These totally incomplete notes below are forming into a sermon entitled ‘JOURNEYING WITH GOD – CERTAINLY UNCERTAIN AND CAREFULLY CARELESS’ out of Hebrews 11 – famous named heroes of the faith and then the anonymous ones who were sawed in two, stoned, afflicted, etc. Anyways, as ever there are some juicy quotes, and as I refine and tweak the message, I’d be interested in any feedback, please do comment/challenge/question:
Choosing to see life as a journey reminds us to stop trying to set up camp and call it home. It allows us to see life as a process, with completion somewhere down the road. Thus we’re freed up from feeling like a failure when things are not finished, and can retain hope that they will be as our journey comes to its end. I want adventure, and this reminds me I am living in it. Life isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s an adventure to be lived.
I know no matter how much I strive for authenticity, my life lacks consistency, that contradictions abound. “The very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me.” (Thomas Merton) It’s comforting Paul confesses the same struggles in Romans 7 when he talks about the sin he doesn’t want to do, he does…
Richard Kadrey quipped: “Being able to embrace contradictions is a sign of intelligence. Or insanity.”
Sometimes doubting is not a lack of faith but rather an expression of it. Sometimes to doubt is merely to insist that God be taken seriously not frivolously, to insist that our faith is placed in and upheld by something other than seeming conjuring tricks. The depth of our doubt might be roughly proportionate to the depth of our faith. Dostoevsky: “It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My ‘hosanna’ is born of a furnace of doubt.”
John Kavanaugh, brilliant ethicist who went to live for three months in Mother Teresa’s “House of the Dying” in Calcutta on a personal pilgrimage to find vital guidance – a clear vision for the rest of his life. On his very first morning, Mother Teresa asked Kavanaugh, as she asked everyone, “What can I do for you?” He requested prayer, but she wanted to know what kind. Without hesitation, Kavanaugh, who had travelled thousands of miles on his quest, replied, “Please pray that I get clarity for the future.” “No!” retorted Mother Teresa emphatically, “I will not do that. Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” “But you always seem to have clarity,” Kavanaugh pleaded, a little taken aback. With a twinkle in her eye, Mother Teresa laughed, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray you trust God.”
Oswald Chambers (this quote is what gives the sermon its title): “The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainties, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere… Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day will bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God… Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come…. Future plans are uncertain, but we all know that there is first God’s plan to be lived, and we can safely leave everything to Him, ‘carefully careless’ of it all.”
“What we desperately need to re-understand is that it is dangerous to be a true Christian. Anyone who takes his or her Christianity seriously will realise that crucifixion is not something that happened to one man nineteen hundred and fifty-odd years ago, nor was martyrdom just the fate of his early followers. It should be an omnipresent risk for every Christian. Christians should – need – in certain ways to live dangerously if they are to live out their faith. The times have made this apparent… And in combating the entrenched forces… the principalities and powers of this world, that very much includes the risk of martyrdom… It is time for communal, congregational action and corporate risk.” Scott Peck
We shouldn’t be surprised that a lifelong journey with God might bring us suffering and hardship. If the Cross teaches us anything, it teaches us that sometimes God comes through after we’ve been killed!
Becoming a Christian is all about understanding Christ died for me. Carrying on as a Christian is about dying with Him. Jesus is not primarily concerned with changing our circumstances to make life easier. He is concerned to change us within our circumstances, which is often painful.
What if ‘maturity’ is less about knowledge, order and success, and more about an ability to live with uncertainty, risk and mess?
“Only by desertion can we be defeated. With Christ and for Christ victory is certain. We can lose the victory by flight but not by death. Happy are you if you die in battle, for after death you will be crowned. But woe to you if by forsaking the battle you forfeit at once both the victory and the crown.” Bernard of Clairvaux
What do moments like September 11th teach us? This is the summary: you have no control over when you die or (most often) how you die; but you do have control over how you live. Is your goal how long you live, or that you live?
The beginning of fear is the end of faith; the beginning of true faith is the end fear. Fear or anxiety never strengthens you for tomorrow – it only weakens you for today.
When you move with God, he always shows up. But you’ve got to move. Ab’s promise from God was ‘go…and I will show’. It’s just difficult to predict what He will do or how He will do it. If you wait for guarantees, the only thing that will be guaranteed its that you will miss endless divine opportunities – that you can know for certain.
Oswald: “When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. When He says ‘Let not your hearts be troubled,’ if you see Him I defy you to trouble your mind, it is a moral impossibility to doubt when He is there. Every time you get into personal contact with Jesus, His words are real. “My peace I give you,” it is a peace all over from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet, an irrepressible confidence. ‘Your life is hid with Christ in God,’ and the imperturbable peace of Jesus Christ is imparted to you.”
It’s the best I’ve got, as my child puts his hand in mine and doesn’t know what we’re doing next but of course trusts me, so we can do the same with God…