Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary Sermon for Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16  The Promise of Faith

Jesus said some pretty amazing things.  One of the more incredible things Jesus said was, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Lk. 17:6 CEB)

If that was not amazing enough he went on to say in the story of Jesus known as Matthew, “I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there,’ and it will go. There will be nothing that you can’t do.” (Matt. 17:20 CEB)

Now did Jesus really mean this, or was he just exaggerating?  I believe that he meant it.  I understand some would say, “You can’t be serious!” 

“You actually believe a human being could make a tree obey their voice or a mountain follow their command?”

I believe that Jesus does not deceive. I also that our Lord would not exaggerate about something so important to God the Father. But if you focus on simply moving a tree or a mountain, you miss the point.  Faith is much more powerful than that. 

Faith is nothing in isolation.  It is simply a word describing the belief of something for which there is incomplete evidence.  It is a word we use as a defense of our inability to attain certainty.  Example:  I have faith that the Cowboys will win the Super Bowl this year or I have faith I am going to win the lottery even if I don’t buy a ticket.

These are examples of blind faith or having a vivid imagination.

The faith that Jesus speaks about, the faith of power, the faith of promises, is the faith we find in our passage today. 

Verse one is an incredible verse. Listen to it again. Faith is the reality hoped for, proof of what we don’t see.

The reality hoped for, what does that mean?   What kind of a reality do we want?  One without fear?  One with pain and suffering?  One without boredom or limitations?  One filled with love and life?  One without loss and death? 

The reality hoped for is the reality for which we were created.  It is the reality that sin blinds us too and to which hopelessness tries to bind us. 

That world is impossible.  That reality cannot exist. 

Not according to Jesus who said, “It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.” (Matt. 19:26 CEB).  This statement is found in three of the four accounts of the life of our Lord.

Faith is the means through which God is known.  Faith is the prelude to a growing relationship of trust, confidence, and ultimately perfected love.  Faith is the proof of what we don’t see. 

Proof, that is a strong word.  Yes, it is.  It is a word meaning evidence, reliability, truth, and confidence.  Proof is what makes faith in God not a blind faith, but a relational faith. 

Yes, Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so, but so does my heart, and so does my experience of my encounters with God in my own life and in the lives of others.  I know my faith is real because of the evidence of Jesus, the evidence of the resurrection, and the reality of the joy, and completeness, which comes from the experience of a growing love for God and others.

Listen again to verse 3.  Faith is the means by which we come to understand God.  We human beings are finite creatures.  We have no control over time.  We have no power over creation.  Even when we seek knowledge we can only understand with our own experiential limitations.  Our only understanding of why we even exist is either to believe we are a strange singularity in an incomprehensible universe or else we are a creation of a God who is beyond the incomprehensible universe that at best we can merely speculate and imagine. 

No, the only way we can understand is if God chooses to give us understanding through faith.  And what God has chosen to give us understanding is that God does love us.  God does care about us and God has plans for us that are revealed through the promises of faith.

In verses 8-16, the writer of Hebrews calls our attention to the history of Abraham.  It is a remarkable history of God’s relationship with a man called Abraham and God’s choice of Abraham to be a means of revealing an understanding of faith.

In verse 8 we are told Abraham was called and he went.  He when because of a promise.  A promise made by God.  A promise Abraham trusted.  How does one develop this type of trust?  This type of trust only comes through the experience of a relationship.  This was not an “I have faith I am going to win the lottery” type faith, but a faith filled with an understanding of God’s reliability.

Look again at verse 10. 

Along with Abraham, Sarah, his wife also had faith.  In verse 11 we are told that for Sarah have a child was impossible, but with God, all things are possible.  So Sarah had faith “because she believed that the one who promised was faithful.” (Heb. 11:11 CEB)

Note what it says in verse 13, “but they saw the promises from a distance and welcomed them. They look at the future with eyes of faith.  They confessed that they were strangers and immigrants on earth. (Heb. 11:13 CEB)

They understood.  They grasp the reality.  They were able to comprehend what God wanted for them.  And what did God want for them?  A reality, the reality we were created for in the first place.  One without fear.  One with pain and suffering.  One without boredom or limitations.  One filled with love and life.  One without loss and death.   They believed that the one who promised was faithful. 

Now, all of these people died in faith without receiving the promises. (Heb. 11:13 CEB) They know the promises of God transcend time and space.  The promises of God are not limited by human finiteness and mortality. 

These people lived in faith of promises coming, a faith we are now called to live by the promise of the one who has come.  The one who brings the promises of God to us now and forever.  The one who grows the promises of faith in us. 

And what promises are those?  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. (1 Jn. 1:9 CEB)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Jn. 6:51 CEB)

God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. (Eph. 1:5-6 CEB)

I will never leave you or abandon you (Heb. 13:5 CEB) “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you (Jn. 14:27 CEB) Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age. (Matt. 28:20 CEB)

This is the power of the promises of faith.  Promises we can begin to experience now through a growing, loving, grace-giving, relational faith in Jesus Christ. 

This is faith that will be with you in the good times and the bad.  It will sustain you in the emergency room or at the side of a grave. 

We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out. (2 Cor. 4:8-9 CEB)

Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison.

We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.

 (2 Cor. 4:17-18 CEB)

Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. (Heb. 11:1 CEB)

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