Dare To Believe

Luke 1.67-79; 3.1-6

Can you use a Word from the Lord? A word from beyond? A word that speaks to your situation, to your circumstances, to your life? Can you use a word that says something to us about the current state of affairs in the world?

I don’t know about you, but I can.

If you can use such a word too, Luke, the gospel writer, knows how we feel. Luke knows that what we need is not a nice story, not a theological treatise, not a feel good scene in an escapist movie. We need a Word, with a capital ‘W’ that comes to us where we are, that speaks to the particularity of our lives and world…and brings life.

Luke does his best, in these opening chapters of his gospel, to let us know that a Word, a living Word with a capital ‘W’, is coming.

Do we dare believe?

Luke was a historian. He was not a historian as we might define one today, seeking the objective analysis of cold hard facts (we all know that historians today are objective and have no axes to grind or agendas they want to follow ;). But Luke does want us, dear readers, to know that a Word indeed came. He wants us to know precisely where it came, when it came, and to whom it came.

It was, Luke tells us, the 15th year of Roman Emperor Tiberius’ reign during which “the word of God came.” But that Word did not come to him.

Under great Tiberius’s judgment seat sat the lesser rulers: Pilate up in Jerusalem, the Herod boys down in Galilee and beyond, running things with their usual unbrotherly squabbling, and Lysanias stuck in Abilene (better known to us as the Bekka Valley). Annas and Caiaphas from the religious realm, were in their appointed places providing religious cement for Rome’s social engineers. But the Word did not come to any of them. Certainly, Luke assures us, the Word arrived in the real world of politics, economics, and religion. It arrived in the real world of history, our world; but it did not come to those who were in power, or to those with status, or to those on top of things. Oddly, it came to John, a man hanging out it the wastelands of a backward province on the outer boundaries of the empire–far from the center of things.

Even more oddly, John proclaims the he is but a harbinger of a greater coming. A Greater Word is coming which will transform not just one life, or two or three, not just one town, or city, or province, or people. With this coming (using Eugene Peterson’s message) “Every ditch will be filled in, Every bump smoothed out, The detours straightened out, All the ruts paved over. Everyone will be there to see The parade of God’s salvation.” (Luke 3:5-6 MESSAGE) The word is for everyone, everywhere.

Do we dare believe that the Word of the Lord arrives in such an odd place, to such an unexpected person, in such an unexpected way, and with such a grand scope? Do we, trained skeptics, instructed by the principles of the modern world, bound by the precepts of human reason, and schooled by the hardness of life and the persistence of evil, do we dare to believe that such a Word is even possible?

We might be more comfortable with incontrovertible proof. We might be more convinced with signs of great power, or with logical arguments and scientific proofs that remove all intellectual stumbling blocks. We might be more convinced with the eradication of evil and the end of tragic events in our lives and world. But God has chosen not to act or arrive in this way. Instead, God has chosen to tell a story, and to sing a song, and to walk with anyone who is willing, inviting all of us to discover our own freedom to chose whether or not we will listen for God’s odd and challenging, but life giving Word.

Do we dare believe?

This is the invitation of Advent: to believe, to consider, to reflect, to dream, that this kind of Word is not only possible, but that it comes to us & for us.

It is when we dare to dream, that we begin to see and experience its reality, and it’s truth. It is not something that can be proven, or imposed, or domesticated in doctrine.

The Word is a song to be sung, a story to be witnessed, and truth to be discovered when we dare to trust and believe.

“By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Do we dare to believe?

The invitation of Advent, to take a risk, to wander down the path of belief, is a very personal one. You are not deciding for everyone. The choice John is challenging us to make is not to be imposed upon others. You are not pronouncing a verdict on Buddhists or Muslims, or atheists, or agnostics (discussions of doctrinal truth of the more universal variety are for another time and place). John, and Advent, invites you to discover a Word of life, spoken to you and to your particular situation.

So, in the first year of the Presidency of Barack Obama, when Ban Ki-moon is Secretary-General of the United Nations, Gary R. Herbert is governor of Utah, and Randy Watts is Mayor of Logan, and when Gradye Parsons is Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and Paul Heins is Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Logan, the Word of God comes to …us?

It comes to us when we dare to believe.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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