Sermons from Rev Julie Wagstaff
Sunday 21st February
As part of my preparation for what I was going to talk about today I googled the word trust ..... these are a few of the definitions I found:
· trust is belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective.
· trust is the biggest weakness in the human race.
· trust is the firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something
· trust is a dangerous concept.
But actually trust is more than just believing - it is believing in spite of the evidence we are currently being presented with, something we hold to despite what appears to be the case.
As Christians, we are, of course, not asked to believe in something but someone – the creator of all that is, seen and unseen ....... AND to believe that the someone is actually three persons. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
What is it that enables us to believe in such a mystery – something that even the most learned scholars struggle to explain in understandable terms.
Well, Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthian church that ‘a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them’. 1 Corinthians 2.16 and ‘the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ 1 Corinthians 1.18
Our faith then is really the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
We are not asked to have blind faith – that is simply believing what we are told to believe ..... we are asked to have faith based upon our own experiences of what God has already done for us – remember last week’s reading from Deuteronomy when Moses reminded the Israelites of all that God had been and done for them, before he urged them to keep the commandments set for them and always keep God paramount. How much more do we have to base our faith and trust on – The cross of Jesus Christ and all that the Holy Spirit teaches us.
As John 3.16 tells us:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3.16
Today’s readings speak of trusting in the promises of God in the face of overwhelming odds.
In the OT reading we listen in to a conversation between Abram - he is yet to be called Abraham - and God. Abram has demonstrated a remarkable trust in God – leaving his home, family and security and setting out for an unknown destination. He has a very close relationship with God and trusts him enough to be honest in expressing his feelings about not having a son and heir.
God has told Abram that that his descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the sky and Abram despite his old age and that of his wife Sarai, believed him and was counted as righteous by God. He trusted God because of his faith in what he already knew of God through his relationship with him.
We can find comfort that there are times when even Abraham’s trust falters. He has already tried to pass Sarah off as his sister when their journey took them into Egypt and, after accepting that God will give him an heir, in the very next chapter we are told that he makes the mistake of trying to give God a bit of help in this department and creates a son with Hagar, Sarah’s servant .... and Ishmael is born.
Nevertheless, Abraham is to go on to demonstrate his complete trust in God when he prepares Isaac for sacrifice. He doesn’t question what he believes God is asking of him but accepts that God knows what he is doing and trusts Him to keep his promise.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul is challenging us to trust in God’s promises, he urges his readers that just as Abraham trusted that God will give him a son, so we too must trust in the bigger promise.
Not to get so caught up in our day to day cares and worries or indeed of our comforts and security, that we lose sight of that promise. It’s very easy to do that, especially when life is throwing us curved balls – as Ian would say – or when we begin to feel self sufficient.
Sometimes it’s almost overwhelmingly difficult to trust. When, for example, we are helpless in the face of catastrophe - but it’s then we need to remember just how much God loves us, what he has done for us and that he is always with us. If we turn to him at such times and not away from him then we will come through our experience with our faith and trust stronger as a result.
And if we do turn away from God and rely upon our own devices, He is always ready to forgive, to welcome us back when we repent – that is re-turn – and look toward Him once again – just as He did with Abraham. Just as the father did in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son.
Our gospel reading brings us to Jesus, to his trust in God. He is heading for Jerusalem and the cross. Remember He is doing this in his humanity. He is able to do this only because of his trust in God, through the Holy Spirit. He knows he has come from the Father and will return to him.
Despite the hatred and violence, betrayal and desertion, the humiliation and agony, he trusts in God. And God keeps his promise. Three days later Jesus is alive again. In the words of Jane Williams ‘nothing is to deter Jesus from the necessary path to Jerusalem and the cross; nothing is to deter God from what he has bound himself to on our behalf.
We all enjoy an individual and unique relationship with God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit and it is essential that we commit to that relationship. Spending time in prayer – talking to God. Spending time in silence – listening to God.
It is also essential that we come together, each as a unique part of Christ’s body, meeting together in worship and fellowship. Encouraging one another, supporting one another, sharing with each other, learning from one another, loving one another and seeking reassurance from the scriptures.
So that if and when we are faced with circumstances that suggest our faith and trust are unfounded, we have a solid foundation upon which to stand – wise men and women who have built their house upon the rock.
To go back to the definitions of trust that claim it is a weakness and a dangerous concept – in a way they are right. It is only through admitting to ourselves that we are weak, admitting that it is only through God’s grace that we can be anything at all and opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit that we are able to begin to 3believe and trust.
And a dangerous concept ..... oh yes. Becoming a follower of Christ means trusting in God as Jesus did – it stands to reason then that our path in life may not always be smooth but the bigger promise is that we will enjoy eternal life in God’s Kingdom, living as part of the creation he always intended, where there will be no more tears or suffering.