Have a Little Faith in Me

Have a Little Faith in Me

Easter 5 (NL1) John B. Valentine
Romans 1:1-17 May 7, 2023


I take as my text this morning the closing words of that text which Donald read for us ... wherein Saint Paul writes::

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’”

Truth be told ... that’s not a bad place to start ANY sermon. After all:

• You see ... among the letter writers in the New Testament ... Paul is the most prolific ...

• And ... among the letters of Paul ... Romans is the most theologically substantive ...

• And ... among Lutherans ... Paul’s letter to the Romans is considered to by the lens by which the rest of the Bible ought be understood ...

• And ... among the words of Romans itself ... those words are understood to be the theme and the thesis statement of the whole of the letter ....

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’”

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Anyhow ... it must have been about a decade ago now that I was first introduced to a book about political economics by a fellow named Francis Fukuyama ... a book entitled “Trust”.

Now ....

I tell you this not to try to dupe you into thinking that I am all erudite or something .... you know better than that ... and

I tell you this not to get you to run out and buy that volume .... no ... trust me ... wink-wink ... it ain’t all that engaging.

No ... I tell you that because ... when I read those verses from Romans ... chapter one ... I hear echoes of the word “trust” writ large all over them.

• Trust ...
• Faith ...
• Trusting in God ...
• Trusting in God’s goodness ...
• Trusting that God is God and we are not ...

Trust ... I’d be willing to argue ... is at the very heart of this bit of Scripture.

But in that tome that he wrote about political economics ... Francis Fukuyama laid out a pretty convincing argument ... that “trust” in our society is going ..... going ........ gone.

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Let’s be honest ... folks .... DOES ANYONE TRUST ANYONE THESE DAYS?

It seems to me that “lack of trust” is at the heart of most all the biggest national news stories these days.

• We don’t trust Big Business when it comes to the subject of shipping hazardous materials ... and maybe we shouldn’t.

• We don’t trust Big Ag when it comes to dialing back on water usage ... and maybe we shouldn’t.

• We don’t trust political incumbents ... and we don’t trust political newbies either ... no matter what those glossy cards that litter our mailboxes every election season assert ... and maybe we shouldn’t.

• We don’t trust Democrats ... because they think there’s no problem so big that we can’t spend our way out of it.

• We don't trust Republicans ... because we think they're really stand for much of anything any more ... at least not anything that looks like liberty and justice for all.

• We don’t trust Washington ... we don’t trust Wall Street.

It USED to be ... back in the day ... that the three most ‘trusted’ and respected people in any small town community were ....

• The doctor ... and
• The pharmacist ... and
• The preacher.

But over the course of the past decade ... the conspiracy-theorists and the social-media manipulators and the news media on the far right and the far left ... have directed most of their negative attention at whom ...

• The medical community ... the AMA and the NIH and the CDC ... and

• The pharmaceutical community ... with their massive takedown of anything that look like properly-adjudicated clinical trials and good science ... and

• Anything and everything that looks like sober-minded humble-hearted religion ...

To the end that now the three most DIS-trusted people in most communities large and small across our country are whom???

• The doctor ... and
• The pharmacist ... and
• The preacher.

And so ... while in this book Trust ... Fukuyama argued that a nation’s health ... both economic and spiritual ... is shaped by one cultural characteristic: the level of trust inherent in that society.

In OUR society ... in the dialectic between trust and suspicion ... suspicion is winning ... and it ain’t even close.

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Think for just a minute about some of the ways that our lack of trust in one another has manifested itself in recent years ...

• We wait in line at the airport and subject ourselves to full-body searches ... because ... rightly or wrongly ... we don’t trust our fellow travelers.

• We demand that medicine be packaged in particular ways ... and that foods be labeled in particular ways ... because ... rightly or wrongly ... we don’t trust people to be caring and/or loving and/or sensible any more.

• We wear masks ... because we don’t trust our neighbors to take reasonable health precautions ... and/or we don’t wear masks ... because we don’t trust the scientists who told us that masks are a reasonable health precaution!

• We buy more guns ... in the belief that if one gun is going to keep us a little bit safer then five guns will necessarily keep us a whole lot safer ... and/or we decry the sale of guns because we believe that no gun could possibly keep us safer.

But ... sadly ... it seems to me ... our overall lack of trust in human institutions is nothing compared to our lack of trust in the Lord our God.

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But to people obsessed with independence and autonomy ... people whose lives are marked by a lack of trust in anything or anyone or any institution but themselves ... the Bible has a few words ... maybe even a book-full of them!

Like when God tells the prophet Jeremiah ... who at the time is himself wrestling with questions of who or what to trust ...

“Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.”

And Jeremiah goes to the potter’s house ... and sure enough ... the potter is there ... working away at his wheel.

And Jeremiah notices that ... whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly ... as sometimes happens when you are working with clay ... the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make a different pot.

Then God’s prophetic word breaks in:

“Can’t I do just as this potter does? Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I’m working on you!”

That text is a picturesque reminder us that ...

• no matter how independent we think we are ...
• no matter how on-top of things we style ourselves ....
• no matter how in-control we believe ourselves to be ...
• no matter how distrusting of others we may be ...

At the end of the day ... we are NOT the potter working the wheel ... WE ARE THE CLAY!

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I mean ... think about it ...

• Each of us is born with a personality-type and a way of being that shapes how we act and interact ....

• Each of us is born into a certain family ... a family system with certain ways of doing things ... that shapes us even today ....

• Each of us is born into a race and an ethnicity and a culture of origin that is not of our choosing ... and placed in schools and situations that are not of our own choosing ...

And all of these forces ... forces beyond our control ... make up a whole lot of who we are.

Not that being clay means that we simply victims ... at the mercy of forces outside ourselves.

No ... one only needs to talk to an artist who has spent time sitting at a potter’s wheel to realize that the clay matters:

• the kind of clay ...
• the texture of the clay ...
• the smoothness of the clay ...
• the grit and the grain of it all ...

All of which goes a LONG way toward determining how ... and into what shape ... the potter can work things.

As one of my cousins who had a career as a professional potter once explained it to me ...

“Clay has a life of its own and will not be shaped in a way that is not consistent with its own internal consistency.”

In fact ... my cousin’s words weren’t too much different than what Michelangelo once allegedly said to a curious neighbor who had asked that famous sculptor what he was doing ...

One day when he was chiseling away at a gigantic chunk of marble ....

“There is an angel inside and I’m try to set it free.”

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But the question which the Bible seems to pose to us is this:

Are we willing to trust God with who we are?

Are we willing to trust that God is the potter?

Are we willing to trust that God can use all the flecks and specks and grit and the grain that is us and mold it into something more?

Are we willing to trust that God would do with us what it is that artists do with raw materials?

Beckon the beauty out of what most of us can’t see???

As songwriter John Hiatt so richly penned it a couple of decades ago now ...

When the road gets dark,
And you can no longer see
Just let my love throw a spark,
And have a little faith in me
And when the tears you cry,
Are all you can believe
Just give these loving arms a try,
And have a little faith in me

“Have a little faith” ... God says ... “in me.”

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For ... as it is written ... ”The one who is righteous will live” ... not just survive ... but ‘thrive’ ... ‘live’ ... “by faith.”

“Have a Little Faith in Me” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on May 7, 2023 — the 5th Sunday of the Easter Season.  The text upon which it was/is based is Romans 1:1-17.  To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20230507