Fearful Faithfulness

Please take a moment to read Steve Chase’s article here – I quoted him in my sermon and the entire article is REALLY worth a read.

Blessings!

Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Fearful Faithfulness

When I first read the scriptures for this morning’s worship service, I was poignantly struck by the words of 1 Corinthians 1:9 – “God is faithful.”

Part of being involved and active in a church community is celebrating faithfulness; celebrating your faithfulness, celebrating the faithfulness of those around you and – perhaps most importantly – celebrating God’s faithfulness.

This weekend we celebrate the faithfulness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. When I was thinking through this week’s worship service and sermon, I typed the phrase “Martin Luther King Faithfulness” into Google and came across an article written by an activist and professor named Steve Chase. I would like to share part of it with you this morning:

{Note – I quoted more of him during my sermon, but did not want to copy the whole piece onto my blog. Please take a moment to read Chase’s work!}
The Spirit surely works in mysterious ways. While fearful, King rose to Nixon’s challenge—and the Bible’s prophetic call to seek justice and oppose oppression. Serving as the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott for the next twelve months also changed King. Watching 42,000 poor and working-class black people stay organized and do without public transportation for a year, he discovered the hidden capacity of ordinary people to resist oppression and move toward freedom together. Watching the conservative, right-wing city government finally cave in to the boycott, he experienced the power of mass nonviolent direct action campaigns to win real victories—even when they are opposed by powerful interests. By seeing his own power to inspire people to become active, faithful citizens for a noble cause, King also discovered what kind of leader he wanted to be. He now embraced his mission as an activist leader.

I tell this story because there are many important lessons in it. We don’t have to be born leaders. We don’t have to attain perfect spiritual wisdom or confidence before we become active. We just have to get started right here, right now—even if we still feel fearful, ambivalent, or doubtful. King’s story is a modern parable. It is an invitation for all of us to take up the cross of fearful faithfulness.

Fearful faithfulness: What a powerful phrase! To be faithful does not mean not have fear. Faithfulness is not the absence of pain or suffering in our lives; it is clinging to the presence of God in the midst of those times. Dr. King’s story reminds us that faithfulness was not the absence of segregation and injustice in the world; it was the presence of ordinary people who were willing to stand up through their fear and say, “This must change.”

God is faithful.

This morning’s psalm says: “Happy are those who make the Lord their trust.” Notice it does not say, “Happy are those who have had good luck” or “Happy are those who have never experienced tragedy or heartbreak” or “Happy are those who have had a really easy life.” No; it says “Happy are those who make the Lord their trust.”

Trust in God is what gives us happiness. Trust in God’s faithfulness is what gives us happiness. We have to believe that and we have to live our lives as tangible expression of that as well.

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians. Grace is not something that is coming – it is not something that God promises us; it is something that has already been given to us. God’s faithfulness has already been proven through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are saved and God is with us.

And God is faithful.

This is our starting point. God’s faithfulness is our starting point.

That faithfulness is what calls us into action. Paul starts this letter to the Corinthian people by addressing them in his salutation: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ, called to be saints.” We are called to continue to build off of the foundation that Jesus laid throughout his life and ministry. We are called to pray and to speak and to sing of God’s faithfulness. And we are called to live our lives as tangible reminders of that faithfulness so that those around us can see this Good News. We are called to be a living expression of God’s faithfulness in this world.

It is not always going to be easy. I will not stand here and say that life is always fair and that good things will always happen to good people. You may face real challenges and adversities in your life. You will experience fear and apprehension. The road of faithfulness might not necessarily be the easy road to take.

But you cannot lose hope. You have to cling to God in those moments of weakness and fear. Seek out the hidden capacity within yourself and let your light shine. Like Dr. King – and like so many other ordinary people who fought for justice in the Civil Rights movement – we must rise to the occasion and share God’s faithfulness in both word and action. Be the voice for those who cannot speak; be the advocate for those who are oppressed; and – as we were reminded we have the ability to do in 1 Corinthians 1:6 – strengthen the testimony of Christ in this generation.

Allow me to close with words spoken by Dr. King at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967 – one year to the day before he was assassinated.

If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world. . . . Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell [ourselves] the struggle is too hard? . . . Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with [our own] yearnings, of commitment to the cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

2 thoughts on “Fearful Faithfulness

  1. Great sermon, miss you.  Having a real cold spell here, 40’s and 50’s!!! Had to turn heat on for a few minutes to warm our cement apartment.  Hugs to you and Bruce. 

     

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