sermon for 8/8/10 “faith” Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

The text of the sermon delivered by Rev. Kirk Moore at Union Congregational United Church of Christ in Somonauk, IL on Sunday, August 8, 2010

“Faith” podcast

This morning’s Bible reading is from Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

This week’s Bible reading from Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 praises the faith of Abraham and Sarah. It describes faith as “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I’ve also heard faith also described as

  • Believing without seeing
  • The belief or trust that something is true
  • Taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. (Martin Luther King, Jr)

But all too often I have doubts bigger than what I believe.

Do the bigger doubts negate faith?

Let’s take a little look at where faith comes from.

  • (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV) By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
  • (1 Corinthians 13:2 NRSV) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
  • (1 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV) And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
  • (Ephesians 2:8-9 NRSV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– {9} not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
  • (Ephesians 2:8 GWT) God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.

Bible scholars aren’t of one mind on this one. But let me simply tell you what I think from these verses – viewed through the lens of the metanarrative (the big picture!) of the Bible – do you remember that main theme?

God creates. We mess up. God redeems… we mess up . . .

  • Grace is a gift of God
  • Hope is a gift of God
  • Love is a gift of God
  • Joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and self-control are all gifts of God.
  • Faith is a gift of God.

Each of these gifts has an element of receiving them and giving them

  • We receive grace – we offer or act with grace
  • We receive hope – we offer or act with hope
  • We receive love – we offer or act with love
  • We receive joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and self-control – we offer or act with joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and self-control.

These gifts are given by God – whether we ever put them into action.

And so by faith, given to us as a gift of God, we act with faith.

We have it.
We do it.

We can’t negate it – because it is of God. God doesn’t negate it. We have it. And when we doubt – faith cannot be negated.

Let me take it one step further.

Doubt is necessary for us to exercise our faith.

Yes. Necessary.

I think that doubt and faith must exist together:

When we don’t know something for sure, faith makes it possible for us to keep going. When we doubt, faith helps us to believe through the doubt. If we didn’t doubt – there would be no need to exercise our faith.

Listen to these thoughts:

  • Faith without doubt isn’t faith at all — it’s certainty. (Thank you Anne Lamont, I think)
  • Faith without doubt isn’t faith at all — it’s indifference. (Thank you Elie Wiesel)
  • If you know for sure – there’s no need for faith.
  • If you don’t care — there’s no need for faith.

When you doubt — faith is what keeps you seeking.

I love the words of the poet Cahill Gibran:
Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

In the United Church of Christ we have a statement of faith. It’s not a litmus test of what you have to be sure of to be a member. It’s a testimony. Let me share it with you – with some new doubt statements included:

I often wonder if you even exist. I wonder why you let such awful things happen in the world. I wonder if you even care. But
I believe in you, O God, Eternal Spirit, God of our Savior Jesus Christ and our God, and to your deeds I testify:

Scientists and religious folk argue too much about things like creation and evolution. I wish you could simply tell everyone that the Bible isn’t a science book and that you made us as people who can think and discover and even create – because
You call the worlds into being, create persons in your own image, and set before each one the ways of life and death.

I make mistakes all the time. Most everyone I know . . . no . . . everyone I know makes mistakes all that time. Why do you let that happen? Do you really. . .

(You) seek in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.(?)

I try not to look down on people who do things differently than I do or who hold different opinions than I do. But sometimes people act so awful! It’s hard to trust that
You judge people and nations by your righteous will declared through prophets and apostles.

Do you really know what it’s like for us here? Can you feel pain? Have you experienced failure? Have you ever been completely devastated?
In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Savior, you have come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to yourself.

I wish I knew that you were really near all the time. I wish that I knew that you were always doing the things I say that you do – redeeming us as we continually mess up.
You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.

Couldn’t you just do it all? Can’t you fix everything? Why don’t you?
You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be your servants in the service of others, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ’s baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.

I don’t know if I have the faith, the strength, the persistence, or even the love to follow you.
You promise to all who trust you forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, your presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in your realm which has no end.
Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto you. Amen.


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