In my attempt to catch up on Blogging, here is my sermon from two Sundays ago.
“Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
I speak with you this day in the name of God the adventurer, Christ the faithful one, and the ever present Holy Spirit. Amen!
Two Sundays ago I left for a week of continuing education in the Black Hills of South Dakota. My wife and I had the pleasure of working as small group facilitators for a peer ministry camp of high school students. I love working camps because you usually get to work with some the most dedicated and talented people on the planet. This week was no exception. I would like to tell you about a few of these amazingly faithful people.
First, there is Lyle Griner. Lyle is the National Peer Ministry Coordinator for the Youth and Family Institute. But those fancy titles don’t really tell you that much about Lyle. It is more descriptive to say that Lyle is a person of deep long lasting faith. A man who has given himself not only to believing in an unseen God, not only to following the guidance and nudging of the Holy Spirit, but also to passing on the faith the generations that follow. He is passionate about stories, especially stories of faith, which has given him a keen sense that the stories we share with each other are the ones that form us. Consequently, his life’s work is to give tools and skills to youth and adults to share our faith, to tell the shaping stories of our lives that in turn shape those around us.
Next there is Dick Borrud. Dick and his wife Cynthia privately own and operate Lee Valley ranch the camp where we were staying. Dick is a 75-year-old semi-retired Lutheran pastor. As the saying goes, “he has been there and done that.” He’s been a campus chaplain, a children’s television host, pastor, and preacher. At 75, he led us on a hike one day up some steep large hills in that thin mountain air. I swear to you, none of the youth or the adults could keep up. He had to keep stopping and telling stories so that we could all catch our breath.
It was during one of these story times that he told us the story of his mother. She was a cheerleader who married her college running back hero when she was 18. At 19, she gave birth to her one and only child. At this point, with a 75-year-old catch in his voice, Dick tells of his mother’s death from complications of bringing him into the world. He looks us straight in the eye and tells us that he wishes to live a life worth dying for; he wishes each and every day that his actions are worthy of the sacrifice his mother made. Maintaining that unwavering gaze, he reminds us that Christ died too so that we might live. In memory of the sacrifices of both his mother and Christ, Dick challenged us to live a life worth dying for.
Finally, I want to tell you about Joel and Aimee’ Pakan. They are the husband and wife team that make up the band Tangled Blue. Joel plays guitar and Aimee’ assorted percussion. They both sing and take turns driving the 2001 Volkswagen Euro van, which has been their home for over 270,000 miles. These self-professed church geeks, travel across the country singing, working with youth, and proclaiming the grace of God by their lives and music. Now, don’t think for a second that they are a couple of deadbeat musicians living in a van down by the river, that they don’t work for a living. You do not survive 270,000 miles in a van with another person, especially your spouse, without hard work and dedication. You do not become the virtuoso musicians and songwriters that they are without logging hours upon hours of practice.
What is more important then their work ethic and commitment, however, is their faith. They intrinsically understand our Gospel message today. Where your treasure is, where you put your physical and material resources, is where your heart will be. They have placed their faith in an unseen God. They are assured of things hoped for in the conviction of things unseen because they seek the Kingdom first trusting that all the things, the house, the car, the clothes, the food, will be added unto them in God’s time. Indeed the assurance of their faith is enshrined in the words of one of my favorite songs of theirs entitled No Matter What. It goes:
No matter what,
No matter what may come
No matter what may come, I will not let you go!
Seed blown by the wind, buried in winter and frozen.
Remember the water that graced your head, rain in the
spring that brings life from the dead.
This season will pass but My promise will remain.
No matter what,
No matter what may come,
No matter what may come,
I will not let you go!
Joel and Aimee’, Dick and Cynthia, Lyle: these are the people I want to be like when and if I ever grow up.
Now, I do not highlight these old and new friends of mine simply to brag about how cool my friends are…well maybe a little, but that’s not the whole reason. The writer of Hebrews writes today of Abraham’s faith in hopes of inspiring the newly faithful to discipleship, to living a life in response to the gracious life, death, and Resurrection of Christ. We all need examples of faith to follow; what the writer of Hebrews in another passage calls the great cloud of witnesses, what we here at 9302 Blondo call All Saints.
Here’s the skinny though, we need these examples of faith to inspire us to stay the course, run the whole race, remind us of the joy of a life lived for Christ, and keep us mindful of our areas of where we need to grow. We, also, are called to be examples of faith, to be that great cloud of witnesses. [Tomorrow] we will baptize Karen Kalilangwe into the body Christ. This is not a private action. We do it in the middle of our services, in the middle of the community to highlight our responsibility. It is our responsibility to support her in faith, to be that great cloud of witnesses that forms her in the life of Christ.
Our responsibility does not stop with the members of All Saints, however. It continues to all in our neighborhood, our city, our state, nation, and world. We cannot sit here and claim to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls and our neighbors as ourselves as long as there are empty pews in our church and violence in our streets. We cannot and should not be comfortable, to think the work is done and we have earned a rest. As the passionate witness, St. Francis of Assisi said:
• Where there is hatred, we must sow love;
• where there is injury, we must pardon;
• where there is doubt, we must share our faith;
• where there is despair, we must be a beacon of hope;
• where there is darkness, we must shine our light;
• and where there is sadness, we must bring joy.
My Brothers and Sisters, it is my hope that you and I will go the way of saints before us, living lives of worthy response to the gospel. It is my hope that we let it be known that this building does not belong to us; rather it is a house of God. Let it be know in all the world that at this table none are turned away. Here at God’s altar all are fed not with the temporal food of this world that will leave us hungry again, but with the righteous, life giving food of the Body and Blood of Christ broken and poured out for us so that we may never hunger as we are the body and blood of Christ in the world. Amen!