To Hold Dear and Love

14-11-02-#6-Sermon-Thin PlaceScripture Passage (Genesis 15: 1-6)

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

 

 

We are told over and over to not be afraid. But we still want a guarantee. We WANT to believe that God will work it all out; we WANT to believe that God will sustain us; we WANT to believe, but we’d like to know when things will get worked out to at least our satisfaction, if not our comfort and ease. Now this passage is probably better translated as “trust” than “believe”. Is it the same? Well, probably close. But we tend to think of believing in something as knowing that it’s right. That’s not really right, but it’s what most of us have fallen into. In the 16th century, the Saxon meaning depicted it as “to hold dear or love”. That’s different. That’s WAY different. Do you follow because you think it’s right or because you love it and hold it dear? So is belief more about facts or about the meaning it brings to your life?

 

When we are told not to be afraid, it seems to be more of a call to trust, rather than merely believe. You can believe something, maybe know it’s right in your deepest being, and yet not fully give yourself to it. But Abram was told to trust, to give himself to it. “Come, Abraham. Trust it. Follow it. Give yourself to it. Hold it dear and love it. Become it.” And the covenant, the relationship, came to be.

 

This journey that we’re on is not, of course, a straight and unhindered pathway. There are hills to climb and valleys to maneuver. There is a wilderness to traverse. There are things that come along and get in our way and change our whole schedule when we least expect it. (I had some of those the last few days, which is why I’m WAY behind on “daily meditations”. So, I owe you four extras somewhere along the way!) But we’re not just called to mindlessly and aimlessly follow what we believe to be true.  We are instead called to trust it in our deepest being, to turn ourselves over to it, if you will. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be “blips” along the way. After all, Abraham (formerly known as Abram) would become the father of three major world religions, but he was perfect. He probably wasn’t even trustworthy. We all know he tried to manipulate the outcome of it all a bit. But this faith journey is not about making us perfect humans; it’s not about our blind acceptance of what we do not understand; it’s about relationship. Faith is about realizing and trusting that we are part of a deep and abiding relationship between God and humanity, actually between God and all of Creation as the holy and the sacred pours into our being bit by bit. No, it makes no sense in terms of this world. That’s what makes it faith. That’s what Lent teaches us. So, do not be afraid. Follow what you love and hold dear and I’ll walk it with you.

 

Meaning does not come to us in finished form, ready-made; it must be found, created, received, constructed. We grow our way toward it. (Ann Bedford Ulanov)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

In Our Search for Belief

Cross-Abstract
“Faith, Day and Night”, J. Vincent Scarpace, 2012

Scripture Passage (Romans 10: 8b-13)

 

“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

 

 

You know, this whole faith journey thing would be a whole lot easier if the rules were better laid out! So, are you supposed to confess your beliefs first or believe what you’re saying first? (because did you notice they get switched in this passage?) I mean, just make it easy! How DO we get this right? Just tell me what I’m supposed to do and I’ll do it! Just tell me what to say. I’m a pretty fast learner. I could probably remember enough to get through the initial exam anyway.

 

That’s what most of us want. That’s what those that Paul was first addressing wanted. Good grief, just tell us what we’re supposed to do to get this right! They wanted him to tell them what acts, what righteousness needed to happen so they could check off that they were following the law. We’re no different. We’re used to racking up points or grades or salary levels (or for churches, it would be members or attendees or giving patterns or apportionments—aaaagggghhhh!—there, I’m better!), all so that we can check off that we’ve achieved something. But when you read this, Paul isn’t even laying out what it is we’re supposed to believe. There’s no talk of original sin or not, no mention of which salvation theory Paul thought was the right one, and no list of rules or beliefs to which we needed to adhere to get “in”. Paul’s answer instead was to just believe. Just ask. Just open your mouth and pour out your heart and say it. That’s all. Because, see, it’s there. It’s all right there. Just call on the Lord and start walking.

 

But there’s another side to this. If we’re not told exactly what it is that we’re supposed to believe, then why would we think that our beliefs are the way everyone should believe? The passage says that “everyone—that means all of us—who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In other words, desiring God is enough. Desiring God is what leads us toward God. Wanting to pray is praying. Yearning to be with God is being with God. Confessing our belief is believing. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have what seem to be crises of faith. (I have one about every week lately!) It doesn’t mean that we will ever get to the point where we don’t have questions. (If you meet someone that tells you they don’t question God or question what they believe, personally, I’d run! I mean, are you really willing to stake your whole existence on what YOU’VE figured out God is going to do?)

 

Desiring God, wanting to be with God, wanting to follow is enough. Beginning is enough. I mean, I’ll be honest, if God had some prescribed list of rules and definitive beliefs in mind, why in the world would God have chosen Paul to be the head writer of the greatest treatise on salvation of all time, with his circular thoughts and grammatically incorrect run-on sentences? Maybe God’s whole idea is that we wander and we explore and we question and we journey not until we “get it” but until we realize that the journey IS the way we live with God, that this wilderness in which we find ourselves IS the Way to God and, at the same time, the way to ourselves. That is the reason that in this season, we find ourselves in the wilderness. It is not a punishment. It is a reminder that the God who created us has never left us. It is for us to realize that in the deepest part of our being, we desire to be with God almost as much as God desires to be with us. That is the reason that God came, Emmanuel, God-With-Us, to walk with us, to perhaps wake up our God-given desires to be with God. So, begin. Wanting to be with God IS being with God. And THAT is something in which you can believe.

 

There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of every [person] which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ. (Blaise Pascal)

 

Thank you for sharing your Lenten journey with me!

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli