Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 23, 2014 Having A Heart Like Jesus - A Life of Generosity

Luke 20:45-21:4

This morning, we continue our series Having A Heart Like Jesus, and as we do we come to A Life of Generosity.  Our Scripture reading comes from Luke 20:45 – 21:4 –

45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples,
46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.
47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

When I was in college one of my closest friends kept telling about a guy who played in a local band.  The band was called Zion and they had a keyboard player who was really talented.  We would follow them around to some of the local churches to hear them play, and Rich, the keyboard player was a really interesting guy.  I had never met anyone quite like him before.  He lived such a simple lifestyle and had almost no interest in possessions or money.  During the summer of 1977 he was the Youth Minister at First Christian Church in Kingsport, Tennessee.  One day a couple of us, not doing much of anything, decided let’s go see Rich.  First Christian in Kingsport, at that time, was a very traditional, formal church.  We were sitting in the sanctuary, waiting on Rich to come out from his office, when he walks in carrying his guitar, with no shoes, long hair, a worn-out tank top, and several days growth of a beard.  Even though we all looked kind of like that – it was the 70s, after all – I wondered, how does this go over at this church?  Rich’s talent was obvious, though, and he was a great songwriter.  He had written a song called Sing Your Praise to the Lord, which Amy grant recorded several years later.  Rich went on to write and record a number of albums, and one of his songs – Awesome God we’ve sung here at church on a number of occasions.  What most impressed me about Rich – even more than his musical ability – was his generosity.  I’m sure Rich generated a lot of money with his songs, but he gave away much of it.  He set up an organization to funnel his money into ministry projects and he was paid an annual salary of $25,000, when he could have kept the money and lived a very affluent lifestyle.  He was killed in an auto accident in 1997 sadly, and at the time of his death was living in a tiny cabin on an Indian reservation, teaching music to kids.  That’s a generous life.

We live in a day and age of big numbers.  I had never heard of WhatsApp and read the other morning the company sold for $16 billion dollars.  $16 billion dollars!  Someone won the lottery drawing this week that was worth $400 million dollars.  That’s not quite $16 billion, but imagine how drastically that kind of money would change life.  There are some Olympic athletes who, now that they have medals, will find a lot of money will be coming their way.

Compare those really large numbers with this – this is a mite, a small copper coin found in our Scripture text.  The woman in the story placed two of these in the offering.  It is worth only a fraction of one of these – a penny, but would you bother stopping, stooping down, and picking it up?

This is one of the most famous scenes in the gospels, a scene that teaches us about generosity.  Jesus is in the Temple and observes people placing their gifts into the Temple’s treasury.  In the midst of rich people offering their gifts, a poor widow comes along and puts in two very small copper coins.  Jesus singles her out as being a generous, faithful giver, because all these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Of the many interesting elements of this scene, one is that giving was observable in the Temple; giving was something done in full view of other people.  Within the Temple there were trumpet-shaped receptacles where people could place their offerings (this could be the origin of our saying don’t toot your own horn).  Some people, evidently, made quite a show of their giving.  Imagine if people watched while you gave your offering and responded according to the size of your gift.  The big gifts would get applause and cheers and the smaller ones would elicit little more than some whispers or indifference.

This poor woman, who probably stepped forward with some amount of trepidation because of being watched, had to compete with large gifts that were far beyond anything she could imagine.  By way of comparison, imagine standing in life between Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

Why would Jesus single out a gift, especially one that was so small, at least in terms of the monetary value of the gift?  How could it be, as Jesus says, more than all the others (verse 3)? 

It wasn’t the amount of the gift, but the size of the gift.  In the math of God’s kingdom, amount and size are two different things.  The rich were giving large amounts, but they were not very sizeable, because they gave out of their surplus.  As large as the gifts were, they could have been even larger in terms of the amount.  The woman’s gift was tiny in terms of amount, but very substantial in terms of size, because it represented all she had to live on.  So generosity, in terms of our resources, is based upon our willingness to give something that is sizeable in relation to what we have. 

It was also a significant gift because of what Jesus says in the first part of our Scripture text, which comes from the previous chapter.  Remember this about the Bible – the chapter and verse divisions were not a part of the original writings; they came centuries later.  The first verses of our text are an important context.  In those verses Jesus talks about those who devour widows’ houses.  This poor woman represents just those people to whom Jesus referred.  She was the type of person who was continually victimized by those who were able to take advantage of those who were poor and lacking in power or influence.  And yet here she was, in the Temple, offering what she had.

It’s really an amazing example that the poor woman, a woman who was subject to the powers of the day, the powers that determined her economics and were without hesitation to make her difficult life even more difficult, would be willing to come into the Temple and offer all that she had.  It was a tremendous act not only of generosity but also of defiance and faith.  She was saying, in essence, nothing is going to stop me from giving of what I have, however meager my resources might have.  It was really an indictment of those who were giving larger gifts in terms of monetary amount, because she took such a risk in her giving.  I don’t know what those two coins would buy in her day, but it wouldn’t have been much; but it would have been something, and when you have very little, something is better than nothing.

Something moved this woman to give what she had.  I imagine she thought pretty hard about giving this gift.  For the rich givers that day, it was a different calculation, but for this woman, it was a decision to spend what could have purchased her food for the day, or paid for some other pressing need.  Why would someone give away what little she possessed?  There was no guarantee that it would not cause her difficulty to give that gift.  Some people, no doubt, would have thought it complete foolishness.
It was her generous spirit, I believe. 

Jesus always made things personal, and in this passage, he makes generosity very personal.  He put a face on generosity, as he sought to demonstrate generosity to his disciples.

The other evening we were sitting in a restaurant in Indianapolis for dinner.  A man approached our table with a flyer.  It was one of the fund-raising deals where you present a flyer and the restaurant will donate a percentage of the profits to a particular cause.  Often, it’s for bands, or sports teams, or a group raising money to take a trip.  This was for his 11-year-old grandson, who is suffering from cancer.  I asked how his grandson is doing and the grandfather said he had been through one round of treatments, had gone into remission, but the cancer has returned.  He said it didn’t look very good for his grandson.  One of his grandson’s knee joints has been replaced because of the cancer.  So here was a grandfather, approaching strangers in a restaurant, handing out flyers in the hopes of it doing something to help his 11-year-old grandson.  We just happened to be there at the particular moment that grandfather was there, and now I’m going to be wondering about that young boy, and what happens to him, and how that grandfather and the rest of the family are doing.  This grandfather put a face on a need, and that really sticks with us.

I like to think that the disciples and those present that day with Jesus thought about that poor widow for a long time.  Jesus put a face on generosity, so that when he said she put in all she had to live on (verse 4) it was just an academic statement.  All she had to live on.  I wonder what happened to her.  If it was all she had to live on there was nothing left for her rent, or her mortgage, or food, or anything else.  I wonder if those words – she put in all she had to live on – moved anyone to look after her, to be generous to her in her time of need.

It’s hard to be generous in this day and age, because we all feel the financial pressures of such an expensive age.  But remember that generosity is not measured in how much money is in our gift, but how much heart is in our gift.

Monday, February 17, 2014

FCC Shelbyville | February 16th, 2014 Sermon

February 16, 2014 - Having A Heart Like Jesus: The Importance of Reconciliation

Luke 15:11-32

We have been studying the theme of Having A Heart Like Jesus, and this morning we come to The Importance of Reconciliation.  Our text is one of the most well-known passages of all Scripture – the parable of the prodigal son.

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.
12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.
16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.
27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.
29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Before talking about reconciliation, I thought it would be helpful to define the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.  This passage certainly contains forgiveness and reconciliation, so what is the difference? 

Forgiveness is more of an internal act.  As one writer put it, to forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover the prisoner was you.  Forgiveness is an act of the will, where we make the decision to let go of a grudge, to let go of a hurt, to set aside the pain of something that someone has done to us.  We can forgive anyone who has hurt us, even someone who is no longer alive.  Forgiveness does not require the participation of anyone but ourselves.  While forgiveness can be solitary, reconciliation requires at least two people.  Reconciliation requires that we deal with another person, as we seek to repair a relationship.

Time does not allow me to answer every question that is raised by the issue of reconciliation.  Our will be a rather cursory view of what it means to be reconciled. 

Have you had the experience of being told by your parents you needed to apologize to someone?  Have you approached someone to apologize to them?  That is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult things we can do.  Have you ever been surprised when someone has approached you to be reconciled?

It’s very easy to speak of the importance of faith, all the while overlooking one of its core principles – reconciliation.

Broken relationships are not only all around us, but they leak a bitterness that poisons families, churches, communities, and our own souls.

The parable of the prodigal son introduces us to a young man who needed reconciliation in several ways. 

First, he needed to be reconciled to himself. 
That may sound a bit strange, but at some point in life we are all in need of self-reconciliation.  Over the years, as I have listened to people talk about their lives, one of the most common themes is the need for reconciliation, and very often it is the need to be reconciled to one’s self – to make peace with something that has happened, making peace with one’s self.

This young man would fall into the category of a phrase some of us have heard before – you were raised better than that.  Have you heard that before?  I sure did.  It’s a way of reminding us where we come from and of the values we’ve been taught.

This young man, at the beginning of the parable, is not very likeable, is he?  He’s arrogant, indifferent to the feelings of others, rude, self-centered, and self-absorbed.  Considering the actions of his father, it’s hard to imagine this young man was raised to act in the way in which he did.  His father certainly demonstrates some beautiful qualities – love, grace, acceptance, generosity, and many others.  Sometimes we say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in the case of the younger son, the apple fell from the tree, rolled down the hill, off a cliff, and ended up a long way from the tree and its good roots.

Unfortunately, we can become so separated from the values of the faith taught to us that we are in need of reconciliation with ourselves.  This young man had forsaken all the bedrock, foundational principles taught to him by his father, and his life fell apart because he had.

Second, he needed to be reconciled with others, especially his family.
Take just a cursory glance at our world and what do we see?  The wreckage of human relationships and the damage that comes when people cannot – or will not – be reconciled one to the other.

You don’t have to leave home to be a prodigal.  Some of the most fractured relationships are not ones separated by distance; some of them live under the same roof, or the same steeple.

Words seldom convict people to seek out reconciliation.  It takes something that moves the heart in a very profound way.  This is one of the lessons of the prodigal son.  He came to his senses.  You can’t ever give up on a person.

Reconciliation is very difficult; we cannot kid ourselves that it is anything but difficult.  But it is not impossible.  Reconciliation can take place when we are willing to reach out our hand to another person and to let go of the bitterness that can destroy us.

Reconciliation does not mean that a relationship will be restored.  The father was blessed that his son returned home and their relationship was renewed, but reconciliation does not always guarantee this will happen.  Sometimes, the hurt between people is so deep that a relationship can never again be restored to what it was previously.  But what reconciliation does, even when a relationship is not restored, is to remove the bitterness and anger than can destroy a person.  It is tragic enough when a relationship has been destroyed; it is doubly tragic when the people involved destroy themselves by hanging onto anger, hurt, and bitterness.

Third, he needed to be reconciled to God.
The father sees the younger son as more than a rebel, more than a prodigal, more than a failure – he sees him as a person and, more importantly, as his son.  How often do we allow labels to prevent us from seeing someone for who they truly are?  If God has a label for us, it is child.  It is not failure, rebel, or prodigal.

It is, sometimes, the people who have suffered judgment and rejection who have the greatest sense of the need for reconciliation and the greatest willingness to seek it.

The son in this parable knew he could return home.  He was fortunate to return home to a father who would welcome him, not one who would hold a grudge or be bitter towards him.  The father is the hero in this parable, not the prodigal.  It is the father who continues to watch for his son until the day he sees him while he was still a long way off (verse 20).  The father, undoubtedly, represents God and the importance of reconciliation with him.

When we think about reconciliation, one of our questions is what prompts people to seek reconciliation?  Why do some people seek reconciliation, while others will never, ever seek it?

In the story of the prodigal, it was, evidently, an empty stomach.  After blowing through all of his money, the prodigal finds his friends are gone and he realizes he is in very bad circumstances.  Hunger finally brings him to his senses.  As Frank Schaeffer, in his book Patience With God, writes – the returned Prodigal finds his father’s forgiveness and love heavenly, whereas his stay-at-home “good” brother resents the lavish welcome his father is giving to his wayward, undeserving brother, who has all the wrong and bad ideas and who has screwed up his life.  The older brother’s focus is on himself and his good standing with his father.  The good son finds his father’s non-judgmental forgiveness of his fallen brothers hellish.  The wayward son didn’t even have good motives for coming home!  He was just hungry!  He wasn’t even repenting in some spiritual way!  He just wanted lunch! (Patience With God, Frank Schaeffer, pp. 222-223).

Schaeffer is probably correct in what he writes about the older son – the prodigal came home only because he was hungry.  But so what?  The hunger brought him home, and that is what really matters.  Coming home, where he knew he would find food, also brought about reconciliation with his father.  Though the prodigal didn’t come home with reconciliation on his mind, it’s what he received – along with a hot meal – and someone, after all, has to be the first to reach out and offer reconciliation.  In this case, it was the father.  It is a beautiful image painted by Jesus in verse 20 – so he got up and went to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  It would be easy to say the father, in response to the actions of his son, should have wrapped his arms around the young man’s neck.  But he didn’t.  He was full of compassion, grace, and love.  He wanted to be reconciled with his son.   

The older brother, angry that his father would welcome his brother with open arms – and without anger or judgment – allowed himself to become bitter towards, and distant from, his father.  The father was fortunate that one son returned to him, but he found that the other was just as much of a prodigal, though he never left home.

The parable does not go on to tell us whether or not the older son attended the celebration in honor of his brother’s return.  He may well have remained outside of the celebration, allowing his bitterness to keep him from being grateful that his brother had returned and was once again a part of their family.  If he did not attend, it was his loss.  A lack of attendance would certainly be an effort to express his disapproval, but the celebration would not be canceled.  It is sad to think that the older brother could only look upon the joy of others, refusing to participate in that joy, but that is what happens when a person cannot accept, or offer, reconciliation.

God always offers reconciliation.  Always.

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 9, 2014 Having A Heart Like Jesus: The Importance of Faith

Matthew 6:25-34
Hebrews 11:1

The New York Times recently published a very interesting article about a book by a man named Vern Bengston.  The book is titled Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations.  Bengston, a professor at USC, began a study in 1969, which was based on how the family impacts the way in which faith is or isn’t passed on to succeeding generations.  Following almost four hundred families from 1969 until 2008 he learned quite a few interesting facts about faith and how it passes from one generation to another.

Bengston has written over two hundred articles based on his research, but in his book he gets specific about one particular question – what is the most convincing reason as to why children will maintain the religious faith of their family?

Would anyone like to hazard a guess at his conclusion?  It might surprise you. First, his research confirmed some common-sense assumptions. For one, it does matter that parents model faith.  If, for instance, if parents talk about church but never go, children sense the contradiction.  What Bengston found most important, however, was that every example is without meaning if children don’t feel close to their parents.  And, interestingly, guess which parent mattered most in that bonding?  The father. 

Bengston writes that fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad.  Throughout his research he found that a father who is an exemplar, a pillar of the church, but doesn’t provide warmth and affirmation to his kid does not have kids who follow him in his faith.

Not that I’m trying to put any pressure on the fathers here this morning, but isn’t that a fascinating piece of research?  If you are a parent you’ve got to find that interesting, because we want our faith to be adopted by our children.  I don’t know if Bengston is correct, but he’s certainly done a great deal of careful research.  And, interestingly, Bengston, who left faith behind when he was in college, returned to faith many years later, and credits his relationship with his father as a very important factor.

I think we would all agree that faith is an incredibly important part of our lives, and one of our great hopes is that our children will continue to hold that faith as central in their lives as well.

Faith is our topic this morning, and its centrality to our lives, as we continue our series of messages Having A Heart Like Jesus – The Importance of Faith.

Faith is one of the foundational themes of Jesus, and in the passages we’ll read in a moment, the first of which I return to often, we find faith to be the central element.

Matthew 6:25-34; Hebrews 11:1 –
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

I did not listen to the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye that took place at the Creation Museum last week.  I didn’t see the point, actually.  I think that debate presented a false choice – that one has to accept either a purely scientific and materialistic view of the world, on one hand, or a very particular religious view – far too restrictive in my opinion – on the other hand.

I believe in science.  Science has improved our lives immeasurably, and every one of us here this morning enjoys the blessings it offers to our lives.  That said, it also complicates some things for humanity as it has presented us with some tremendously difficult ethical issues and often reduces everything down to randomness and chance.  I believe God created the universe and everything it contains (Psalms 8:3 – when I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place), but I don’t believe the earth is 6,000 years old.  And I certainly don’t need either Bill Nye or Ken Ham telling me what I should believe and neither do you.

The failure of that debate, I believe, is that both sides are asking me to do what I don’t want to do – accept their particular proofs rather than holding to faith.  I do not believe, first of all, that there is a wedge between faith and science, regardless of how vehemently some people claim that there is.  But I also believe that science cannot adequately speak to the existence of God because it cannot see beyond the material matter of the world.

If we are to truly live by faith, we don’t have to be convinced by either side’s evidences.  In fact, we don’t have to accept the idea that we need any evidence at all.  Faith is not the requirement of evidences that will convince us beyond a shadow of a doubt to believe in God, because there will never be any absolute, completely convincing evidence to confirm the existence of God.  To me, the beauty of the sun shining through the ice that has covered everything around us this week is proof enough of the handiwork of God.  The existence of the universe and our world and its beauty is evidence enough of God to, but not to everyone.  I’m not looking for something to convince me to believe in God; I already believe in God and that’s not a belief that is going to change.  I’m not looking for evidences that God exists, because I believe evidence is in the eye of the beholder, so I have all the evidence I would need, if evidence were what I was looking for.  And I believe this is exactly what God intends, because he wants us to accept him on faith and as we live life each day that faith is demonstrated by our trust in him.  This is why I believe both Bill Nye and Ken Ham were wrong, because they both want to convince me that what I most need is to believe certain facts.  But that’s not faith.

What I am looking for is something upon which to base my life, something that will make sense of life, something that will bring comfort in times of loss, something that will bring purpose and meaning to my life, and all those things – and so much more – I find in faith.

When we remember that the essence of faith is trust it really reshapes how we look at everything about life, and it also helps to correct some of our misunderstandings about how God works.  I don’t believe, for instance, that because we have faith we are guaranteed a life that is free from suffering and difficulty.  But many people point to suffering and difficulty as an evidence that either God doesn’t care or that he doesn’t exist.  Plenty of people have abandoned their faith because they believed God had abandoned them.

But this passage from Matthew is so powerful, in part, because it reminds us to trust God regardless of our circumstances.  If, Jesus reminds us, God takes care of some of the smallest parts of his creation – the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air – won’t he ultimately take care of us?  Will we trust that he will do so?  Can we trust him for our provision?  Can we trust him enough that we won’t drive ourselves to a neurotic fit worrying about whether we will have enough for tomorrow?

But trust is very, very difficult, isn’t it?  That’s why we talk a lot about belief but not as much about faith, because we find it very hard to live our lives based upon trust.  We make a claim about faith in God’s care but then work our fingers to the bone making sure that we take care of our own provision.  And I’m not saying we sit back and do nothing and expect God to shower everything upon us, but what I’m saying is that we have transformed faith into little more than a system of believing the proper things rather than allowing it to take its proper place as a trust in God that undergirds everything about our lives.  When it comes down to it, do we really trust God?

When I was in high school, I would camp in the summers with my older brother and a cousin of ours.  We would hike way back along a creek in Ohio and camp for about a week at a time.  We took a little bit of food, but mostly we lived off the fish we would catch.

One night we decided to hike a good ways along the creek to fish in the moonlight.  There was a railroad track we could follow that made our hike much easier, as the woods were very dense and very hard to navigate at night.  We had hiked quite a ways when we came upon a train trestle.  It was a long way across that train trestle and it was a really long way down.  And it was at night, with some moonlight, but not enough to make me feel confident about walking across that train trestle.  My brother and cousin kept right on walking when we came to that train trestle, which was confusing to me, because it clearly seemed like a very bad idea to me.  I said what are you guys doing?  They turned around and looked at me as though I was the crazy one!  I thought it a good idea to ask one really important question – what are we going to do if we get halfway across that train trestle and a train came along?  There was absolutely nowhere to go.  My cousin shrugged his shoulders and said we just drop down between the railroad ties and hang there until the train passes.  All these years later, that still sounds like a really bad idea.  But my cousin stood there, looked at me, and said, trust me, it’ll be okay.  And off I went, because I did trust him.

Now, I’m not trying to say that God is going to lead us off into something as foolish as walking across a train trestle in the middle of the night, but to some people faith seems every bit as foolish.  It seems foolish to some to trust God for our provision.  It seems foolish to some to take no thought for tomorrow, as Jesus asks of us.  But not to us, because we recognize the goodness and the care of God as being so powerful and so compelling that we will place our lives in his hands.

The central task of the church is to call people to have faith – to have trust – in Jesus.  Not just faith as in a belief system about him, but to follow him in how we live and in living as if he really is our Lord in whom we trust our lives and our souls.  Jesus is Lord was the defining statement of the earliest Christians, which was a claim of ultimate trust.

Jesus is more than a vague, generic self-help guru for the 21st century; Jesus is Lord, and that is a massive declaration to make.  He is a Lord in whom we are called to trust every moment of our lives and every breath we take.

We live by faith, Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:7, not by sight.  May we always trust God.