“Got Faith?” was a sermon preached by Pastor Pam Schaefer Dawson in the First Sunday of Advent 2022 (November 27). The text upon which it was/is based is a collection of texts from the Book of Habakkuk. To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20221127
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:2-4, 3:17-19
Faith is defined as “complete confidence in a person (or a plan, etc.),” or “strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.” Faith is the ultimate trust and sincere belief that something good is eventually going to happen to make all well, regardless of the circumstances and situations that may be present.
The prophet, Habakkuk, of whom we hear in today’s lesson, lived in Judah during the time that the Babylonians were in power, in the sixth century BC. The prophet writes, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? … The law becomes slack, and justice never prevails.” We are familiar with the sentiment, aren’t we? These words could have been written of our lament to God, in our day, over the troubles in our world.
Everywhere, we see violence and hatred, mistreatment of the vulnerable and the poor, and at times it seems as if it will never end. When we watch the evening news, or read the paper, we hear of shootings and wars; we hear of kidnappings and corruption, turmoil and strife. With the prophets and the psalmists, we also cry out, “How long, O Lord?”
God’s answer to Habakkuk is all about faith. “For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” God instructs Habakkuk to write the vision down, to make it plain on tablets so that a runner can read it. Through the prophet, God tells the people to hang on to their faith, to have hope, even in the midst of their despair.
What is faith? Well, we have that dictionary definition… Let’s dig a little deeper.
Many people in our world would balk at the idea that everyone has faith. But, don’t we? We all exercise faith in our daily lives: faith that the alarm clock will go off; faith that our brakes will stop the car; faith that when we pay our electric bill, the lights will stay on (well, mostly…!). To a certain extent, all of us on the planet have faith like this, faith that things will generally work as they are supposed to work.
But what about faith in God? Many people say that they can’t or won’t believe that a loving God exists. For some, this is at least in part because of the way that God has been described to them and modeled for them in their religious or domestic lives in the past: a judgmental, angry God who could not be pleased or appeased.
I’m reminded of the hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story,” in which we sing that we love to tell the story for some who’ve never heard, and we love to tell it for those who “know it best,” and yet “seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.”
Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (as it says in the book of Hebrews); he finished the work of salvation for us on the cross. He is the object of our faith. So, then, what are the fruits of our faith?
First, our faith should grow and mature over time. This is not a given. The maturation of our faith is dependent on our commitment to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. One commentator whom I read this week says, “We like the idea of Jesus as our Savior, but are less keen on the idea of Jesus as our Lord. If he is our Lord, then we will give our time and talents to his service; we will invest in things that mature our faith… We will, in times of distress, cry out to Jesus, ‘I believe, Lord; help my unbelief!’” So, our faith grows and matures by staying close to God in prayer, and through constant immersion in God’s Word.
Secondly, the fruit of our faith is our love and devotion to the Church, which is all of the people who make up the whole Body of Christ throughout the world.
And thirdly, the fruit of our faith will be the expansion of God’s Kingdom, for God’s glory. This takes the form of our giving of our time, our talents, our gifts, and our possessions. Our lives in Christ, as we grow in faith, are the living embodiment of Christ here on earth. Christ’s love and compassion will flow through us.
His love for the lost will flow through us, His compassion will flow through us, His desire to seek and to save that which is lost will flow through us.
We won’t be satisfied with just warming a pew. When our faith is strong, we will be compelled to go out into the world and bring God’s love to others in words and in actions. We won’t care what they look like, where they are from, what color their skin is or who they were. Our compelling desire will be to serve them in Jesus’ name.
So, a mature faith gives of our time and our talents, as well as our wealth. Here at Holy Shepherd, as we begin our new church year with the season of Advent, we are also actively considering and praying about stewardship. If you did not receive a letter in the mail this week, you shortly will (or you may contact the church office to request one be sent). We prayerfully consider the ways in which we will commit to giving of ourselves, our time, and our possessions during the year ahead. This is the way that we live out our faith in this community and in the world.
May the God who comforted the people of Judah through the vision given to Habakkuk, the God who raised Jesus from the dead, the God who created and sustains our world, may this most gracious God give us the strength and the hope and the faith to be able to live out our faith each and every day, to the glory of God our Maker, Redeemer, and Sustainer.