During this week prior to Holy Week, I will be posting each of my five Lenten sermons today through Saturday and again this year, I used some Lenten resources from Creative Communications for the Parish. This year’s material was title Thy Will be Done. I hope that you will enjoy these messages as a prelude to Holy Week and Easter.
Who Do You Trust?
(God’s Will and God’s Promise:Abram and Isaac)
The Gallup Organization conducts an annual poll asking people what institutions they have confidence it and here is a graphic of the differences between the 2016 and 2017 polls (2018 poll has yet to be taken.)
The Military was number one with 72% of those surveyed having confidence in the military
Small Business was number two with 70%
Police was number three with 57%
The Church/Organized Religion was fourth with 41%
And the US Supreme Court was fifth with 40%
It will be interesting to see what the poll this year indicates.
How would you answer if you were called and asked who do you have the most confidence it?
Would any of us say Jesus Christ or would we indicate one of these categories?
Who do you trust the most these days?
A few weeks ago, I was asked to explain what Lent was to some of the kids here at church. I didn’t do a very good job as the puzzled looks on their faces indicated they had no idea what I was talking about.
This word Lent is familiar to some of us in this room this morning as we grew up in a church and faith tradition that celebrated Lent, Advent, Epiphany, and a host of other seasons of the Christian calendar. The rest of us heard little about Lent other than from perhaps our Catholic friends who ate a lot of fish.
Let me offer this simple definition of Lent for us this year:
Lent is a season of reflection when we take time to look at our lives in light of Christ’s death and resurrection and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and shine the light of God’s grace and hope in and on us.
And I still like what Joan Chittister has to say about Lent:
Lent requires me, as a Christian, to stop for a while, to reflect again on what is going on in me. I am challenged again to decide whether I, myself, do truly believe that Jesus is the Christ – and if I believe, whether I will live accordingly when I can no longer hear the song of angels in my life and the star of Bethlehem has grown dim for me. Lent is not a ritual. It is time given to think seriously about who Jesus is for us, to renew our faith from the inside out.
It is not a time to be morbid, nor dark, nor depressed, although we may experience these moments as we go through this season.
It is time to think about, think through what we believe in, IF we believe in Jesus Christ and if we do, what is it that we need to “give up” to fully follow the Lord.
So as we go through this season of Lent, I would encourage us to pray a modified version of the prayer that I shared with you last fall, a prayer that I think the Lord wants to answer.
I use the word obediently here because the theme for this year’s Lenten series is Thy will be done. It reflects the challenge which Jesus faced as the time neared for His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. All four of the gospel accounts (the first four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) include the story of Jesus’ agonizing prayer as the final minutes of His freedom faded away.
Three times, alone, in an agony that is hard to understand, Jesus prays, …”not as I will, but as you will.” In other words, “If there is any other way to redeem the human race other than this way, Father God, please make it happen. Otherwise, if this is Your way, the Only Way, then I will do what I must do.”
To me the prayer that Jesus prayed in these moments is the hardest prayer to pray. To pray God’s will be done, for God’s purpose and plan, to be done is very, very hard because it requires of us the willingness to surrender our plans and purposes our hopes and dreams and in some cases our very lives, and embrace God’s plans and purposes.
And in the stories that we will hear these next several weeks, we will see how God’s will is a good thing, not a bad thing. A hard thing at times, yes, yes it is. But ultimately, it is the right thing, the liberating thing, the life giving thing to do.
And a key attitude we also need to have in this process of praying, and living, out this prayer, “Your will, not my will, be done,” is the issue of trust.
Trust is a part of the people we will take time to study over the next several weeks.
There is Moses – whose felt inadequacies to lead, whose forty years on the run as a fugitive murderer, caused him to not just trust himself but to trust this God who has revealed himself to Moses.
There is Mary – who is told that she will give birth to a boy, who is the Messiah, who will save His people from their sins, in an incredible way different than normal conception. Her trust is deep and immediate.
There is David – chosen to be the second king of Israel even as the first king of Israel seeks to kill him. A renown warrior and a beloved leader, he takes a man’s life as a cover up to taking that same man’s wife and being confronted by a prophet. Trust seems to come and go in David’s life.
And we find this issue of trust in the story of Abraham and Issac.
We have heard our main text for this morning, Hebrews 11:8-19 and I will simply refer to various verses and phrases in this passage throughout the rest of this message. But do you recall what Isaac said in his monologue this morning?
What I saw in his eyes at that moment took away my doubts. What I saw wasn’t fear on his face, or at least, it wasn’t only fear. I also saw love. I saw pride. But above all, I saw trust…
Trust is vital to faith – in God or in people. Trust is required to believe in, to have faith in.
Our main text for this morning says…
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”
I think that one of the things that Sister Joan hints at in her comments I just read is trust:
I am challenged again to decide whether I, myself, do truly believe that Jesus is the Christ – and if I believe, whether I will live accordingly when I can no longer hear the song of angels in my life and the star of Bethlehem has grown dim for me.
As we begin this season of Lent I ask myself and I ask all of us:
I conclude with Genesis 22:5
He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
It is what Abraham says to his servants before only he and Isaac head up to the place of sacrifice. It is a statement of trust in God…study it for a moment…and when you think you get why it is a statement of trust in God, raise your hand, and if possible, keep it raised.
Here it is…
Let us choose to say “thy will be done” as our confirmation of our trust in the Lord.
(Quotes from Character Dialogues by Justin Rossow. © 2018 Creative Communications for the Parish, a division of Bayard, Inc., 1564 Fencorp Dr., Fenton, MO 63026. 800-325-9414. http://www.creativecommunications.com.)