Cling To Your Faith

I made 12 dozen chocolate chip cookies and decorated them with the symbol of the Trinity last night, gave them to the kids during my children’s sermon and said, “So the Trinity means God is three persons in one – so when your mom tells you that you can have one cookie, that really means you can have three.”

In other words, I’m ready for the program year to be over.

Here’s my sermon!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
May 22, 2016

Romans 5:1-5

Cling To Your Faith

I went for a run yesterday and was listening to the soundtrack from the musical, Hamilton. For those of you who do not know, Hamilton is a musical about the life of United States founding father Alexander Hamilton. It premiered Off-Broadway in February 2015 and made its Broadway debut in August 2015. Its music is an exhilarating and brilliant combination of show tunes and rap; the production is very unique and one of a kind.

So I am sure you can imagine, my father gets weekly text messages from me saying:

We need to get tickets to see this show.
Have you downloaded the music yet?
We need to get tickets to see this show.
You need to see if a medley is available for your chorus to sing next year.
We need to get tickets to see this show.
Omg, this music is amazing.
We need to get tickets to see this show.

Yesterday as I was running and thinking about my sermon, the song, Right Hand Man, came on, which is a dramatization of George Washington’s New York Campaign between British Forces and the Continental Army. Alexander Hamilton was charged up, ready to take on the British no matter what might happen to him when General (at the time) Washington reined him in with these lyrics:

It’s alright, you want to fight, you’ve got a hunger.
I was just like you when I was younger.
Head full of fantasies of dyin’ like a martyr.

Hamilton responded with a swift, “Yes,” when Washington said:

Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder.

As I thought about the passage that we heard this morning from Romans, this line got me thinking about life, itself, and what might be easier in life – not having faith or having faith.

People often say things like, “I do not know what I would do without my church family” or “I never would have gotten through this tragedy or crisis without my faith or without God” and while I believe those statements to be true, I also do not want anyone to think that this whole faith and Christianity and church thing makes all the crap we go through in life any easier.

In fact, sometimes I actually think it makes it kind of harder.

When bad things happen, those of us with faith often question that faith. We question why God would let bad things happen to us, we wonder where God is in the midst of our suffering and we struggle with how we are supposed to trust and have faith in God when it seems like God has abandoned us. I wonder if it is easier to justify the bad things in the world if you do not believe in God at all; but how are we, we as people of faith, supposed to find answers to these difficult questions when we truly believe that God is in the midst of all the bad stuff?

The line from Hamilton that got me thinking about all of this is, “Dying is easy; living is harder.” Here’s a thought that perhaps is even more powerful: Abandoning your faith when it is tested is easy; clinging to that faith during your times of trial is much, much harder.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans that:

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.

These words were a declaration to the Roman citizens (and are to us) that the best things in life are sometimes hard to come by. The things that bring us great meaning in life are not always easily found. The things that bring us hope in life do not always come easy.

But that is where faith comes in.

Paul was not describing a faith that is light and fluffy and easy in this letter. Paul was describing a very real and human faith; a faith that is tested in the midst of suffering, a faith that does not simply and swiftly take away the bad things in our lives, but forges ahead through them. Paul was describing a faith that knows real pain, a faith that will often bring on more questions than answers. Paul was not saying that we MIGHT experience suffering in our lives, Paul was saying that we WOULD experience suffering, but that we should cling to our faith in those times and boast in that suffering anyway.

No one gets an easy pass through life. No one walks through life without some kind of pain or suffering or devastation at some point. But those tragedies are not what define us; it is how we respond to them that truly matters. It is who or what we turn to in those times of need; it is whether we choose to turn away from our faith because it does not make sense or suspend our disbelief, rise up to the glory of God and boast in our sufferings because we know that God will somehow take those sufferings and bring us hope.

This is where grace intervenes in our lives.

If you break it down, I think that when it comes to our faith, we essentially have two choices: We can let go of it or we can cling to it. We can cling to it in a way that is real and hard and frightening. We can cling to it by asking difficult questions and demanding answers to the nonsense of life. We can cling to it by making a commitment to be part of a church community that not only will support us, but hold us accountable as well. We can cling to it by believing against all odds that we are created, redeemed and sustained by a God who brought us into this world and promised to never leave us alone. We can cling to it by boasting in both our hope and in our suffering.

When I read this passage I am reminded of the age-old expression, No pain, no gain! I, myself, use that expression to justify tough workouts or minor burns suffered while crafting. But I do not think that was what Paul meant here. I do not think Paul was saying that in order to experience hope, we must first experience suffering.

But I do think that Paul was being realistic about the world that we live in. I think that Paul had lived a lot of life in this very imperfect and unfair and confusing world. He “got” it; he got what the Roman people were going through and what we, today, go through on a daily basis. He got the hardships and the confusions and the difficult decisions and the painful relationships. He got the tragedies and the disasters and the illnesses. He got the times in life when things are hard and faith is not easy.

But Paul also made a commitment to God and to his faith; and he found grace in the midst of all of it.

And so can we. We, too, can boast in our suffering and in our hope and in the journey that it takes to get there. We, too, can hold onto the bold and radical truth that hope does not disappoint us. We, too, can find grace in the midst of a world that is hard to live in.

There is so much to live for in this world. If you open your eyes and look around there is joy, there is compassion and there is love. Sometimes those things get clouded over by the bad stuff that happens, but it is our right and responsibility to uncover the good that is in this world. We are called to shine light on the hope that is real by sharing the glory of God.

Today is Trinity Sunday, which is traditionally celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost. It is a Sunday where we celebrate the complex and confusing, yet grace-filled pieces of the Trinity; where we hold in balance these three pieces of God that give us life, that help us find meaning and that bring us hope. Today we share the glory not only of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but of Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer; of a God that was, a God that is and a God that will always be. Today we make a commitment to travel on this journey that Paul talks about from suffering to hope because we believe, without a doubt, that hope is alive and it is real and it will change our lives.

So cling to your faith. Cling to your faith in the good times and in the bad times. Cling to your faith when it is easy and when it is hard. Cling to your faith when you can see hope in front of you and when you only see suffering. Cling to your faith knowing that your God is not a God that is far away, watching from a distance, but here in your midst, sharing in the blood, sweat, tears and laughter of life, traveling with you on this journey through life and faith.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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