Faith, Romans 4:13-22
He was a loving husband and father. Quiet and unassuming, he was always present and willing to work if there was a church project to be done. Shy, with a smile that revealed a growing faith, he was a friend.
One morning I received an early telephone call awakening me with the news that a tragedy had struck. On his way to work, this loving husband and father, a friend, had gone over an embankment. He was dead. In the months and years that followed, his family struggled with the questions that always relentlessly attack following tragedy. Why? For what reason? As I attempted to help them in the pain they were encountering, I could offer no ready answers to their questions. All I could offer was faith.
There are no pat or simple answers to the questions of life. There is only faith. There are no simple or pat answers as to why shootings and killings have increased as COVID-19 ravages. There is only faith. There are no simple or pat answers to why a troubled person in Nashville would take his own life by blowing up his vehicle on Christmas morning. There is only faith.
Life is a mysterious adventure. Filled with uncertainty, sorrow, joy, disappointment, and hope, life is an expedition into the future with no maps. Moving from one day to the next, we travel through uncharted waters that have the power to capsize us as we face the mystery of our existence. That is why we depend on faith.
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul emphasized the importance of faith in the life of Christians. Writing about a divine trust that guides the life of disciples of Christ, Paul pointed to Abraham. As you will recall, Abraham was a man who was minding his own business when God called him and his wife, Sarah, to an uncharted journey. God promised to make a great nation out of Abraham’s descendants. It was a great promise for the future, but there was only one hitch. Abraham and Sarah would need to travel into the future promise of God’s faithfulness by living with faith in the present.
Abraham’s story beings in the 12th chapter of Genesis, when at the age of 75, Abraham received the promise of God’s faithfulness. In the 21st chapter of Genesis, at the age of 99, Abraham lived in the fulfillment of God’s promise of faithfulness as his wife, Sarah, at the age of 90 gave birth to Isaac.
For 24 years, Abraham and Sarah, lived in the present tense promise of God’s future faithfulness. Between the 12th and the 21st chapters of Genesis, there are accounts of times when they stumbled on their journey of faith. There were times when they grew impatient and responded in questioning ways rather than trusting ways but throughout it all, there was the constancy of God’s present promise of faithfulness for the future.
Christian Roger survived four years of brutal imprisonment in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau near Munich. He subsequently served as the Chaplain of the Protestant Chapel on the ground of Dachau. In recounting what he learned about faith during his imprisonment, Roger stated, “Nietzsche said a man can undergo torture if he knows the why of life. But I, here at Dachau, learned something far greater. I learned to know the Who of my life. He was enough to sustain me then, and is enough to sustain me still.”
Faith is not about knowing the why of life. Faith is about knowing the Who of life.
If there is one certainty that I have learned in 43 years of being ordained for ministry, it is this fact. Christian faith is a present tense response to the promise of God’s future faithfulness.
When you receive an early morning telephone call about a tragic accident, faith is not about knowing why the accident occurred. Faith is about standing with the family in the midst of unanswerable questions as they travel an uncharted journey. Faith is about walking with Abraham and Sarah to a new land as they travelled an uncharted journey by leaving the comfort of all they had ever known. For Christians, faith is about trusting that God’s presence is realized through Jesus who said, “I am with you always even to the ends of the earth”. For Christians, faith is about trusting in God’s presence through Jesus who said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Christians are the children of Abraham, children of faith. We live by trusting in the laughable certainty that God can help us to move forward on a journey that has no certainty to it.
Christian faith is not a promise to understand the uncharted journey of life. Christian faith is an invitation to trust in Jesus as we travel the uncharted journey of life. As we begin the season of Epiphany and the uncharted journey into the new year of 2021, may God bless our faith.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pastor Marc Brown
January 3, 2021