Emmanuel Church/August 7, 2016
The lessons for today deserve something written down--which I often don't do. I've been preaching since 1975, most every Sunday, and since the Episcopal lectionary is on a three year cycle, that means I've been through it about 13 times. I've heard these lessons over and again over 40 years of ordination. I usually read the lessons early in the week and sit with them until Sunday. Sometimes I check and see if I have a sermon in my document folder for those lessons and sometimes I find several. So I read those sermons and ponder them and then get up on Sunday and just talk.
Sometimes it is brilliant and sometimes not so much.
But I grow and change and the lessons show up in a new and transformed way and I need to write something down about them.
This Sunday--Pentecost 12--is one of those.
The readings are Genesis 15.1-6: where Yahweh promises Abram that his descendants shall be as many as the stars in the sky, though Abram (not yet Abraham!) is old and childless. Abram believes the Lord and 'the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness'.
Then Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16: and epistle to Jewish Christians that remembers the story of Abram/Abraham and says God's promise is till to be fulfilled for the Jews.
Finally, Luke 12.32-40: the parable of the faithful slaves ('slaves', not 'servants') who wait for their master to return from a wedding banquet and because of their faithfulness the Master makes them sit and prepares a meal for them.
Since recently I discovered I am a 'non-creedal Christian', these lessons spoke to me in a new way.
The reading from Hebrews begins, "Now FAITH is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
I really accept that definition of 'Faith'. Faith is, for me, "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
My problem is that many, if not most Christians mean something else by 'faith'. They take Faith to mean believing in the truthfulness of articles of a Creed or 'knowing for sure' some things about God. For me, 'knowing for sure' doesn't enter into 'faith' and 'believing in the truthfulness' of a Creed is almost the opposite of 'my faith'.
Leaning into things 'hoped for' and embracing 'things not seen'. OK, for me, that's "Faith".
Abram leaned into and embraced the hoped for and unseen promise that his descendants should fill the earth even though he and his wife, Sarah, were far beyond the age of conception. And Abrams' leaning and embracing was, Genesis said, "RECKONED" as 'righteousness'.
Now I come from a part of the world, Appalachia, where people actually used the word "reckoned".
Someone would say, "want to play basketball, Jimmy?" and I would reply, "I reckon so."
It meant, "I believe I do, now that you mention it."
I worked for my Uncle Russell in his grocery store. People back then and there only had money around the first of the month, so Uncle Russel let them buy groceries on credit. Around the first few days of the month, lots of folks came into the H & S Market and said to me, "Jimmy, I need to 'reckon' my account."
That meant I'd figure up what they owed and they'd pay it.
So, in Appalachian, God in Genesis 'believed' Abrams faithfulness made him righteous. God "figured up" what Abram owed him and Abram 'trust in God's promise' paid the bill.
Just like that.
Luke's story tells us what 'Faith' as 'leaning into' and 'embracing'--NOT as 'Knowing it is True'--requires of us.
It requires action and patience and waiting and staying awake.
FAITH, to me, is much more about what you do and how patient you are and how awake you are than it does in giving assent to some articles in a Creed. Much more. Much, much more.
No 'sleeping on the job', beloved. What 'faith' calls for is awareness, watchfulness, willingness to do what God requires, not some allegiance to some words in a Creed.
"Righteousness" is a term of 'relationship'. To be 'righteous' is to be in relationship with God--leaning into God's promise, embracing God's promise and living out of that in this world.
If you drive through the South, you'll see barns here and there where someone has painted GET RIGHT WITH GOD.
I used to think that was too pious, but I now believe they're onto something.
Being in a 'right relationship' with God is what 'faith' and 'belief' are all about. Leaning into God and embracing God will send us out each day ready to demonstrate the love and compassion and justice and inclusion that IS God.
That's what makes us 'righteous', beloved. Not some words we say we 'believe'....
Stay awake! Be God's love in the world! Be Christ's Body every day! Be 'righteous' in relationship with God and those around you.
That's all that the Promise of God requires....
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