Psalm 1—————1 Corinthians 15: 12-20—————Luke 6: 17-26
February 13, 2022—————Rev. Patrick Mecham
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
Happy are those who trust in the Lord. It’s kind of a basic concept in our faith, isn’t it? I remember seeing a skit back in college where a student gets on an elevator and sees a friend and starts telling them about the new spiritual insight they had recently gleaned: TRUST IN THE LORD! “Oh, my life has become so much more peaceful and focused since I learned to TRUST IN THE LORD!” At that point in the skit, the elevator suddenly jerks to a stop, and this person starts to panic! “The elevator STOPPED! I can’t breathe! I need air! I NEED AIR!!” Then, the elevator starts up again, and the person goes on, “Like I was saying, trust in the Lord.”
Our Scriptures for today are focused around the theme of blessed are those who trust in the Lord. 1. Paul writes about the centrality of Christ’s resurrection in our faith: (paraphrase) IF there is no resurrection, we might as well head out right now and not even sing the Sending Hymn! 2. Jesus talks about all the ways God blesses those who trust in God. The basic message is this: We can trust God with our present AND with our future! Let’s explore.
The first step is to examine some places where we often MISPLACE our trust. 1. Sometimes, we mistakenly put our trust in strength. It’s only natural for strong people to be self-confident, assured that they have what it takes to overcome any difficulty. The problem is that human strength fails. In January of 2021, I spent five days in the hospital with Covid. My strength had failed, and I was living on God’s strength—the strength you prayed for. I think Jeremiah states it best: Thus says the Lord: “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord.” Friends, sometimes we put our trust in MERE MORTALS. We must remember that people will disappoint you…even the most wonderful of people. And human plans (without God) will fail despite the optimism we may have for them.
2. Sometimes we put our trust in those things that have always seemed victorious. I love how Psalm 20 puts it: “Some trust in chariots, and some trust in horses; but we trust in the name of the Lord.”
3. And, of course, we often put our trust in MONEY. We might be lulled into a false sense of security when all our bills are paid, and we have money in the bank, and life is easy. We might conclude that we have no need of God! Like that farmer in the parable in Luke 12, the one who had just brought in a huge harvest. He said to himself, “You have good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry!” (Jesus said that one would be a fool who stores up good things for himself but is not rich toward God.) And Paul writes in 1 Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides for us.” Paul’s words are an echo of what Jesus told us, that if stuff is our treasure, then moths and rust and thieves will take it from us. Best to have our treasure in heaven!
If There Is No Resurrection
I’m going to switch gears here, and talk about Paul’s words in First Corinthians 15. He is developing this idea of where we put our trust. He says that IF there is no resurrection, then Christ has not been raised; death on the cross was the END of him; he was just a wonderful example of how to live life with humility; BUT, if there is no resurrection, there is no reason for hope of our own resurrection.
IF that is the case, then our faith is futile. We have been misrepresenting God! Any hope we have is useless and we are still dead in our sins. IF for this life only we have hoped in Christ, then we are to be pitied.
BUT, in fact, (Paul says) Christ HAS been raised from the dead. We can trust that CHRIST LIVES, and because of that you and I live as well!
Planted by a Stream
The Psalmist writes that people who trust in the Lord are like trees that have been planted by a stream; they yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. Think about trees for a moment. The roots are unseen, stretching deep into the soil for water and nutrients. You know, faith is like that. Hebrews 11 says, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Certain of what we do not see.
There’s a great story about this in 2 Kings. The Prophet, Elisha, has been helping the King of Israel to outmaneuver the king of Aram, so Aram sent an army to capture Elisha! They came by night, and surrounded the city. The next morning, Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, got up early and saw the army with horses and chariots surrounding them. “Alas, master! What shall we do?!” Elisha replied, “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.” Then, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw: the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around them! “There are more with us than there are with them!”
*O Lord, open my eyes that I may see!*
Friends, God understands our need to “see.” It’s as if we are ALL from Missouri–“the Show-Me State.” And God says, “Come and see” by becoming human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We can trust the God revealed in Jesus.
Let’s think again about the imagery of a tree planted by streams of water. The Psalmist says that those who trust in the Lord are like this, sending out our “roots.” We shall not fear when the heat comes, and our leaves will stay green; in the year of drought, we are not anxious, and we do not cease to bear fruit.
In other words, no matter what things look like—we have HOPE because we trust in the Lord. And this hope is what makes it possible to “keep bearing fruit.” My mind keeps returning to Isaiah 40: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
I want to finish today with a story about how we determine if something is worthy of our trust. I was once on a retreat, in January, at a cabin right next to a small lake in northern Idaho. January. The snow was more than 2 feet deep. The lake was frozen over, and we had to chop a hole through the thick ice in order to get buckets of water for flushing the toilet. (Every time we wanted to get water, we had to re-chop where the hole had frozen over.) The ice was almost 20” thick! At one point, we decided to all go on a walk on the frozen lake. Most of us walked right out into the middle, but one of our number stayed very close to the shoreline. She didn’t trust the ice, but the rest of us did. Why?
I think it was because she had not yet taken a turn at chopping through the ice and collecting buckets of water. The rest of us had had opportunities to see just how thick the ice was, and we knew it would support our weight. We believed it to be trustworthy.
And how do we know that God is trustworthy? I guess we have to “give God a try.” Just as we had stepped out onto the ice and gradually worked our way further from shore, you and I develop a growing sense of trust as we give God opportunities to support us when we are in need.
And eventually we will resonate with the promise from Jesus, “Blessed are you who are poor, who are hungry, who weep, for you SHALL see that God is worthy of your trust!”
Prayer: Lord, please open our eyes to see that your power is greater than anything—greater than the troubles that surround us—greater than the fears that hold us back. Open our eyes, Lord. In the name of the One who gave sight to the blind. Amen.