October 29, 2006

Looking Forward to November 5, 2006 -- 22nd Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Ruth 1:1-18
  • Psalm 146 (VU p.868)
  • From the Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

The Hymns for the service are:

  • 326 O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  • Let There be Peace on Earth (Insert)
  • 660 How Firm a Foundation
  • 675 Will Your Anchor Hold

During Children's Time we will be looking at Remembering and Peacemaking in honour of Remembrance day coming up.

The Sermon title is In God We Trust? and is based on a devotional on Psalm 146 Gord wrote for Ordinary Time (this devotional makes up this week's Early Thoughts)

Early Thoughts: “Be still and know that I am God.” “Let go and let God.” “In God we trust.” In the end it is all about trust. The life of faith that is. In the end being faithful relies on our ability to trust in God rather than (or perhaps as well as) in ourselves and the people around us. That is what the Psalmist says here. The works of human beings will come to nothing but trust in God “who keeps faith forever”.

But that is easy to write a poem about. It is easy to write a sermon about. It is even easy to write a devotion about. What is hard is to do it. In the end, when the foot hits the pavement, it is terribly hard to “let go and let God”. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells his listeners not to worry about food or clothing. “Look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field” he says, “God provides what they need, how much more will God provide for God’s children”. But still we worry, still we find it hard to trust in God.

Actually let’s be honest. Some days it is awfully hard to trust anyone. People still ask of course. What is an election campaign but a bunch of people saying “trust us, we know what is right”? Or then there are television commercials, which may be more subtle but still tell us to trust that this product will make our lives better. Or then there are the closer ones, the friends and loved ones who ask us to trust them with our own hopes and fears and lives. So we take the plunge, we put our trust in a government, or in a company, or in a person. And sometimes it works so we go on to trust some more. But sometimes we get burned. And when we get burned badly or often enough we give up on trust. We join the Psalmist in proclaiming Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish (verse 4). Maybe that is why we find it hard to trust God, because we have given up on trust in general.

Or maybe it is because we don’t like to give up control. Maybe that is why it is so hard to trust both in God and in the world. To trust someone else means giving up a degree of control. The deeper the trust the more control we give up. Part of growing up, we are often told, is taking charge of your own life. The goal of life, we are often told, is to be able to control our own destiny. Putting our trust in God, who has an annoying habit of turning the world upside down, goes against this idea of being in control. On second thought, maybe that is actually the whole point.

Maybe the point is that we don’t need to be in control. Maybe the point of life is that we actually aren’t in control. The Psalm claims that trusting in God is the path to happiness. Trusting in God who turns the world upside down is the path to happiness. Some people claim that we can trust in God because God has a plan, because God is knows what will happen next. I actually don’t agree. I believe that God has a hope, but that our free will frustrates and diverts God’s hope. Free will keeps God guessing about what will come next. I believe we can trust in God because God sees the big picture, because God is in it for the long haul.

Julian of Norwich is famous for her declaration of trust in God: “all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing be well”. That can be seen as a terribly unrealistic hope, as something only a fool believes, as a “there, there, it will be ok”. But Julian lived in a world that made it almost impossible to be a Pollyanna. Julian lived at a time of plague and revolt and warfare. She knew the troubles of the world but she also had trust in God. Her “all shall be well” was a long-term vision. In the end God will bring things back together. God is in it for the long haul and God is trustworthy, and God will make all manner of thing be well.

One of the challenges of trusting other people, or governments, or corporations, or even ourselves, is that we all tend to look at life in the short-term. We tend to work for our own benefit, not always realizing that what looks good now may come back to hurt us later. One of the challenges of trusting God is that God calls us to do things that just don’t make sense in the short-term. God disrupts our comfort with a vague promise of something better to come. But in the end, that is what makes me trust God. I can trust God because God is working for the time when all shall be well.

One of the classic images of God is that of a loving parent. A loving parent is trustworthy because she works for the long-term health and well being of her child. A loving parent is trustworthy because he is willing to say “you may not like this but it is for the best”. God, our loving Parent, is trustworthy not because we get what we want right away. God is trustworthy because through God, in many different ways, we get what we need. We get real justice (eventually), we get true freedom (eventually), we get food for body and soul (whether we recognize it or not). Thanks and praise to God who is in it for the long haul, who keeps faith forever!

And so we pray:
Creator and Creating God, it is so easy to be cynical. It is so easy to believe that trust is a fool’s game. Help us to remember that we are not alone, that we don’t have to do it all ourselves. Help us learn to trust You in all the ways that we meet You. We pray that in taking the risk to trust You, to trust our neighbour, to trust ourselves, we can move one step closer to the time when all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing be well. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gord! Beautiful words for early in the week. Trust is an issue I struggle with, personally, because I LOVE to be in control (illusion), so I very much appreciate your gently kind and insightful approach.