Over and over again in the Gospels Jesus tells us that faith is demonstrated. Just like love is demonstrated. You could tell me that you love me with words, but it is through a warm embrace, loving appreciation, kindness, shared excitement, and generosity that I feel your love. Faith is similar. We can’t just do it lip service. Faith is demonstrated.
After the service he was approached by several businessmen. They told him in no uncertain terms "leave labor matter alone and just stick to saving souls. Stay away from political matters, you are rubbing fur the wrong way." To which Billy Sunday replied, "If I'm rubbing fur the wrong way, tell the cats to turn around!"
Turning away from our neighbors in need defies God’s work on our hearts. If all we can think of is ourselves, how we look to others, how we feel at any given moment, or paying into the latest and greatest new fad on the market, you can bet that we’re not giving God the room to teach us to love. What a miserable way to live.
This is what we were promised. Not that we would never suffer or even that all suffering would be inherently meaningful. No, we were promised that we would not have to suffer alone. God infuses our sorrow with meaning the way a parent does with a sad child, through a closer bonded relationship.
I began writing this sermon halfway up Mt. Mansfield this week. Now, you could argue that it's pretty clever rationalization to work a hike into my sermon prep. And you wouldn't be entirely wrong. Man, that was a nice hike. But I did, indeed, have a method to my madness for my Wednesday hike. Our subject today is joy and a mountain hike is a fabulous metaphor for this sermonizing journey.
The church was never meant to be a building, instead, the church family gathered in one another’s homes - like family. Somewhere along the way we went from calling ourselves "the church" to calling the building "the church." But other things have changed over time, too. Somewhere along the way we started thinking that living in community was optional...
From early in her life, Mother Teresa realized that she saw Jesus in every person that she met. Indeed, the poor were, as she put it, “Jesus in his most distressing disguise.”
God has chosen you, called you, and hand picked you for particular work. God is telling you that you have a special mission all your own that will build up good and healthy communities while at the same time tearing down oppressive systems. No matter how old or how young you are you are called, you are being sent.
Friends, sickness is the great interrupter of life. It enters without knocking, changing all plans, mocking the idea of certainty, and diminishing hope for the future...
We act faithfully, doing what God told us to do - love our neighbors, feed the hungry, welcome the stranger - and hope that God will take these small actions and help them ripple out. That’s the kind of faith that this passage is reminding us to have: A faith that looks to the future without expectation that we will see the end result.