Old Testament: Isaiah 26:1–4
Epistle: Romans 5:1–5
Gospel: Luke 10:21–28
God of love, God of peace, may the meditations of my heart, of my mind and of my spirit be acceptable and pleasing to you, and may they faithfully express the wisdom you have given to all of us. In your Son’s name, we pray. Amen.
If you’ve ever looked closely at any U.S. dollar bill, you’ve noticed our sermon title printed on the back——“In God We Trust.”
But does the United States really trust in God?
If one reflects on the U.S. government’s foreign policies or the recent tragedy in Orlando and the reaction afterwards on gun control, one could deduce that there is probably more trust in money or economic power, military strength and guns than in God.
Our message this morning though is not about life in America and its government’s policies but rather is about our lives here in Hong Kong.
Thus, we should ask ourselves this same question: Do we trust in God?
Before we answer this question, we should first make sure that we have a clear understanding about what we mean when we use the word trust.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists a number of definitions, but this one I think bests encapsulates the meaning for me: “[a] firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.”
Thus, our trust in someone or something hinges on whether or not we believe they are reliable. Can we depend upon them in any circumstance? Do they care for us?
Another way of saying the same thing is whether we have faith in someone or something. In this case, do we have faith in God?
Most of us, I believe, will naturally say yes. Otherwise, why are we here this morning?
But do we really have faith in God? Do we really trust God? And why should it matter?
In our Old Testament reading today in Isaiah 26:4, we are invited to trust in God. “Trust in the Lord forever,” the scripture says, “for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
In other words, trust in God because God is “an everlasting rock”; an anchor for our lives; a divine, holy and spiritual being upon whom we can depend and who is our Creator and our Sustainer. For these reasons, we can have faith in God.
But again, do we?
For myself, I would honestly have to answer no. For if I truly trust God, if I truly have faith in God, then I will be at peace, meaning I won’t have any fears, I won’t have any worries or anxieties, etc. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I’m guessing that others here may feel the same way I do.
Why is this so?
It seems so simple to trust God, to have faith in God, and there is no reason not to do so, but yet, I don’t think I really do. What seems so simple is also so very challenging.
What is the roadblock or obstacle to trusting God, to having faith in God?
For me, I think I am the biggest obstacle to trusting God. My ego does not want to surrender to God. I do not want to lose control or am afraid of losing control. Consequently, if I don’t surrender to God, there is really no trust in God, and there is no true peace in my life. Perhaps others here can relate to this predicament as well.
How then can I, can we, overcome this dilemma?
Let us look for a possible answer in our epistle reading this morning in Romans 5:1–5:
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing 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 through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.”
The relevant portions of this passage for us today are the links between faith, peace and God and most importantly the pouring of God’s love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. If God’s love dwells in each of us, then why do we not trust God, why do we not have faith in God?
Again, I think the ego is the culprit.
How then can we overcome this culprit that is us. In other words, how can I get out of the way of myself?
The Benedictine monk John Main and his disciple Laurence Freeman offer us a prescription: Christian meditation, or contemplative prayer.
Meditation is a way for us to subdue our egos and to connect with the Divine that resides in each of us. Meditation is perhaps a practice that we associate more with Buddhism or Hinduism, but Fr. Main and Fr. Freeman in the 1970s resurrected the Christian tradition of meditation begun by the Dessert Fathers in the third century A.D. in Egypt. Through meditating for 20 to 30 minutes twice a day, we can begin to silence our egos over time and can begin to listen more deeply to God in us. Developing a more profound relationship with God can naturally strengthen the bonds of trust and bless us with a greater sense of peace.
This peace though is not intended to be kept within ourselves, but rather, we are called to share it with others. Today during our worship service and, indeed, every Sunday service we share our peace with one another.
But the sharing of the peace inside of us is, of course, not just reserved for our Sunday services. We know from the Beatitudes in Matt. 5:9 that we have a responsibility as Christians to be peacemakers; but before we can work for peace, we need to be at peace with ourselves and with God: peace in the world begins with peace in me and in each of us. Our relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with God and with ourself.
You know from reading or listening to news reports that our world today cries out for peace, that there is a great need for us, as people of faith, to be peacemakers, that our faith challenges us to heal the brokenness of the world. This message is most appropriate today as the United Nations has declared June 26 as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. We may feel, however, that the violence or problems of the world are far away from us or are too big for us to deal with. It is normal to feel this way. Hong Kong though is in need of peace. Our city is divided over how to achieve a more genuine democratic political system, for instance. Moreover, we may encounter people in our daily lives in our neighborhood, in our workplace, in our school, in our family, who are not at peace because of an accident or an illness, etc.—people for whom we can do some small act to give them a greater sense of peace. Sometimes it’s something as simple as listening to their problem. Peacemaking does not necessarily require some grand act or great skill. It just requires a commitment to others.
By now, it may be apparent that at the foundation of being a peacemaker is love, fulfilling the commandments that Jesus gives us in our Gospel reading today in Luke 10:27 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
As peacemakers, we express our love for our neighbors both near and far; and in so doing, we reveal our love for God who calls us to love our neighbor. Our inner peace, built on our trust in God, is reflected in our actions for peace in our world. The inner joins with the outer, and our faith becomes whole. Amen.
Bruce Van Voorhis serves as missionary with the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCA’s in Hong Kong. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.