Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Key of Faith, the Key to God

Proper 12+B        26 July AD 2015             The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+

2 Kings 4:42-44                                                                                    Psalm 145: 10-19

Ephesians 3:14-21                                                                                John 6:1-21

 Is it not amazing how we human beings are afraid of what we do not understand?  And yet when we state such Truths as :  if we completely knew and could figure out God, we would be as great as God is, and we would surely find a lot of security in that!  That is what we need faith in order to receive.  Faith is not based upon what we know like a science experiment.  Faith is about knowing the who our faith is in rather than the what.  We live in a time that began with an "enlightenment" and the "scientific method", when miraculous engineering feats and seemingly god-like medicine and procedures.  We are so wedded to this perspective, that we are completely disillusioned when some such findings and technologies fail us.  The rational methods do not account for faith, or love, or any kind of feeling.

Jesus brought us what theologians call "signs and wonders."  In our cultural context, that so denies what they cannot control or explain there is a strong vein of God denial and for some, God hatred.  We see that among modern atheists who use a false judgment of a past Supreme Court decision, to persecute primarily Christianity today.

But look at how God works: through prophets and through His Son Jesus.  God sees a genuine need and when called upon in faith, he responds to that need.  We have two such stories today:  Elisha the prophet and Jesus of Nazareth.  The Elisha story does not give us much detail, but clearly God responded to Elisha and provided for the need God put before him.  Psalm 103:(13-14) says:  As a father has compassion on his children,  so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Now that text won't make you a friend of this world, but it is the truth.  The Church rubs it in on Ash Wednesday when we put the charred remains of life on our foreheads with the inspiring words: "remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  Our mortality infuriates us, but even the most powerful people in history, present and past are mortal…with one extraordinary exception.  Those who have acknowledged all of this and come into God's eternal family in Jesus Christ, only die to this world and are eternally alive in the world to come.

Yet even in the creation of the narrative we read: then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (2:7) and So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;  male and female he created them. (1:27)   with that simple phrase, dust takes on a new significance.  With Jesus Christ, as the God/Man, dust takes on a profound significance.  Jesus took upon himself our mortality to reveal to the human race the depths of a loving God / Father and Creator for a creation bent on self destruction and death.

Notice in the gospel for today:  Jesus is traveling with his disciples when he suddenly makes mention of the crowds following behind.  It was because of the signs that he was doing for the sick. Incidentally, the Bible never uses the word "miracle".   It uses the word "signs".  Also, it is the word we use for the sacraments.  They point to something greater than themselves: baptism, communion, confirmation, anointing of the sick, marriage, ordination and confession.  Each point to part of our relationship with God.  But back to the gospel.  Notice the scripture says that he asked Phillip "where are we going to buy enough bread for all of these people?"  Notice the next phrase.  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

I'd like to reflect with you for a minute on this point.  Do you notice a significant truth here?  So often when people face a challenge, we leap to despair.  I mean if we can't fix it on our own, we spiral out of control.  This is the test.  Ive heard people say things like:  "if all else fails, pray" or "I don't want to bother God with that…" .  This is not a Christian principle.  If it matters to us within the scope of God's love, it matters to God.  He honors us when we pray.  Go to God first, not last!  Jesus knew what he would do, God knows what he will do, when we ask.  I've heard it said that God honors those who honor him. I have added to that, but He likes to be asked.  This is not unlike a parent or grandparent who will willingly give to a child, but if he just gives, he will get no joy to give when asked. 

Remember the dust principle?  God knows our needs before we ask.  Matthew chapter six says this: " "…when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

Testing is how we grow stronger in faith and in our trust in God.  We pray because we love our Father in heaven and we trust in him.  When Jesus feeds five thousand with five loaves and two fish,  the disciples see his power, but a short time later, we see their mortality.  Our mortality is often manifest in fear.  Most think doubt is the opposite of faith, but it is not. Fear is the opposite of faith.  When they see Jesus walking on the water the immediate reaction if to be afraid.  The wind is blowing, the waves are crashing and they are alone.  Their eyes were on circumstances rather than turning their hearts toward God.  But after all of these signs and wonders, they learn a principle. Jairus the ruler of the synagogue had a daughter who had been ill and seeing Jesus approaching we hear:  While He was still speaking, they came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?" But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid any longer, only believe." That is Jesus word to us in every circumstance and on every day "do not be afraid, only believe."

Our Collect began:  O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy….  Perhaps that is the greatest lie of the ages.  People think that they are STRONG. Holy means "set apart".  Some seem that they are so special and important that they devote their whole lives to things such as money, power and sensual pleasure.  All thing that will fail and disappoint in the end, but that does not stop their appeal  Ephesians points us to a better way in our reading this morning. Paul writes:

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

May that be true for us this morning as pray before our father who is Our Father in Jesus Christ.  That is why we are here, to be evermore filled with the fullness of God.  As we approach God's table to be fed at God's table, may he evermore fill us with grace upon grace, which alone can come from the Father's hand.  AMEN


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