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Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our October 2 Services

October 4, 2016

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Embedded below are the 4 videos we showed on our screens to prepare for worship at our 10 a.m. Services on October 2.

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[Embedded below are adapted portions of my sermon at both Services.]

I’d like to begin this sermon with a video about trust:

I’m moved by the skunk’s trust – coming to the man and not spraying him (and the man’s, also – there’s vulnerability on both sides)! Speaking of trust and animals, trust is epitomized for me by the picture at the top of this posting, on our screens, and on our Order of Service cover, of a kitten sleeping in a person’s hand.  

I’d like to look together at trust in our relationship with God.

Let’s start with today’s Gospel.

In verses 1-4 of this passage, Jesus tells his disciples to live out the Commandment to love by caring for the poor and needy and forgiving their brothers and sisters.

increaseourfaithThe disciples’ respond to the Lord by saying in verse 5: “Increase our faith!” At first glance, this seems to be expressing humility. But when you think about it, what they’re really saying is: “This is too hard for us. Increase our faith. Make it easier. If you don’t, then we won’t do this (care for the poor and forgive in this instance – though the same reasoning could be used about anything challenging in lived-out discipleship). We’re not spiritually advanced enough; we’re just humble ‘beginners’ in the school of discipleship.”

The Lord wasn’t impressed by this. In verse 6, he replies: “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed [proverbial for tininess], you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

faith_of_a_mustard_seed__luke_17_6__by_tylerneyens-d895rki.pngIn other words, Jesus says to them: “It’s got nothing to do with lack of faith. It’s not too hard for you. It’s not a lack of ability on your part, it’s lack of willingness. This tree is immovable to the degree that you’re unwilling to move it. You don’t want me to set you free in this. You can do this; you just don’t want to!”

I’m reminded of G. K. Chesterton‘s words: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

I also remember these words by Joel Barker: “A leader is someone you choose to follow to a place you would not go by yourself.”

To follow when we we’re not sure we really want to, is a call to trust.

This truth is set before us in today’s Epistle.

Writing from prison, the Apostle Paul calls his “beloved child” Timothy to follow courageously as a disciple past his comfort and ability.

“Join with me in suffering for the Gospel,” Paul writes in verse 8, “relying on the power of God.”  

soaring-eagle-ray-downingIn other words, Paul is saying: “Don’t try to stand on tip toe to keep your nose above water. Plunge in! Rely not on your own strength, but on God’s. [To change the analogy:] Don’t merely run through life; spread your wings, and let the Breath of God make you soar!”

He adds: “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” God is with us and within us. We have God’s life, power, and Breath inside!

The Apostle speaks these same words to us. All of us, too, are called to be agents of Good News. 

51nhsd0j1qlI read this past week of two women from Waco, Texas who followed in Paul’s footsteps (which followed those of Our Lord himself). In their book Prisoners of Hope: The Story of Our Captivity and Freedom in Afghanistan, Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer tell of the great burden on their heart they felt to go to Afghanistan to serve the poor and oppressed – especially women and children. They write: “If Jesus lived among the poor and dying, the widowed and orphaned, then we, too, wanted to live among such people. We knew we did not have to go to Afghanistan to serve the poor — Waco, Texas, is home to plenty of people without adequate means to live. We wanted to go to Afghanistan because we knew few others were willing to do so.” They both went there and began to serve the poor. They were arrested and put in prison by the Taliban in August 2001, and freed when the regime changed. They then chose to go back, to live the rest of their lives serving there among the people they had come to love.

In a 2009 interview, Heather Mercer said these words about her experience, and faith and trust in following:

Her testimony is so similar to Paul’s in verses 11-12: “For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12 and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.”

cc90e948264f8ee93f2e3f560560ad9cHeather has come to know the One in whom she has put her trust. She’s come to  the conviction in the core of her being that we belong to God, and God to us, in a relationship of love that begins now and has no end. Our lives are not our own, but God’s. Our one desire is for all that we are and all that we have to give God glory. (In our October stewardship focus at St. Paul’s, we’ll especially remember this.)

And so Heather has decided to follow Jesus – no turning back. She’s taken to heart Paul’s encouragement to keep on keeping on, to keep growing, keep journeying – showing and living the life of discipleship that gives itself in love to the world, regardless of opposition, of how hard it is, not ashamed, not afraid. She’s chosen to live a faithful, not a faithless, life.

There’s much we don’t understand, and don’t like (we’re all “stretched” by what we go through in life), but may we, too, trust in God and walk with Jesus where he himself is walking. (If we want to continue being close to him, we have to follow him there.) May we grow more and more into his likeness, and have more and more of his likeness formed in us. May we grow in knowledge of him as we follow and say “Yes” to him. May we so live out our faith that we trust him enough to really live as his disciples; trust him enough to rest, like a kitten, in his hand; trust him enough, to come to him, even in our confusion and fear, to allow him to touch us and set us free.

May it be so for us all. Amen.

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As we left our 10 a.m. Service, the following 3 videos were played on our screens, to send us forth into the world, trusting our God, with lips singing songs of praise and hearts aglow with Our Lord’s love.

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