beyond measure.

We may turn to other gods who promise that they will show us the future,

so that we may navigate the present.

 

I drive by a sign on the way to the church and back.

It advertises for ‘Palm and Tarot Readings,’

pointing you to a place where someone will supposedly unfog the future for you,

make you aware of dangers and point out how to avoid them

and make life work out for you.

Perhaps this is not a place that most of us would frequent.

Perhaps we simply live with the anxiety,

dulling it in some way by distracting ourselves with work or play,

or our legal or illegal drug of choice,

and seeking to bring some measure of control over our lives

by what means we have at our disposal.

 

On his last Sunday in the congregation,

a colleague of mine who recently retired from parish ministry

preached on the topic of worry.

He said that it was his besetting sin,

and went on to explain that worry is a form of Satanic prayer.

If prayer is Spirit-filled participation

in the relationship of trust that Jesus has with his Father,

then worry is to sin against the first Commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods.’

I’m not talking about a healthy concern

for taking care of problems when they arise or before they occur,

but the unhealthy anxiety that so many of us have when faced with things beyond our control.

A heart that worries does not trust God’s provision.

A heart that worries does not believe God when he says, ‘You are my child.’

If we realize we have a heart that worries,

about our prospects for the future, about our loved one’s prospects for the future,

or about the Church’s prospects for the future,

that’s a good thing!

We are then ready to hear, again or for the first time, the Gospel that sets us free.

 

St Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘We walk by faith and not by sight.’

The Spirit of faith animates St Paul and his companions.

When they mourn that the world still does not acknowledge God,

that they still deal with the effects of sin in their lives,

that they still wait to see the God in whom they believe revealed in glory,

they walk by faith and not by sight.

A life that only lives in the present is blinded by what it can see,

whether what it can see is pleasant or unpleasant.

The life that begins to live by trust in God’s promise

begins to see that the present is illuminated by God’s promised future in Christ.

‘From now on,’ St Paul says, ‘we regard no one from a human point of view,’

or better yet, ‘according to the flesh.’

What matters is not so much what we see with our two eyes,

but what we see with God’s eyes of faith:

the new creation which is in Jesus Christ.

Then in a world that shows us false abundance we can look with clear eyes

upon the suffering God takes upon himself in Christ.

Then in a world of suffering and brokenness

we can look in faith upon the abundance of the new creation,

the kingdom of God which has come in Christ

and will one day be revealed in all its splendor.

 

This new creation, says Jesus, is ‘like a mustard seed,’

from seeming insignificance, it will be revealed as glorious.

It does not come about by our work,

but by God’s work.

When God’s Word is spoken and heard

the Spirit brings people to faith and trust

in what the Father has done for them in Jesus.

 

By the way, I got to spend time with that retired pastor I talked about.

I had never seen him so relaxed, so content,

so released from the worries that had beset him,

when he was so concerned with what was blinding him to God’s reality.

But even if we don’t see that peace in our lives at the moment

or in any future moment,

we are not to lose heart.

We are to keep gazing in trust at the promised future in Jesus.

We can rely upon that future,

the future that illuminates our present

and reveals the Kingdom there,

hidden, but silently growing,

waiting for God to reap the harvest of righteousness and peace.

 

Amen

 

 

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Sermon Pentecost 2B – Redefining Power and Family Reversing the Curse (July 1, 2012)

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