16 JUN 20—Obstacles

I’m sure their intent is good, but it still puts obstacles in the way of our connecting.  I don’t know if it’s a recent change in how gmail works, or what, but the Google system has started blocking my group emails, and saying I need to use Google Groups, so if you haven’t registered for the group mail I sent out last week, please do.

Essential to our faith and discipleship is regularly connecting to keep in touch— regularly connecting with God, with our “spiritual battle buddies” who help us in our discipleship, and with all the neighbors God calls us to love.  There are certainly enough obstacles to that kind of connecting normally, but this COVID mess, now this gmail change, and oh, by the way, did you notice the big cell phone fiasco yesterday cutting service off for hundreds of thousands of people across the country?  At least that one didn’t last too long!

I imagine it wouldn’t take much to convince some people it looks like a giant conspiracy to put even more obstacles than usual in both our personal and spiritual connections these days.  But there are countless mysteries across the scriptures that seem to present obstacle to faith. Some of the readings in Genesis for our hero Abraham’s journey seem to be real obstacles to faith, to include what has come to us as God calling Abram to sacrifice his son, the hero bowing to Sarai’s jealousy and spite, sending Hagar and his other son, Ishmael into the desert with only one skin of water and a little bread, which not only looks cruel, but can be thought of as setting the stage for (even embracing?) racial hatred (Ishmael is the father of the people whom we now know as Arabs).

Yet somehow, Abram is reckoned such a model of faith that his life is so changed he becomes Abraham, and the father of the people of Israel who become our spiritual fathers and mothers as well.  Yet seeing the full scope of God’s “HIS-story” of grace and redemption, especially in Jesus, and seeing how God has worked in my own life over the years, I take it on faith.  Not a blind, silent faith to accept just anything, but a faith that includes wrestling and woundings with God, as was the case with Abraham’s grandson, Jacob in his wrestling with God’s angel.

Knowing what we do of Abram’s life, it looks like faith is more a gift from God than how he reacts to God.  But this shows that faith is both a noun—a thing which we can be give, or somehow have—and a verb—how we react, or what we do.  The book of Hebrews (11:1) tells us “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” “Assurance,” too, is both a noun and a verb—also a gift, and something that we can do and give.

So do you think Abram/Abraham through all his challenges, always felt strong in his faith?  I’m guessing not.  Yet he is still a great hero of the faith.  Some of his faith is what he did—which may or may not have had anything to do with if he felt very spiritual.  But he also received that gift of faith from God.

If it works with Abram to receive the give of faith, to act in faithful ways even when he was far from perfect, and likely not always feeling faithful—maybe it can work with us, too.  We may not be able to flip a switch to feel more faithful.  But we can act in faithful ways, and pray for the gift of faith along the way.

Ever faithful- whether it feels like it or not—Rev. Jim

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