Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 8)

Text: Psalm 130:5,7
I wait eagerly for the Lordís help, and in his word I trust. Ö Trust in the Lord because his love is constant and he is willing to save.

Trusting God

The following conversation between two young children was overheard in a schoolyard.
"Close your eyes and taste this and guess what it is".
"Is it ice-cream?" came the answer after the first taste.
"No", was the reply.
After the second taste, "Is it cream cheese?"
"Nope. I'll give you a clue. It isnít something people eat".

I think most of us have a moment of distrust when someone says to us, "Close your eyes and open your mouth". Past experience has taught us that.

On the other hand, there are people whom we have no difficulty trusting.
When the dentist tells us that there is a tooth that needs filling we trust his judgement. We canít look into our own mouths and check out whether his diagnosis is right. We simply trust him.

It doesnít take much for our trust to evaporate and be apprehensive in the future. When a person who has given you a lift in their car turns out to be a reckless driver and gives you the fright of your life, youíll be somewhat hesitant when offered a ride in the future.

As members of St Paulís we place a lot of trust in each other as we carry out our tasks and responsibilities within the ministry of the congregation. Thatís how team ministry works. Thatís how the body of Christ works. We trust one another to carry out the work God has given us here using the abilities God has given us.
We trust the youth leaders as they use their gifts in the area of ministry to young people.
We trust the Business Council to make good decisions about the congregationís finances, building projects, care of the property etc.
We trust those who prepare for Sunday worship that when we get here the carpets have been cleaned; the people who work the computer and sound system, the readers, communion assistants will turn up and faithfully do their tasks.
We trust the preacher that what he has to tell us from God's Word is being done faithfully and truthfully.
We trust everyone to do their bit and everything roles along smoothly.

For some people trusting can be hard work especially if you like things to be done a certain way. When we feel let down by others we need to work extra hard to move beyond distrust, use the opportunity to grow and learn from the experience, work together to overcome any misunderstanding and then, as a matter of the will, trust that person again to do their best.

What makes us trust? We trust others because of the positive experiences we have had in the past and can confidently say, "Yep, I know the person and he/she can do the job".
Other times we take a personís word for it and when they imply Ďtrust meí in what they say. We are happy to take them at their word even though there is no logical reason for doing so.
We trust because the Holy Spirit enables us to look past all the difficulties and reason to doubt and simply trust the promises of God that remind us of his constant love and presence.

The Bible is full of people whose trust quickly changes to distrust. When Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt we are told that God didnít take them the shortest route up the coast to the Promised Land but deliberately led them into the desert (Exodus 13:17). It must have taken a great deal of trust in Moses as a leader and in God to guide them for so many people to head out into such unfriendly territory. People die in deserts from thirst, hunger, heat and marauding enemies.

As we know, trust in God and Mosesí leadership skills soon turned to distrust when the water and food ran out. The Israelites complained bitterly. "We wish we were back in Egypt. There we could at least sit down and eat meat and as much other food as we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert to starve us all to death".

The Israelites were willing to return to the oppressiveness of slavery in order to get regular meals. "What good was their freedom, if they were going to starve to death?" they asked. Itís not that they hadnít experienced God's power and goodness. Just prior to this we read how God rescued the Israelites from the king and his army when the waters of the Red Sea were parted and they were able to cross safely. You would think that after such a dramatic rescue they would trust God to take care of them. You would think that they would have thought, "We know God didnít save us in order to let us die in the desert. We can trust him to take care of us now." But all they could do was grumble. They questioned whether God really cared about them.

And quite frankly if we were reading this story for the first time, we would be quite surprised at the response the people got from God. We would expect that God would respond with divine anger at their lack of trust in him but instead we hear of his generosity causing water to gush out from a rock and bread to rain down from heaven. And when they complained that they were sick of bread, he gave them a daily supply of meat. Without a doubt God can be trusted.

One of the greatest sources of unhappiness in peopleís lives is discontent.
We grumble about the weather, it's too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry.
We grumble about our families, our bosses, our friends.
We grumble about the government, the economic situation, our inability to get ahead in life.
We grumble about people in the church or the way things get done or donít get done in the church.
If anyone wants to be unhappy, do a bit of grumbling.

When the people of Israel became discontented, they criticised God's rescue plan. They came to believe that God didn't know what he was doing; that he no longer cared for them and had now left them out in the desert to die. They were so overwhelmed with their present circumstances that their trust had turned to distrust.

When we grumble we lose sight of the fact that God can be trusted. We may have experienced the goodness of God in the past, but the present circumstances overwhelm us and in the heat of the moment we can only see the desert and all kinds of trouble in front of us and no longer see the One who loves and cares for us and is ready to lead us through it all.

How do we know that God cares about you and me?
The answer is plain: God the Father sent his eternal and unique Son Jesus Christ, to become a human just for you and me. He suffered the agony of death just for us. Not for himself, but for us. He invites us to have trust in him.

He welcomes us into his family at our baptism.
He invites us to be steady in our trust and ready to follow.
He asks us to trust his love for us and that he will never let anything happen to us that will not be for our good. Even when, to our way of thinking, things are going all wrong, he reminds us that we can trust his wisdom, love and goodness.
Even when it ends up that whatever trouble we are facing takes us from this life, Jesus says to us, "Trust God; trust also in me. In my Fatherís house are many rooms Ö. I am going there to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1-2).
Even in the most extreme situations God's love and faithfulness never give up on us. The psalmist wrote, "
Trust in the Lord because his love is constant and he is willing to save".

It is true that we may not always understand the things that happen to us in our lives. There are mysteries that happen for which we would dearly love answers. Our faith is tested at times to the utmost limits and we wonder why we have to go through some of the troubles that we do. We can easily become discouraged because it is so hard to see the goodness of God through all that is happening in our lives.

However, in spite of our feelings there is one consistent person in this inconsistent upside down world that we live in. And that is God. He does not change. He is the same as in the days of the people of Israel in the wilderness. He gives generously, lovingly, mercifully, faithfully, just as a loving parents do for their children. The only difference is that our heavenly Father can do it perfectly.

And like a true father he is very forgiving even for our lack of trust. Just as parents are generous in their forgiveness toward their children, our heavenly Father forgives us and now urges us to rely on him for everything, for every daily need. He urges us to trust him to care for us.
Even when the going gets tough, trust him to care for us.
Even when life makes no sense, trust his goodness.
When it seems everyone and everything else has abandoned you, trust him to stand by your side and be faithful to you always.
He has proven his love for us in his Son Jesus Christ, and that love still burns strong for each of us today.

As you come to Holy Communion and receive the love and Jesus in his body and blood be reminded that his love for you is constant and that it will never end. Even in the thickest and deepest fog of uncertainty and doubt, Jesusí love for you can be trusted.

Noted theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once told this story. "As a child I once spent a day with my grandmother. Toward evening, a severe storm began. "Now how will you get home, child?" the old woman asked. Then my father came to fetch me. He had a big blue coat, as men wore at that time, and as we left, he said, "Come under here." I slipped under the coat, grabbed his hand, and off we went. Under the coat I couldn't see anything as we splashed through puddles and mud. I heard the rain and the thunderclaps and seized my father's hand and held it tightly. But I would have been a fool if I had complained that it was dark around me. After all, it was my father's coat, protecting me from the weather that made it dark...and when the coat parted, we were home! I looked into my mother's cheerful face and at our bright, warm room, and everything was as pleasant and cosy as only home can be! Of course Father had brought me home. Where else should he have brought me? So it is with our heavenly Father. If only we trust him, he holds our hand, takes us under his wings and leads us through storm and tempest."

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
28th June 2009

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