Sometimes you get the chance to tell a group of people something that’s important to you, and it just pours out of you. For some reason that’s what preaching this last weekend felt like. If you want to watch, here’s the link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXiADtFSP3U&feature=youtu.be. If you wish to read, follow along here –
Today’s scripture reading from Luke 14 has me thinking about trust.
Jesus continues to walk on his way to Jerusalem, and along the way he’s gathered a pretty huge crowed (whether he intended to or not, I don’t know), but there’s probably thousands of people following him. Jesus goes to eat at a Pharisee’s house, a religious leader at the time, and while he’s there he tells a story about sitting at the lowest place at the table – so like sitting down at the dinner table at the wobbliest chair, or think about the spot that is nearest to the garbage can, maybe the sun’s in your eyes – a not-fun spot like that. This way, you will be invited to a place of honor and you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
“Righteous” here means “right living” – so here Jesus is talking to the people at the Pharisee’s house about living a life pleasing and honorable to God – serving the poor, the widow, the homeless and giving glory to God.
At least that I know of, I have not experienced being repaid at the resurrection (I hope to) – so I have to trust that this will happen. As Christians we are called to trust a lot of things that we’re not sure about: That God exists, that our lives have meaning, that God loves us and God wants to know us. We are called to trust, to trust these things are true.
That one at the end is especially important – God wants to know us and loves us. God came to be among us in and with the person of Jesus – and through Jesus God experienced the messy, fleshy, acne-y, joys and grossness of being a person on Earth. God lived among us.
What happens when we don’t trust this?
We fill the void with other things: 1. Tricking ourselves into thinking that we can control the events of the future, 2. Addictions – to alcohol, to other drugs, 3. We numb ourselves with TV, with texting, with Pinterest. 4. Money – saving it up, spending it all, hoarding it up, looking good so we ensure that other people know we have money.
Filling the void is an expression of our sin – our human condition to trust in things that aren’t God – to name things as ultimate or sacred that are not. And filling the void of God in our life with these things only stretch our sin further as we separate ourselves from God, further and further away.
In that last one – filling the void with making sure other people KNOW we have money – this is exactly what Jesus is saying here: “Don’t trust in this! Surrounding yourself with people with loads of money who can repay you – don’t bank on this forever.”
Luke 14:12-14 reads, “He [Jesus] said also to the one who had invited him [the Pharisee], ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'”
By saying this – Jesus is becoming a political, economic and social threat. In first century Palestine you are expected to wear your inheritance and wealth on your sleeve and you only interact with those who are of the same socio-econimic status as you. What Jesus is saying is counter-cultural and if you think about it, he’s really pushing it because he has been invited to be at a religious’s leader’s house, someone who is well known by the entire community.
Jesus says that the Pharisee’s way is not pleasing to God. It’s those that humble themselves, those who choose the lowest spot at the table – these are the people who will experience the resurrection. It’s those who invite those who can’t repay them (the poor, the widow, the hungry) invite them – not people with lots of money who can easily repay you. God shows us the foolish to shame the wise, and God seeks to know us by coming to us through Jesus, sharing with us God’s radical, transformative love.
We find our resurrection hope in Jesus. And in Jesus, God wants to know you. – BUT – Me saying “God wants to know you” doesn’t matter unless you trust me, right? Unless you trust that what I’m saying is true, right? I’m curious about how perhaps trust is the root of faith.
For some quick background – I grew up in a wealthy eastern suburb of Seattle, Issaquah. I was and am daily blessed by my parents who moved the family there for a quality public education. And as many Pacific Northwesterners are – almost all of my friends were atheist, experimenting, Buddhist, or agnostic. They are wonderful, justice-seeking people, wanting to contribute to the common good. They’re not Christians.
That experience prompted me to ask – Does it matter then that I’m Christian? Did Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection do anything?
I can’t begin to answer any of these questions without trust. Who do I trust? What do I trust?
Let me ask it this way – Why is trust so important in the first place?
So here’s a story – the last time I preached I had just gotten back from a roadtrip with family on the Siburg side to Florida and back. On Sunday we just got back from a roadtrip to Texas, then West across to California and then back up to Washington. I think we counted 18 states this summer.
One of the things we try and find whenever we’re in southern California is a local chain called In-N-Out Burgers. We ate it a lot as we breezed through there.
Why did we eat at In-N-Out so many times, through Texas, New Mexico, AZ, and CA? Because we trust that the food will be fresh with little processing, the tellers are kind and helpful, and the food is fast, if not faster than Mcdonlads or Burger King.
We trust that every time we go, we will have fantastic customer service, great product, and the best burgers and Neapolitan shakes (and I swear they’re not paying me to say this).
Why do we trust it? Because we’ve experienced it and family before us tell us its great.
It’s the same with faith in Jesus. Do you know the location where faith happens for kids and sticks with them through adulthood? Not school. Not church. It’s in the home – because (the lucky ones) are surrounded by people they trust – people they trust because they’ve experienced that trust.
The other side of the coin of trust is fear and anxiety. Like in Finding Nemo – Marlin spends the whole movie trying to find Nemo, his son who has been abducted by a dentist-scuba diver. In his adventure, he makes a friend, Dory – and they find themselves swallowed by a whale (very Biblical), and are hanging on for dear life on the whale’s tongue before they’re about to get swallowed. Understandably, Marlin is freaking out, and Dory, who can speak whale, interprets for Marlin that the whale wants them to let go.
Dory says, “The whale’s saying ‘it’s time to let go, everything’s going to be alright!'” Marlin panics, “How do you know? How do you know something bad isn’t going to happen?” Dory pauses. She shouts, “I don’t!” They end up letting go in an act of faith and get spouted out the blow hole into the air, but you get the point.
We can get so anxious about not knowing what’s going to happen, about the unknown, about being right, about being correct, about getting there on time, having enough money, looking like we have enough money –
We forget who created us, who wakes us up every morning, sustains our well-being, redeems us, liberates us through Christ from our selfish thinking that tells us if only I’m rich enough, pretty enough, cool enough — God says: STOP IT!
God says – I am trustworthy! It’s as if God is saying, “My existence is trustworthy because I made promises to Abraham and Sarah that they will not be forgotten; that their faith will not be forgotten.” – And we’re still talking about them thousands of years later, right? See??
God says – You can trust me – because God said in Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for your life. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”
God says I know you – (like Pastor Candace Moser cited last week) “You [God] know when I [the Psalmist] sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.”
God says – “Let my people go” to the Egyptians who held the Israelites as captives – and they were let go!
God says you can trust me!!
In all these ways, you might be thinking, so those things, stories in the Bible – they’re nice – but how do you know they happened?
My answer is – I don’t. I don’t know. If someone were to say they do know, they don’t know what they’re talking about – because if you know the mind of God, and that would make you God, and no person is God.
Faith is all about trust and bringing your most honest and truest questions and doubts to God. Faith without trust is like a high-ropes course on the ground. It’s like starting an 18-state roadtrip & knowing every fruit stand or rest stop you’re going to stop at before you even put your foot on the gas.
I encourage you to think about the reasons you trust in God’s existence. You know something about God – in the words you say in this worship service, to the way you experience God when you take a moment to breathe in a beautiful sunset or a pristine lake. Christ redeems and liberates you, despite the walls we all put up from time to time or often.
Wherever you are in your journey with God, know you are welcome here.
Through Christ, God seeks to know us. You might not believe me, but know that God loves you and believes in you.