A Leap of Faith

Here are my thoughts for Trinity Sunday, 19 June 2011. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Genesis 1 – 2: 4, 2 Corinthians 13: 11 – 13, Matthew 28: 16 – 20.

This is part of a four-week stewardship campaign. My part in the campaign is to present a short witness statement and then give a summary of the current giving patterns in the church (based on a per-week basis). This latter part of the presentation is the same presentation that I gave last spring.

Good morning, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians I greet you with a holy embrace and tell you that all the brothers and sisters here in Newburgh and New York and far as the eye can see say hello in the name of Christ.

As I was preparing this message, I saw the line in Matthew that said that there were those who, even after the reunion with Jesus still held back, afraid to risk themselves totally. I can understand why they may feel that way. Jesus was now gone but they were still here and it was a world in which the political and religious establishment viewed them as a threat.

They were afraid that what the Romans and religious authorities did to Jesus would be done to them. Oh yes, they understood that He had conquered sin and death but He was the Messiah, He was the Christ. We are just mere mortals and death is certainty in our lives. And the Pax Romana, the peace that covered the world, was ensured by military and political repression. Those who sought to change the status quo quite often found themselves as enemies of the state, sentenced to die by crucifixion just as Jesus died.

The paths through history also tell us that the church authorities have never taken kindly to those who have spoken out against traditional church. Even John Wesley was barred from preaching in churches belonging to the Church of England because he spoke out against the failure of the church to respond to the needs of the people. To be a Methodist at its beginning was as dangerous as it was to be a follower in those days following the Resurrection.

And now Jesus is commanding all who were there to go out into the world and instruct everyone they meet in the ways of the Lord. This is not the time to upset the apple cart; this is not the time to do something daring and bold. It is the time to sit quietly, hunker down, and wait for the moment.

It is still true today. One does not mention that one is a Christian or a member of the United Methodist Church. One does not invite friends, neighbors, colleagues, or passing acquaintances to the Vespers in the Garden that start this coming Friday at 7 pm or our summer services. It is a quick and easy way to make enemies and we don’t link up with our enemies on Facebook, just our friends.

Thanks to a number of people who have no idea what is written in the Bible, the average person today has a distorted view of God, religion, and Christianity. You would be surprised how many people today recoil at the notion that I can be a certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church and also hold a Ph. D. in Science Education. For many people, to be a scientist, to seek answers that go beyond simple statements of fact, means that one cannot be a Christian. Believe me, one of the most intellectually challenging things that I do is read Sunday’s lectionary readings and think about how to make those words relevant to the 21st century. Let me be so bold as to say that if you are not willing to spend some time thinking about what the Bible is about and you let others dictate the message of the Bible, then you are not completing Jesus’ commandment at the end of the reading from Matthew for today.

But how can any of us do what we have been asked to do, go out into the world and instruct everyone whom we meet in the ways of the Lord? We don’t have the skills; we don’t have the ability; we don’t even have the time. If we were to end the reading from Matthew there, it would be difficult to do anything, let alone that which is expected of us.

But Jesus also told us that He would be with us as we ventured out into the world. I can speak from my travels across this land, both as a lay speaker and otherwise, that when you open your heart, your mind, and your soul to the power of the Holy Spirit, great things happen.

About twenty-five years ago, my mother participated in one of the Volunteer in Mission trips sponsored by the United Methodist Church. My mother had no business being on that mission. She was a grandmother in her late 60s. She didn’t have the skills necessary to do the carpentry work on the school building part of the team would do; she didn’t have the medical training that the nurses who went to provide basic medical care had. She knew very little about dentistry, other than the dentist on the trip, Solomon Christian, wasn’t taking much in the way of pain killers or other such drugs. She didn’t have any of those skills but she did know one thing.

She knew that the children for whom Solomon would provide the basic dental work would be hurting. And so my momma went as the DH, the designated hugger. She hugged each child with the love of a mother for her own children or a grandmother for her grandchildren. Her hugs and encouragement eased the pain of the necessary dental work.

I cannot speak to why my momma went to St. Vincent other than to say she took a leap of faith. She knew that she would be needed and so she went. And it remained for the rest of her life, one of the high points.

And if Virginia Mitchell can undertake such a mission, what is to stop each of you? Last week was Pentecost and it marked the beginning of the church. But it wasn’t an organization meeting as this Saturday’s church conference will be; it was the inclusion of the Holy Spirit to empower the people to go out into the world.

It does take a leap of faith to see that you can do great things. It is not what others think that you can do; it is what you think that you can do. Perhaps you will not go on a mission trip; perhaps you will only sing in the choir or teach Sunday School. Maybe it will be just saying hello to the stranger who walks by the church and inviting them in. And yes, perhaps it means giving from your income as much as you give from your heart and soul. I know that these are hard times for us all, and I am not going to be like other Southern-sounding preachers with their syrup-sweet accents who promise you great things will come if you but send them your money.

But there comes a moment in time when you are staring at the abyss and you have to get to the other side. You cannot do so if you don’t have an abiding trust in the Lord. The Israelites wandered through the wilderness for forty years and when the time came to cross the River Jordan, they balked. The spies they sent in lied about what they found and the crossing was delayed. They had seen all the signs that God had provided and yet, when the time came, they were not willing to make the leap of faith necessary to cross the River Jordan. Each person comes to that point on the River Jordan sometime in their life; each church, no matter what denomination, also comes to that point. Today, I will show you a plan that asks you to make that simple leap of faith.

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