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Pentecost 2, June 22, 2003
Faith -- the faith of a shepherd boy going against a giant, the faith to sing a song of deliverance in a dangerous world, the faith to claim Gods victory while experiencing earthly defeat -- Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? Jesus asks after intervening on behalf of the frightened disciples. Faith supporting action, faith inspiring celebration, faith informing reflection on pain and loss -- but when faith is frightened away being sure that Jesus in nearby -- thus sings our quartet from the Word of God for this Sunday.
Shall we celebrate the miracle of faith or lament the lack of it? What if David had missed? Hit Goliath in the nose? That makes a fifty-thousand-dollar putt by Tiger Woods seem just play. What if the Psalmist had been too occupied to show up for worship? What if Paul had said, The church is full of hypocrites. Im out of here. Then they had better wake up Jesus.
When a person is dying of cancer in spite of all prayer, is it their lack of faith or ours that is permitting death to advance? If I just had the faith... is a self-fulfilling statement. If you accuse your congregation of lacking faith (as Jesus did), you had better have the solution in hand (as Jesus did). We do better to remind our people of the faith we already have, and then remind them that faith is not our property.
In a dangerous world -- living this radically contingent existence -- getting up in the morning is an act of faith. People who keep loving others, who keep nurturing children and older people; people who stick with the political process, who keep working with the public schools, who see a better day for our cities are people of faith. People who keep moving forward and outward have faith. This is Gods gift. They didnt create it. Thats why I cant stand the implication that if one just prayed with faith the prayer would become magic; that is, working the effect we intend. Where exactly is this faith muscle? What do you squeeze inside yourself to create faith? Faith doesnt come from inside us; it comes from inside God. It is Gods gift to us.
There is one thing we can do to avail ourselves of faith though. Be sure we are in the same boat with Jesus. "Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." (Romans 6:45) People in the Corinthian church had hurt Paul deeply, but he never considered giving up on them or the church. Had Jesus not been rejected? "We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day." (1 Corinthians 4:10-13) So, shouldnt Paul give up on the Christian mission? No. "For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain." (Philippians 1:21)
Roland McGregor, Pastor
Asbury United Methodist Church, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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