Faith-150

Faith-150

Sunday, March 5, 2023
| Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Faith makes us right with God and helps us do the heavy lifting of God’s work.

The best-selling vehicle in the United States for the past 45 years is not a sedan. Not a van. Not an SUV. It’s a pickup truck: The Ford F-150.

About one million new trucks hit the road each year.

According to Motor and Wheels website, the F-150 is popular because it has an all-aluminum body, and available 10-speed automatic transmission and turbocharged engine. The truck has great fuel efficiency and incredible hauling capacity. The website says that it is “a symbol of American tenacity, grit, and honest living,” combining ruggedness with innovation.

Speaking of innovation, here’s a big change: the F-150 Lightning.

Yes, the Ford F-150 is going electric.

Given the sales history of this truck, you might wonder why Ford would want to mess with success. You know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Ford executives knew that they would need to win over some serious skeptics with the electric version. “We wanted to make sure that we built a truck that would be accepted by truck owners today,” said Linda Zhang to Fast Company magazine. She’s the chief engineer for the new electric truck.

 

The Old F-150

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s what a lot of folks were saying about good works back in the first century. Within the Jewish faith, there was a long tradition of people being “justified by works” (Romans 4:2). They would study the laws of the Bible, including the Ten Commandments, and then do their best to follow these laws by remembering the Sabbath day, honoring their father and mother, and refraining from murder, adultery and stealing. When they did these good works, they would be justified — which means being put in a right relationship with God and their neighbors.

The model for being justified was Abraham, a righteous man who was the ancient father of every Jew. He was held up as the symbol of Jewish righteousness, just as the Ford-150 has been “the symbol of American tenacity.” Those who followed Abraham saw him as the finest example of being justified by works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But then the apostle Paul came along and saw something that needed to be fixed.

Paul made an important discovery when he studied the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. He realized that it was simply not true that Abraham was justified by works. “What does the Scripture say?” he asked in his letter to the Romans. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (v. 3).

Yes, Abraham was made righteous by believing God, not by following the law. He was justified by his faith, not by his good works.

This was a radical innovation, along the lines of a pickup truck going electric. No one saw it coming, but then it revolutionized the industry. If we are going to follow Paul, we need to choose a new kind of vehicle: A Faith-150.

 

The New Faith-150

When we jump into this truck, we discover that our “faith is credited as righteousness” (v. 5).

The Ford Lightning is the winner of one of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards. This electric truck can pull 10,000 pounds of cargo up steep hills, and it can accelerate faster than a gas truck. It can also be a handy source of electric power. On a work site, a construction crew can plug into the truck to recharge cordless tools, power air compressors, and supply electricity for larger equipment. And if power goes out at home, you can use the truck to keep your lights on for up to 10 days.

In a similar way, Paul’s focus on faith is a world-changing idea. Suddenly, a person can be made righteous by believing God, not by following religious law. Anyone and everyone can be justified, not just the people who follow the law and do good works. “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world,” says Paul (v. 13). That was the old F-150.

No, Abraham and his offspring received the promise “through the righteousness that comes by faith” (v. 13). That’s the new Faith-150.

It’s a world-changing idea, and it is available to us all.

If we climb into the Faith-150, we become “Abraham’s offspring.” We don’t have to be Jewish. We don’t have to be circumcised. We don’t have to follow every religious law. All we have to do is show “the faith of Abraham” (v. 16).

And what exactly is this faith? Paul says that Abraham believed in “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (v. 17). He believed in the same God who raised Jesus from death to new life, and who calls into existence what may seem to be impossible. In Abraham’s life, this means that he trusted God to give him a child, even though “his body was as good as dead” (v. 19). He believed in the promises of God and was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (v. 21).

Abraham had faith in the God who gives life to the dead. He trusted God. He believed in the promises of God and that God had the power to fulfill those promises. And because of this, his faith was “credited to him as righteousness” (v. 22).

What a powerful faith. Stronger than the charge in a Ford Lightning.

 

Martin Luther Test Drives the Faith-150

So, what would it mean for us to move forward in a Faith-150? This kind of faithfulness makes us right with God and gives us power to do God’s work in the world.

For starters, we believe in the God who gives life to the dead, the God seen most clearly in Jesus Christ. The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther made Paul’s insight the center of his theology, one that asserted we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus. Luther wanted to be a good and righteous person, so he confessed his sins frequently, often daily, and for as long as six hours at a time. But after confessing his sins, he would leave the church and remember other sins that he needed to confess. He tried the path of good works and discovered that he could never do enough to save himself.

Then Luther read the line in Paul’s letter to the Romans that says, “the righteous will live by faith” (1:17). In a flash, he realized that he was not made righteous by his good efforts, but by his faith in Jesus Christ. “I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise,” said Luther. “This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.”

On a personal level, Luther was reborn by this insight into the power of faith. He was touched by the God “who gives life to the dead” (4:17). But on a historical level, the Protestant Reformation began when Luther made this discovery about faith. “If you have true faith that Christ is your Savior,” he said, “then at once you have a gracious God, [and] you should see pure grace and overflowing love.” Luther was inspired to go out and preach the gospel, a word which means “good news,” because he saw that the gospel was “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (1:16).

 

But Is it Only About Faith?

After we jump into a Faith-150 and trust Christ to be our Savior, we make every effort to support God’s work in the world. As Luther himself said, “Good works do not make a [person] good, but a good [person] does good works.” Good works are naturally going to flow out of a person who has been saved through their faith in Jesus. Having faith in Jesus does not give anyone permission to sit back and refrain from doing good.

Think of the Ford Lightning truck. Yes, its electric engine makes it a truly innovative vehicle, one that can power a house during blackouts. But even though it is based on a world changing idea, the Ford Lightning still has to carry tools, building supplies, mulch and manure. If it didn’t tow heavy cargo up hills, it wouldn’t be a pickup truck.

Same for a Christian whose “faith is credited as righteousness” (4:5). Yes, our faith in Jesus makes us right with God, but still we are challenged to show each other compassion and justice and mercy. The heavy lifting of the Christian life involves feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, welcoming strangers, and visiting people in prison. If we didn’t do these good works, we wouldn’t be recognizable as followers of Christ.

Everyone should, of course, feel free to choose the brand of pickup truck that is best for them. But when it comes to following Jesus, you cannot beat a Faith-150.

—Henry Brinton and Carl Wilton contributed to this material.

 

Sources:

Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, [1950], 1978), 41-50, 178.

Jones, Peter. “10 Reasons The Ford F-150 Is So Popular (Explained).” Motor and Wheels, January 31, 2022, https://motorandwheels.com.

Peters, Adele. “Ford’s electric pickup truck can power a home for 10 days.” Fast Company, May 3, 2022, www.fastcompany.com.

 

Click here to download a ZIP file of the March-April 2023 issue as Word Docs.

The Other Texts

John 3:1-17

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Identity Acquisition. It’s hard to read the news without seeing an article about identity theft. Hackers are ingenious when finding new ways to figure out who you are and what your password might be. What looks like an innocent social media quiz can reveal important details like your pet’s name, hometown or model of the car you learned to drive in. With a little persistence and a simple computer program, a hacker can use these bits of information to run millions of permutations and iterations to guess your password. Identity theft, then, is a good hook for the preacher for both today’s epistle (slave/child identities) and gospel readings. In the gospel reading, however, the concern is not about identity theft, but identity acquisition. We don’t need to steal an identity to become a child of God. Such an identity is readily and freely available.

What Does the Text Say?

In this text, Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ greeting by immediately cutting to the heart of the issue that concerns Nicodemus — the coming kingdom of God. In verse 3, the unique requirement for entrance into the kingdom? One must be born again. In Greek, this term means both “from above” and “again, anew.” While most translations choose one of these meanings and then relegate the second meaning to a footnote, it is more theologically correct to maintain this double meaning. Just as the kingdom is often referred to as both now and yet-to-come, entering this kingdom requires one to be born anew (into a new life and a new identity) and to be born “from above” (that is from the heavenly place the kingdom generates from). Both the “kingdom of God” and being born anew have spatial as well as temporal components. Jesus’ tone becomes perceptively crisper. By verse 7, he is warning Nicodemus, “Do not be astonished …” and cautioning his nighttime visitor that he cannot restrict the approaching pneuma/Spirit. Nicodemus’ pitiful comeback (“How can these things be?”) now changes the focus of Jesus’ message. Jesus grows resigned to the ignorance and stubborn refusal of his listener and uses Nicodemus as one example of the kind of attitude that will ultimately lead to the cross by using a familiar biblical image — Moses lifting the bronze serpent on a pole in the desert — to describe what will be the work of the cross.

Genesis 12:1-4a

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Go and Show. God says to Abram, “If you go … I will show.” This is the reward of faith. When we step out in faith, God draws the curtain back. When we go on the unknown path, God lights the way before us. When we follow where faith leads us, God shows us what we need to see. Where our eyes fail us, God gives us sight.

What Does the Text Say?

In a mere four verses, we have described the creation of an entire people and the establishment of a radically new kind of relationship between humanity and divinity. The “call of Abram” does more than separate a lone herdsman from his ancestral family. This “call” separates the old animistic, anthropocentric notions of the universe from a remarkably new way of viewing the divine/human or creator/creation relationship. Abram’s family was from Ur, a large city and a major center for the worship of the moon-god Sin. While it is unclear exactly what prompted Terah’s initial move from Ur to Haran, there is absolutely no ambiguity about what inspired Abram’s move. The Lord’s directive to Abram is straightforward, both in its demand and in its promises. Genesis 12:1 does not try to sugarcoat or soft-pedal the things Abram is asked to give up. In fact, the text itemizes them. God commands Abram to leave his country, kindred and father’s house — everything, in fact, that gave Abram his personal identity. In the tight-knit family/clan-oriented culture of this people, leaving family meant leaving not just personal or sentimental attachments. Abandoning the clan meant leaving one’s only source of law, morality, safety, security and identity. For Abram to leave the enclave of his family was to put his future survival — both psychological and personal — very much at risk. This call from the Lord is unique in grammatical structure as well as in content. The phrase invoked by the Divine in 12:1 is lech lecha — literally an emphatic “Go, you!” There are only two instances in the entire Bible where God addresses anyone with a direct personal command. The second occurrence of lech lecha, “Go, you!” is also spoken to Abraham — this time in Genesis 22:2. Although English translation almost invariably fails to reflect this parallelism, both God’s initial call to Abram in Genesis 12:1 and God’s shocking command to Abraham that he offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice are phrased with this lech lecha, “Go, you!” directive. This parallelism is significant. In both cases, Abram/Abraham is being asked to give up his own identity as a symbol of his commitment to the Lord Yahweh. In Genesis 12:1, Abram is asked to give up his entire past; in Genesis 22, Abraham is asked to give up his future. “Go, you!” severs Abram/Abraham from everything human he would cling to for security and identity. In both cases, the lech lecha order leaves Abram/Abraham solely with God — no past, no future, no family, no land, no people. Just God.

Psalm 121

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Peoplekeeper. In this psalm, some variation of the word “keep” appears six times. The word “keeper” is an interesting word, is it not? It’s used to refer to someone who has an obligation — imposed by the family or one’s culture — to protect and provide for someone else. Such a person is a “keeper.” In the Bible, when Abel doesn’t show up for work one morning and Cain is asked about it, he says, “What? Am I my brother’s keeper?” We also use the word to describe someone who manages a menagerie of animals, often exotic ones. We call this person a “zookeeper.” Once again, there’s an unspoken sense that the zookeeper is someone who has a responsibility to provide for and to protect. This sense carries over to all such words with “keeper” embedded in them: scorekeeper, timekeeper, peacekeeper, bookkeeper, housekeeper, beekeeper, shopkeeper, innkeeper and greenskeeper. In this psalm, God is described as a peoplekeeper. “He will keep your life,” writes the psalmist (v. 7). Things we might normally fear (list them), we need not fear. Why? Because we have a peoplekeeping God who is watching over us.

What Does the Text Say?

A favorite of many, Psalm 121 offers comfort from the God who looks after us (see also Psalm 27). The most significant theme of Psalm 121 is that of the Lord God being the one who will keep us (the term appears six times in vv. 3b, 4, 5a, 7a, 7b and 8). The Hebrew verbal root is shamar, meaning to take care of, to keep watch over and to guard/protect. The word is used in the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 (“The LORD bless you and keep you …”). God never gets drowsy, nor does God sleep (contrast Elijah’s taunts against Baal and his prophets — 1 Kings 18:25-27). The “not … be moved” (shaken/tottered) language is paralleled in Psalms 15:5; 16:8; 21:7; 55:22; 62:2, 6. God protects us by day and by night (121:5b-8).

Worship Resources
Calls to Worship General

One: Ever-present God, forever seeking us and always teaching us:

All: Open our minds to the truth of your care.

One: Open our hearts to the gentle power of your love.

All: Open our lips to share stories of faith.

One: Open our hands to create beauty, to do justice and to show kindness.

All: Open our souls to the breath of your Spirit.

One: Open our mouths to sing boldly and loudly your praises.

Prayers Lent

Lent arrives, and we are looking for direction. Our fragmented lives and self-concern pull at our intentions, unsettling our faith and diluting our commitment.

We want to change. Where do we begin?

We look to Jesus, how he lived and loved, what he said and what his followers called “the Way.”

O Lord, let this Lent be different as we examine ourselves, our faith, our hope. Guide us, Father, in the “way” of Lent and life.

Amen.

Benedictions General

And now, let us run with patience the race that is before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. May God give us his sustaining power and grant us the strengthening presence of his Spirit in whatever challenges await us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Music Resources

Hymns
The God of Abraham Praise
Seek the Lord
Blessed Jesus, Here We Stand

Worship and Praise*
Man of Sorrows (Hillsong Worship)
Build My Life (Passion/Younker)
Faithful Now (Vertical Worship)

*For licensing and permission to reprint or display these songs on screen, go to ccli.com. The worship and praise songs suggested by Homiletics can be found in most cases on Google by using the title as the search term.

COMMENTARY

on Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

The opening chapters of Romans are addressed to, and respectful of, a congregation that comprises both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. This is marked by two important claims:

  • “The power of salvation” is for “everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16).
  • “There is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24).

In Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, Paul drives home his message of inclusion by focusing on Abraham as the ancestor of both Jews and Gentiles.

While Paul refers to Abraham as “our ancestor according to the flesh” in 4:1, the rest of the passage makes it clear that Abraham is, more importantly, our ancestor according to faith. Abraham has a patriarchal relationship with Jews and Gentiles alike precisely because he trusts God prior to circumcision and well in advance of the giving of the law (see vv. 6-12 for Paul’s fuller explanation of the timing that connects Abraham to all nations). Abraham models for all people how God’s promises are not received as the result of what is accomplished through human works — including religious disciplines — but by first trusting in what God accomplishes through divine grace.

Paul sets up a stark contrast between faith and works throughout the passage (see especially 4:4-5, 13 and 16). In this regard, a more literal reading of 4:5 is, “But to one not working but believing him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteous” (emphasis added). The apostle draws an unequivocal distinction between divine standards of grace and earthly standards of merit, between faith that trusts in God’s purposes and works that trust in human accomplishment.

Moreover, in verse 3, Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed in God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” The connection between faith and righteousness is reiterated in verses 5 and 13. Here, righteousness (dikaiosunh) that is granted by God through faith is not to be confused with self-righteousness that is earned through works. God’s gracious initiative is at the heart of the matter. Authentic human righteousness can only come from God, who alone is completely righteous.

This is reinforced by the understanding that, in verse 5, “him who justifies (dikaiounta, from dikaiow) the ungodly” could just as properly be translated, “him who deems the ungodly to be righteous.” Any righteousness we experience is because God chooses to justify us, chooses to deem us to be righteous — chooses to set us right in relationship to God and humankind — by passing over our sinfulness (see previously in Romans 3:25-26). This is a creative, redemptive and sustaining activity, most fully fulfilled in the reconciling work of Christ (later in Romans 5-7) and the ongoing sanctification of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8). We can only come to terms with the grace of such righteousness and properly respond to it by humbly receiving it through a faith like Abraham’s.

This corresponds to our being heirs of the promise first made to Abraham “through the righteousness of faith” (v. 13). While the pericope concludes at verse 17, a reading on through to the end of the chapter reveals how Paul boldly views that the promise, along with the dynamics of faith and righteousness accompanying the promise, includes the death and resurrection of Christ (see especially vv. 22-25).

Returning to the closing verses of the passage, verses 16-17 underscore what Paul has been discussing about God’s gracious initiative and Abraham’s faithful response. God’s promise to Abraham is a complete act of grace — cariV — wherein God willingly extends kindness and mercy to those who do not deserve it. Grace is no longer grace when earning it comes into the picture. Abraham does not earn God’s promise of descendants. God grants this promise and Abraham receives it through trusting — having faith — that God will do what God promises. Faith is trust in God’s gracious purposes, not trust in our own capacity to accrue divine benevolence by being obedient.

Consequently, Abraham’s reception of the promise “depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace” (v. 16) — the promise does not rest on some quid pro quo arrangement that has God owing Abraham for being dutiful. Accordingly, it is through faith like Abraham’s that God guarantees the promise to all Abraham’s descendants, “not only to the adherents of the law [Jews] but also to those who share the faith of Abraham [Gentiles]” (v. 16).

Driving home the message of faithful human response to divine gracious initiative is the generative quality of grace described by Paul. Abraham believes in God, “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (v. 17). Indeed, by using this imagery, Paul makes a connection between God overcoming the childlessness of Abraham and Sarah (“gives life to the dead”) with Creation (“calls into existence the things that do not exist”) — both of which point in the direction of faith in the redemptive death and resurrection of Christ.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 is a rich lectionary selection that features some of Paul’s finest theological thinking on the meaning of faith, grace and righteousness in relation to God’s promises. In preparing a sermon on this text, the preacher would do well to provide the congregation some concise background about both Abraham (it’s amazing how many people really are not familiar with the story, particularly from the angle that Paul employs it) and the significant factors contributing to divisions between first century Jewish and Gentile Christians. In the case of Abraham, consider including verses 6-12 in the reading of the passage. As for divisions between Jewish and Gentile Christians, at the very least identify the tension over whether Gentiles should be required to observe Jewish law in addition to believing in Christ. Paul, of course, is a Jewish Christian who advocates that faith alone is acceptable.

In simplest terms, Paul is telling his audience that when it comes to God’s promises it is not what we do to earn them, but what God does graciously to bestow them. We are called to place our deepest trust not in what we do for God but in what God does for us. This is an important message to proclaim in a society that tends to extol high speed, alpha male and female self-sufficiency. It is also a reminder that since the promises of God rest on grace, then it behooves us to approach others with humility and generous spirits, even those — and perhaps especially those — with whom we find ourselves at odds over the particulars we hold dear when it comes to putting our Christianity into practice.

AT A GLANCE

Faith is a radical innovation, along the lines of a popular pickup truck going electric. It connects us to God and gives us power to do good in the world.

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GOOD WORKS

ANIMATING ILLUSTRATIONS

For Ford, electrifying the F-150 made sense. After all, the truck has been America’s best-selling vehicle for decades.

Others are also turning to their most popular models. GM is rolling out an electric Silverado next year. The Ram truck is going electric. GM and Ford are working on electric versions of the Equinox and Explorer, respectively.

Early reservations for the Lightning were promising. The company initially planned to produce about 40,000 Lightnings, but the truck was so popular that Ford stopped taking reservations after it received 200,000.

Still, challenges abound for auto makers.

[Nick] Schmidt ran into one big issue soon after getting his F-150 Lightning, one that is all too familiar to other electric vehicle owners: charging.

The clean energy worker took his F-150 Lightning on a camping trip with his wife and daughter his first weekend with the truck, and he found himself unable to find a charger.

“It was just not a great experience at all,” Schmidt says. “We’re trying to figure out what does that mean for camping trips because I’m not sure I feel comfortable going given the lack of infrastructure up there.”

—Brittany Cronin, “He’s the first buyer of the electric F-150. Why he’s the future of the car industry,” NPR, June 20, 2022, www.npr.org.


Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!

—Martin Luther, “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522, www.ligonier.org.


In other words, faith, it seems to me, is distinctly different from other aspects of religious life and not to be confused with them, even though we often use the word “faith” to mean religious belief in general, as in the phrase, “What faith are you?” Faith is different from theology because theology is reasoned, systematic, orderly whereas faith is disorderly, intermittent, and full of surprises. Faith is different from mysticism because mystics in their ecstasy become one with what faith can at most see only from afar. Faith is different from ethics because ethics is primarily concerned not, like faith, with our relationship to God but with our relationship to each other. I think maybe faith is closest to worship because, like worship, it is essentially a response to God. It involves the emotions and the physical senses as well as the mind. But worship is consistent, structured, single-minded and seems to know what it’s doing, while faith is a stranger, an exile on the earth, and doesn’t know for certain about anything. Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting. Faith is journeying through space and through time. If someone were to come up and ask me to talk about my faith, it is exactly that journey that I would eventually have to talk about — the ups and downs of the years, the dreams, the odd moments, the intuitions. I would have to talk about the occasional sense I have that life is not just a series of events causing other events as haphazardly as a break shot in pool causes the billiard balls to careen off in all directions, but that life has a plot the way a novel has a plot, that events are somehow or other leading somewhere, that they make sense.

—Frederick Buechner, “Faith and Fiction,” in William Zinsser, ed., Going on Faith: Writing As a Spiritual Quest (Wipf and Stock, 2011), 50.


What kept me a skeptic in college was precisely my Christian faith. It always said wait, don’t bite on this, get a wider picture, continue to read.

If you want your faith, you have to work for it. It is a gift, but for very few is it a gift given without any demand for equal time devoted to its cultivation. For every book you read that is anti-Christian, make it your business to read one that presents the other side of the picture; if one isn’t satisfactory read others. Don’t think that you have to abandon reason to be a Christian. … To find out about faith, you have to go to the people who have it and you have to go to the most intelligent ones if you are going to stand up intellectually to agnostics and the general run of pagans that you are going to find in the majority of people around you …

Even in the life of [Christians], faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when [they] can’t see it or feel it, if [they want] it to be there.

—Flannery O’Connor, in a 1962 letter to Alfred Corn, a college student. After hearing her give a lecture on his campus, Corn had written to her for advice about how to keep his faith intact while pursuing his studies. https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/apologetics/when-college-shakes-your-faith-listen-to-flannery-o-connor.html.

Retrieved October 3, 2022.


It is true that the number of those opting for no God have increased. But larger numbers have left church, synagogue, and other forms of conventional religion (often calling themselves “spiritual but not religious”) while still insisting that they believe in God. … The idea of God is not the problem. People are not necessarily rejecting God. Rather, they are rejecting a particular conception of divinity while, at the same time, attempting to relocate God in their lives. …

Often unnoticed or misunderstood by commentators and even some religious leaders, a theological shift is happening around us, a revolution of divine nearness. People use a new spiritual vocabulary to describe it — God is in the sunset, at the seashore, in the gardens we plant, at home, in the work we do, in the games we watch and play, in the stories that entertain us, in good food and good company, when we eat, drink, and make love. In the midst of the problems and challenges we face, the distant God is being replaced by a more intimate presence. Millions of people are experiencing God as more personal and accessible than ever before. This is not a romanticized greeting card divinity, but it is a God who is robustly present in the chaos, suffering, and confusion surrounding us, the Spirit who invites us to save the planet and make peace with the whole human family, and who is a companion and partner in creating a hope-filled future. This is the God that many are reaching toward, realizing that a far-off God will not do. A God who is not with us cannot be for us. The only God that makes sense is a God of compassion and empathy who shares the life of the world. …

Instead of living in a disconnected three-tiered universe, we are discovering that we inhabit a dazzling sacred ecology where God dwells with us.

—Diana Butler Bass, “Where Is God?” Day1.org, October 15, 2015.

https://day1.org/articles/
5d9b820ef71918cdf2003d5d/
diana_butler_bass_where_is_god.

Retrieved October 3, 2022.


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CHILDREN'S SERMON

Place a grocery bag in front of the children and tell them you have a treat for them in the bag. Have them guess what it is. Ask if they think they need to do something to deserve the treat. Shake your head no and say that you want to give them the treat simply because you like them. Then ask them how they know if the treat is good rather than bad. Suggest that they might believe that the treat is good because they trust you — you have always given good treats in the past. Say that the same was true for a man named Abraham, who believed God and trusted God to help him (vv. 3, 5). Stress that “the promise that [Abraham] would inherit the world [came] through the righteousness of faith” (v. 13). Hold up your grocery bag and say that God loved Abraham and wanted to give him a treat far better than something in a bag. He wanted to make him the father of many people throughout the world. Stress that all Abraham had to do was trust God, believe God, and have faith in him. Open the bag, pull out a selection of fruit snacks, and give them to the children, saying that the best treats come to those who have faith in God and in his Son Jesus.


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