Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Faith, not Sight"

Scriptures: 1 Kings 19:1-5; 2 Cor. 4:7-10; 2 Cor 5:6-7

“For we walk by faith and not by sight”

That sounds good, even beautiful. “We walk by faith and not by sight.” But, sometimes it gets old. Having to get up another day, with worries unresolved, with loved ones sick or in trouble, without seeing any evidence that healing is on its way, without seeing any signs that our children or spouses or grandchildren or parents or friends are going to get things turned around; we get up and trust and go to work, clean the dishes, try to pay our bills, take care of our little ones and our sick ones; we go on by faith, but we sure would like to have some good news in sight. We would like our faith refreshed with seeing good things happen in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

“We walk by faith and not by sight” is a heavy and deep saying. In those words, there is the admission that all is not well. In that holy expression, there is a lot of pain, and yearning for things to get better. “We walk by faith and not by sight” means there is a contradiction between what we hope for and what we are experiencing. As we are upheld by the eternal within us, our mortal bodies yearn for something good now. As the eternal hope drags us forward and lifts us up, our flesh and blood longs for peace, love, happiness, rest. Paul expressed the struggle well in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10: “we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; knocked down, but not destroyed . . . “

But, Paul never gave up looking for deliverance in the present time. He experienced it in Asia when he says: “we despaired even of life itself, but that was to make us trust, not in ourselves, but in the God who raises the dead.” And, the faith we have is faith in a God who acts in the here and now as well in the victory to come. In the Psalms it says: “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Old Simeon was a prophet in Israel, who had waited and waited on the coming of the Messiah, and then when he was very old, he got to hold that little baby boy, Jesus in his arms, and he wept for joy, for he had seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. And, Simeon, said: “Lord, lettest now thy servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen thy glory!” I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. That is our faith even when that goodness is not yet in sight.

In our lives, there are times of ease and of pain; there are times when life seems to go well, troubles seem far away, and there are other times where life is a struggle at best, where troubles seem to pile up one after another. In faith, we learn to celebrate in good times and have mercy on those with trouble, and in trouble we learn to be faithful to each other and “walk by faith, not by sight.”

“We walk by faith and not by sight.” What does that mean for me and you today? Is that a real experience that we can share with Paul, or are those just nice and beautiful and holy words that really can’t do much for us?

Walking by faith . . . is finding something worth doing when there seems to be nothing worth doing. By faith, we begin to hear God’s calling amidst our despair. As I despair that I cannot do anything to make a situation better, God begins to reconcile, to repair, to open a way where there was no way.

I’ll never forget certain meetings with church members over the years, when all seemed lost. The couple in South Carolina who had been married for 30 years and suddenly couldn’t stand the sight of each other. Or, the couple who had just been married for 2 or 3 years, and he had become totally disabled, and couldn’t work anymore. Or, the man at one of my former churches who decided life wasn’t worth living anymore, and I sort of chased him around the church yard talking to him for about an hour. People at dead ends . . absolute dead ends . . . out of ideas or hope.

And, everytime, God’s Spirit moved and showed us some way to go. Sometimes it came through a laugh or tears or just stubborn determination to go on. It never came through my wisdom, but through the faith we put in God and the response of that mysterious grace.

Well, that couple who had been married for 30 years, I got them talking a little bit. He had his bags packed out in his car, ready to leave for good, but had agreed to come by and talk to me at the church. And, as he talked, I looked at him and said: “you sound like you still love her . . . you’re talking about her in the third person, but all you say is good things about her . . . He broke down; she broke down . . Grace.

They used to say, “it aint over til the fat lady sings.” But, its not over til God says it’s over. And, so long as we look to God in faith, it ain’t over! And, these efforts of ours – to love and reconcile and have peace; we may have hit a dead end, but God’s Spirit is stirring . . new life, life out of death, love out of hate, joy out of sorrow . . He is the God who raises the dead.

We walk by faith and not by sight and faith gives us the deep assurance inside that our hope is real, that God’s promises are true, that love will overcome . . . We walk by faith and not by sight . . . You can’t feel it, but you believe so you get up and make the coffee . . you get up and clean the dishes, wash and fold the clothes, go to work . . . That’s the kind of faith I’m talking about. You feel like just laying down and quitting but something gets you up and helps you walk on.

The prophet Elijah was worn out after his struggles with Queen Jezebel. He said: “it is enough Lord, I am ready to die. . . “ He had the great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, but now he was running for his life once again as the Queen was out to kill him before the next sun went down. But, instead of doing harm to himself, and instead of staying awake and moaning about it all, Elijah layed down and went to sleep. The next thing he knew he was being woken up by an angel of the Lord, who gave him food and drink and encouragement.

I’ve looked through the bars of jail cells, with a man or woman or even child on the other side, feeling all was lost – their reputation, their family, their career, their future . . . but, there are times when the light comes back in their eyes . a glimmer of hope . . for we walk by faith and not by sight . . .

Its not over until we have no place left inside for God’s Spirit. As long as we have room for God to work, its not over.

But, how do we keep that holy space inside of us? How do we keep our hearts open to God’s grace?

It has something to do with hope. And, hope has to do with still being able to believe that something good is going to come. It has to do with experiencing God’s love for us and God’s love for our fellow human beings in our hearts. This is one and the same experience. Faith is when God’s love is poured out into our hearts. We discover in joy that we love each other and that we are loved.

And, that experience of faith and love may be much closer than we think. When we are filled with God’s love and open our heart to another, the Lord is near, his grace begins to repair broken hearts, broken lives, and we begin to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

So, “we walk by faith and not by sight.” Are those just beautiful religious words, or is that an experience we have in our heart? With the worries that badger us, and the recurring problems we can’t seem to fix, can we really say words like this with conviction? Can hope and joy begin to grow once again in our hearts?

The prodigal son had run off with his inheritance money, wasted it all in wild living, and was desperate and broke and hungry and homeless and a long way from home. But, somewhere deep in his heart, he remembered his father, and he remembered that he was loved. His life had fallen apart, but he remembered his father. And, at that moment, hope began to grow. He decided, “I’m going home.” The young man had buried his love deep down, and hidden it from himself. But, when it seemed all was lost, he found it again. His father had long since given up hope of seeing his son, and then, one day, he saw him coming down the road, dirty and skinny and tired looking. His heart broke wide open, he ran, he embraced his son and wept. “We walk by faith and not by sight” and we believe in the God who gives us love, who gives us hope, and thank God, even gives us back to each other. Amen.

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