2nd Sunday of Easter Sermon & Service recording link: https://stme.in/kjyNS766Er?st=210 This link will take you to startmeeting which will allow you to listen to the entire service recording.
Psalm 16; I Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31
Pearl: The testing of faith makes it more real.
Function: To move listeners to accept the testing of faith as opportunities for it to become more real.
Who could use some baseball talk? I know I sure can! It rough not having baseball and other sports!
a brand new baseball glove look so beautiful and fresh?! It is so great to get
that nice, new, good-looking glove!
- But how good is that brand new glove for playing? How good is it for catching and scooping up grounders in its brand-new condition?
- Not so good, is it?
- It needs to be “broken in.” It needs some proving through repeatedly having a ball slam into it at 30, 40, 60 plus miles per hour over and over so that it loosens up and begins to be more flexible.
have known people who bury their new gloves in the back yard to loosen it up.
But the best way is to use it over and over and work it with your own hand so
that it begins to contour itself to the uniqueness of your own hand.
- This is when you can trust this glove!
- In its brand new condition it looks good but cannot really be trusted just yet.
- It needs the seasoning of use and it needs some punishing to begin to be useful and trustworthy.
is the way it is with faith in God! Faith in God is a
wonderful thing at its beginning, in the middle, but even more so at the end of
a long life lived.
- But what makes faith real and true is the testing and adversity of life.
things are said about faith in our scripture readings today around which I want
to build my message.
- Jesus said to the disciples, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20: 29b).
- From the first letter of Peter: “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire…” (I Peter 1: 6, 7).
in God is forged through all of the highs and lows and challenges and failures
of life. This makes it more real and more useful!
a couple of weeks in the ministry of the famed founder of Methodism, one of the
Wesley brothers: preacher John Wesley.
- Sunday, A.M.,
May 5 Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, P.M., May 5 Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday, A.M., May 12 Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there, either.
Sunday, A.M., May 19 Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
Sunday, P.M., May 19 Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday, A.M., May 26 Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.
Sunday, A.M., June 2 Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.
Sunday, P.M., June 2 Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.
- Sunday, A.M., May 5 Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.
- Seven seemingly failed messages before he began to be taken seriously! I wonder if he was rethinking his calling to preach the gospel?!
- Consider a couple of weeks in the ministry of the famed founder of Methodism, one of the Wesley brothers: preacher John Wesley.
Faith, my friends, is forged through loving and living, through adversity, challenge, failure, even fire.
The church has a kernel of truth which fires our passions and which kindles within us love for the God who loves us. This same kernel of truth in the gospel of Jesus Christ is what holds the church together in its many forms throughout the world and through its many expressions.
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead empowers our faith.
- Charles Colson was an intimidator and was known as disgraced President Nixon’s “hatchet man.” He was indicted for the Watergate scandal and went to prison. While in prison in th wake of his life imploding and through the loving witness of others, he became a Christian. His story is a very compelling read in his book, Born Again.
became a Christian apologist, writing many books. He once wrote this about the
- “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because twelve men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for forty years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned, and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it wasn’t true. Watergate embroiled twelve of the most powerful men in the world—and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me twelve apostles could keep a lie for forty years? Absolutely impossible.”
have a story of God which helps us to live. The story we have is the story of
God’s love for every living being and every creature and every ounce of the
cosmos: revealed in Jesus the Christ.
- For many who lack so much this story is about all that they have.
- The unique magic of this story is that it strengthens and purifies through adversity, through testing, through all of the difficulties of life. Sort of like the way in which the ball glove becomes more useful through the beating it takes the more it is used.
Saints struggle mightily with their own faith. You may know that Mother Theresa
struggled with her faith.
- Mother Teresa wrote in her personal
correspondence and diaries, revealing the depth of her spiritual refining:
“In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing.” She penned those words back in 1959 — and she continued to wrestle with feelings of doubt for the rest of her life.
That same year, Mother Teresa wrote to the Archbishop of Calcutta about the things she was feeling: “I find no words to express the depths of the darkness.”
In a 1979 letter, she wrote to Father Michael Van der Peet, a priest who was her spiritual confidant: “Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me — that I let [God] have [a] free hand.” That letter, incredibly, was mailed just a few months before she went to Oslo, Norway, to claim her Nobel Peace Prize.
Mother Teresa knew how much people the world over admired her for what she was doing, picking up the sick and dying from the streets of Calcutta and caring for them in their last days. She knew she had plenty of admirers who, as soon as she herself died, would propose her for sainthood. “If I ever become a saint,” she wrote, in her later years, “I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’” (—cited by David Van Biema, “Mother Teresa’s crisis of faith,” TIME, Thursday, August 23, 2007; and, James Martin, “A Saint’s Dark Night,” The New York Times, August 29, 2007.)
- Mother Theresa’s faith was tested by fire. The fire of her many “dark nights of the soul” likely due to what she saw on the streets of Calcutta and the gravity of human suffering on a scale we in the USA can barely comprehend.
- Mother Teresa wrote in her personal correspondence and diaries, revealing the depth of her spiritual refining:
Real faith is forged through loving and living, through adversity, challenge, failure, even fire.
Life during this current pandemic is a test for us all. It is an even bigger test for those who were already living on the margins—the poor—the underprivileged.
- For many, living by faith is becoming a greater and more important reality.
Lord said, “Blessed are those who have
not seen and yet have come to believe, and picking up from last week, ‘who have
come to be-love.’”
- Blessed are those who have not seen that unemployment check and yet believe it will come.
- Blessed are those who have become sick and yet believe that they will get well.
- Blessed are those who mourn those who have died, their mourning is be-loving.
- Blessed are those medical care workers and first line responders and grocery store workers and people making deliveries and all of those who are staying home and still, not seeing an end, keep on be-loving so that we will make it through this crisis.
are those who have not seen and yet have come to be-love!
- Back in the 14th century, an English monk whose
name we don’t even know wrote a classic book about the ongoing human yearning
to touch God. It’s called The Cloud of Unknowing, and the title says it
all. The anonymous author says that when first we lift up our hearts to God, we
often encounter only a kind of darkness, a cloud of unknowing.
It’s hard to penetrate that cloud. Our human minds simply can’t take in the reality of God. Our minds are too limited, too small. We can’t penetrate the mystery: though sometimes we do briefly glimpse some light, shining through the cloud, that suggests a wonderful reality somewhere. The author concludes that the only way through the cloud of unknowing is not knowledge, but our longing love for God.
- Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to be-love.
- Back in the 14th century, an English monk whose name we don’t even know wrote a classic book about the ongoing human yearning to touch God. It’s called The Cloud of Unknowing, and the title says it all. The anonymous author says that when first we lift up our hearts to God, we often encounter only a kind of darkness, a cloud of unknowing.
I will end by sharing some thoughts of one of my faith heroes, Archbishop Oscar Romero.
served in San Salvador and spoke out against poverty, social injustice,
assignations, and torture amid a growing war between left-wing and right-wing
- Many relied on his weekly sermons for actual reliable news on what was happening in his country.
- On March 24, 1980, he was assassinated while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence. No one was ever convicted for the crime. He later was recognized for sainthood.
someone who knew the fiery trials of faith and of be-loving in God, he wrote
the following reflection:
- It helps, now and then, to step back and take a
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
- It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to be-love…it is through the testing of your faith that you are becoming exactly who you are designed by God to be.