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)

This entry was posted in Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

  • Pages