Sunday, August 10, 2014

Walking by Faith

This was my first sermon at my new Parish. 

10 August 2014

Have you walked the labyrinth lately? Part of the reason I was drawn to Holy Spirit is the labyrinth which lays outside that wall. I have always found labyrinths to be a helpful practice for my faith and a good metaphor for the life which I have been leading. At face value, a labyrinth seems kind of pointless. It’s a giant circle that you walk around without really getting anywhere. You do get to the middle, but its by a circuitous journey that takes much longer than it would take just to go straight toward the middle. A lot of times life seems that way. I try to do one thing, but I end up having to do all these other things before I can get to what I want to do. But I have to trust the process. I have walked enough labyrinths all over the country to have realized that the point is not just to get to the center geographically, but to get to the center of life. It’s a small focused journey to God. It’s part of a larger walk, one that is trod every day, but one that is not always paid enough attention. It’s a walk of faith, that the journey is not pointless, that I will find the center, that I will meet God. It’s a walk of faith that I am drawn to over and over again. 
Walking by faith. Its not just a great theme for a labyrinth. Our readings give us more than one story of walking by faith: We are given two examples of walking by faith, we are asked and encouraged to walk by faith, and! we are shown that we will never walk by faith alone.
Joseph walked by faith, because he believed in God and never gave up being himself despite his circumstances. He could have easily given into the fact that he had been sold into slavery, that his brothers had sold him out of the family, that he was taken far from home. But he uses the gifts that God gives him, the gift of dreams, dream interpretation, and smarts throughout his life. He uses his smarts to work hard to rise to the top of his master’s house. And while things are never easy for Joseph, he keeps walking by faith, believing in the dreams that he had as a boy and believing in the God of his family. 
Joseph is one example of someone who walked by faith. Peter also walked out in faith. Faith that he would not sink and drown in the dark Galilee because Jesus was with him. The disciples achieved some marvelous things when they walked out in faith, they made other believers, they healed the sick, they cast out demons, and one time, Peter walked on water. All because of taking a chance on faith.

We have also been called to walk by faith.

Paul specifically asks each of us to walk by faith in the passage from Romans. We cannot share the good news of God without walking by faith. Its impossible. We can never know how sharing the good news will turn out. Christian history has taught us that it is risky business. We have to walk by faith.
And how are people going to believe in one of whom they have never heard? Uh, well, they aren’t…. And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? Very carefully? I guess someone should tell them…. And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? Well, technically every week we are sent out into the world to share the good news. The last part of the weekly service is the sending, Go! Go in peace, go serve the Lord, go proclaim the good news. Go, the world needs you! Go! And we don’t just say yes. We don’t meekly bow our heads and accept this task, we thank God for this task, we thank God for sending us out into the world. Thanks be to God! Doing this is an act of walking by faith.
We have been sent, we need to proclaim and we need to share. We need to walk by faith… spreading the Good News of the kingdom. Walking by faith, my diocese sent me here, in good faith that the foreign mission field of Texas would allow me to proclaim the good news of God and to grow in my ability to minister to God’s people. It is my hope and I walk in faith. And I do not walk alone.

None of us walks alone.

Peter walked out in faith, faith in Jesus, and we are witness to the miracle that happened, Jesus is not the only person to have ever walked on water. Peter walked on water. Having been to the Galilee this summer, I cannot imagine walking on that choppy sea, where the wind never stops and the water is always moving. But he does, Peter walks out in faith, and when he became afraid, he cried out and Jesus IMMEDIATELY caught him. Jesus is there, immediately. Never far off, Jesus grabs Peter by the hand and helps him back to the boat. We don’t know how far Peter had to walk to Jesus, but Jesus is there for him. There to save him. Jesus calls us to walk with faith. To believe in him and to proclaim his good news, both of which require us to walk out in faith. Away from the lack of proof about whether Jesus is right, away from knowing exactly what will happen, away from the solid grounding of facts. Yet faith journeys call on nothing less than our whole beings. This means that we have to deal with fear, anxiety, humdrum, storms, roller coasters, denial, anger, depression and a whole host of other things that curve our paths and put hills under our feet. Through all of this we put our trust in God and we walk on. God is with us. “Walk on, Walk on, What you got, They can't deny it, Can't sell it or buy it, Walk on. And I know it aches, How your heart it breaks, And you can only take so much, Walk on” as U2 says it. God the Creator is with you. God in Jesus is with you. God the Spirit is with you. Holy Spirit Church is with you, Father Josh is with you, and now so am I.
God invites you to walk by faith
God encourages you
God empowers you
God is there as a companion on the way,
Along with all the rest of us empowered people
Walking by faith
Across the green lawns
Across the cold tiles
Across the carpeted hallways
Through the winding labyrinths
Down and around and through
Every day of our lives
And when we cry out in fear
When doubt and pain make us shake
God reaches out, immediately.