“Faith. Fellowship. Future.”
Hebrews 11:29- 12:2
August 15, 2010
First Christian Church
I think it’s safe to say that I have been to almost every Home Depot, Lowes and Menards in the metro area this summer. The reason being is that my partner Daniel came up with the idea of adding on to our house. We are adding a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor. You have to understand that Daniel has a drive to get the best looking addition for good price. This has meant going to every home improvement place around to scout out tiling for the floors and walls, looking at windows, all the way down to the shower heads and towel hooks.
I kind of marvel Daniel and his ability to create a vision of what will be the final result. He can imagine what the addition to the most minute detail. I, on the other hand, have a hard time trying to envision anything. If it were up to me, we would probably be living in very sterile hovel somewhere.
One of the things that I have learned over time is that faith and imagination are linked. Faith isn’t so much about believing all the right things, as it is about being able to see where God is leading even though we can’t see it.
The text for today from the book of Hebrews takes a wide panoramic view of Jewish history and looks at the some of the well-known people , holding them up as examples of living by faith. It was by faith that the Israelites walked on dry land when the Red Sea parted. It was faith that caused the walls of Jericho to fall down. The writer lifts up people like Solomon and Gideon and Rahab, people from all sectors of society; some who were from the upper reaches of Jewish society and some who were not. Some were outsiders or had a bad reputation, like Rahab. Many met horrible endings. But all of them were people who had the imagination to see where God was taking them, even though they never made it there themselves.
Sometimes it is too easy to see faith as some kind of nebulous thing that really doesn’t have any bearing on our lives. Or we think we have to be a great person to have faith. Or, we think we need to have “enough” faith for God to be pleased with us.
Faith is something we can see. We may never see the end result, but we can see how faith is played out in the life of regular people like you and me. Who we are is because of the faith of others before us. If don’t believe me, go to an old church sometime, the ones that have cemetaries next to them. Daniel’s Mom and Dad are buried in church graveyards in South Dakota and here you can see all the people who came before; people who made an impact on the lives of the living.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to Deb Murphy. We were chatting about the past and future of this congregation and out of that conversation came a drawing that I want to show you this morning and I hope that you will come forward at the end of service to see the drawing. Deb decided to draw a tree, complete with roots, trunk and leaves. At the roots are some of the programs and ministries that have taken place over the decades; the Christmas Tea, Friday Night Out, First Christian Residence, Mission in Paraguay. The trunk has more recent experiences: Handcrafters, the Grande Sale, the Naomi and Laura Lynne Circles. In the leaves are some of the more recent endeavors: the Prayer Shawl Ministry, Art of the Covenant Children’s class, our work with Feed My Starving Children, the Currie Avenue Project which provides housing to the homeless. All of these works were done in faith. Some are still taking place, some are no longer in existence. But all of them have made an impact in the lives of people. The people from First Christian who planted churches like Lake Harriet in the early part of the last century didn’t know that they would change the lives of countless folks. Yes, most of those church plants are gone, but they still made an impact.
Some of the more current ministries we are doing will help people long after we have passed from the scene. All of these activities, past and present took an imiagination to not simply see the world as it is, but as what it could be in God.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed any of the posters around church for various church events. At the bottom is a kind of logo for the church complete with a tagline: “Faith. Fellowship. Future.” I’ve been using that as a tagline for the church having seen it as the theme for a church anniversary dinner in 1950s. As Deb’s drawing shows, we have been a community of faith. It is in God’s name that we have done all that we have done. But faith isn’t a solitary activity; as Hebrews says, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, both living and dead who help us in our own journey of faith. I’ve heard it said that we are a loving Christian community and I truly believe that. Then there is future. Our work as a community is always geared towards the future. When we welcome the refugees, feed the hungry, give a home to the homeless, we are working towards that day when, as the old Negro spirituals used to say, there will no more cryin’.
I want to end with one more analogy. I was reading in one of my devotions this week about this related to this text about how we need to get out of our basements and go up into the balcony sometimes to see how our faith is truly surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
Sometime, when you have the chance, I hope you will go up to the balcony here at First. Now, these days, no one really goes up there save whoever is doing the sound. And I will admit that maybe looking downward and seeing that the pews are not even close to being filled, could be cause for despair. But use your imagination. Look and see the drawings of the kids from Sunday School and see how we are raising the next generation in faith. Look at the table and see the bread and “wine” ; hear the wisdom from the elders and marvel that the table has and always will be a place where everyone is welcome to take part in the Lord’s Supper. See the piano and the organ and hear the voices of the choir as they preach God’s word in song. You get the picture. What you start to see is that while we might be small in number these days, we are large in faith. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and are those clouds of witnesses to those around us, even those we don’t know.
Keep on dreaming.
Thanks be to God. Amen.