June 18, 2017
Genesis 18:1-15, Matthew 9:35-10:15
We are leaving for two trips this week – a family vacation and the UCC General Synod.
I am already thinking about what to pack. They will be two different trips, but they are back to back so I have to pack for both trips. I will never be known as someone who packs lightly. I want to be prepared. Weather can change. I was horrified to see how much heavier my suitcase was than everyone else who went on the border trip, but I felt secure having all my stuff with me. I am not only careful about packing clothes, I make sure to pack snacks, books to read and chargers for every electronic device. I don’t want to rely on anyone else.
I don’t think Jesus would be impressed with my packing. In fact, I think he would probably tell me that if I need all that stuff, I should probably stay home. Jesus calls the disciples to respond to the human need he saw around him. The scripture says that he had compassion on the crowds because they were harassed and helpless. As he realizes the magnitude of the need, he calls his disciples to help. He tells them not to take any money or credit cards, no suitcases, and no extra clothes. I would never survive packing Jesus’ style!
He tells the disciples to trust the hospitality of others they travel. Someone will feed them and care for them. I have experienced some of that hospitality and it always astonishes me. When I traveled to Bolivia among some of the poorest people I have ever known, they all wanted to feed us (and we were a large group). Our border immersion team has told you about being fed by Aurelia who learned to make tamales to sell so she could pay the coyotes to bring her husband home from Mexico when he was not allowed to re-enter. Aurelia had all twelve of us in her home, told us her story, and then fed us wonderful tamales!
Jesus call to trust the goodness of others is not very American. Our culture is more geared toward taking care of yourself. Jesus is sending the disciples out to take care of people and at the same time he is calling them to let others take care of them.
In the reading from Genesis, God tells Abraham and Sarah they will bear a child in their old age. God has promised them an heir, but childbearing years passed them by so Abraham had a son with Hagar, his servant. So when God shows up again and says, “You are going to have a child. No, really.” Sarah laughs. That’s fair. She was around 90 and Abraham 100. How do you trust a promise like that?
I’ve been thinking about the call to trust in God. I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to trust. I’ve been thinking about how much we trust anyway.
o Every time we get in the car, we trust that we will make it to our destination unharmed.
o We trust that the bridge won’t collapse as we cross over it.
o We trust that the surgeon will be successful.
o We trust that the food we eat and water we drink won’t make us sick.
o When we pledge what we will give to the church, we trust that we will be able to follow through on our commitment.
o You trust that the minister will show up and the musicians will be here each Sunday.
We trust from the time we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night.
Both texts call us to ultimately trust in God, but there is a call to trust in each other as well. Some of you have heard me describe my first outdoor adventure when I was in college. It was a three-week class where we backpacked, biked, camped, and canoed. I had no outdoor experience and fell in love immediately with the outdoors. I was in a canoe with Joey. Joey was in the back and knew something about what he was doing. It was my first time and I was in the front. At one point, a rock lodged underneath the middle of our canoe. We were stuck and there was no moving. Joey tried a few things and nothing worked. He finally told me that I would have to go to the back of the canoe with him and we were just going to pop that canoe off the rock and be on our way. I was having none of that! I explained that there was no way that would work. I honestly didn’t know if it would work, I just knew that was too scary a solution so I was not at all interested. We spent a long time negotiating and discussing it. I waited it out as long as I could and we didn’t magically find ourselves moving along the river again. I finally gave up and in desperation, went to the back of the canoe with Joey. It took two easy seconds to pop the canoe off the rock and we were on our way down the river. I wasted a lot of time not trusting Joey.
When you look at these texts, there is trust going on all over the place. God is trusting two elderly people with a child. Jesus is trusting the disciples to accomplish his mission to heal and care for people. He didn’t wait around for them to become perfect. He trusted that they could continue the work he was doing even in their imperfection. He called them to trust in return.
Matthew Laney described Jesus calling the disciples in all their imperfections and then he said, “Jesus won't wait for you to be perfect before calling you to follow him. Not even Jesus has that much time. In fact, it would be just like Jesus to call when you are caught red-handed, when you are doing your worst, when you don't have time to clean up your act, when you feel totally unfit and undeserving. That's when grace prefers to make her move.” (In an essay called “Caught” from http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional)
Our congregation has taken the call to serve the “harassed and the helpless” seriously since our origins. There is a fine line between good planning and stepping out trusting that God will give us what we need. I am in favor of both. Right now we are trusting in God as we prepare to serve the immigrants and refugees in our community. We are gathering information and listening to stories and listening for God’s call to us. We are doing the same as we prepare to hire a children, youth, and family staff person. Both will require us to trust in God and one another.
If you have ever stepped out with no net beneath you, you know about trusting in God. When something big asks us to trust, we wonder if we can do it. But here is what we need to remember. We trust every day. We trust in other people and we trust in God. We may not recognize that is what we are doing, but we are. We are building our trust muscle hundreds of times each day. We do that and when something big comes up and we don’t know if we can trust, I will tell you that we can. We have been building that muscle for a long time and it is strong and it is ready. I know that God is asking us to care for the vulnerable in our society and I know that when we do, we will find ourselves in uncomfortable places. I know that I may not get to pack the suitcase with all my belongings that make me feel secure. I know we will wonder where the money is coming from when we take on new ministry. I know that we will have to rely on each other and we will trust that God is leading us when we cannot see the way ahead. We don’t always believe that we can trust God, but when we keep going anyway, that is exactly what we are doing.
Nadia Bolz-Weber reminds us that “God’s ability to get things right is always more powerful than our ability to get things wrong.” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/09/a-sermon-on-who-to-trust-us-or-jesus/)
We know all too well that we can mess things up so it seems that we just need to be reminded from time to time that it isn’t all up to us. In fact, God has our backs. God is breathing life and hope and goodness into everything we do and we can trust that. We don’t give up when we can’t see where we are going. We trust that God is with us even in the most ludicrous situations. Sarah having a baby at age 90 is pretty ridiculous and it just reminds us that God will never be bound by our limited understanding of what makes sense. In fact, if what we feel called to do seems foolish, it may very well be God’s call. We don’t have to understand everything and we don’t have to know how we will arrive. We can trust that with God we will get where we need to go and it will be amazing!