Sunday, August 28, 2016

False gods and the real God: a sermon on Jeremiah 2:1-13

If you want to avoid going through emotional pain or grief or suffering, one thing you definitely need to do is avoid getting into committed human relationships. Committed relationships always involve us in pain of some kind. To be a husband or wife, to be a parent or child, to be a grandparent, to be a close friend, is to make ourselves vulnerable. It opens us up to worry, pain and grief. We will experience trouble in this life, and the agony of bereavement when we lose those we love. Relationships are wonderful, but they are also very hard. We can’t have the wonder without the hardship.

This principle works itself all the way through creation all the way up to the highest point, the throne of God himself. The God we read about in the Bible doesn’t hold himself aloof from his creation; he’s passionate, involved in his world, and totally committed to the people he loves. And this leaves him open to pain and anguish. Philip Yancey has described the God of the Old Testament prophets as ‘a jilted lover’ – jilted by his bride, Israel, consumed by grief and anger, but so head over heals in love with her that he’s desperate to get her back.

This is what’s behind the language we read in the Bible of God as a ‘jealous God’. It doesn’t sound very attractive – we might even say it’s unworthy of God – but then, when we think about it, there are some situations where jealousy is understandable. A married couple commit themselves to each other to the exclusion of all others; this commitment sets up the expectation of faithfulness. The wife of an unfaithful husband will naturally feel jealous; most people would say that she has a right to feel that way. And let’s remember that the Old Testament writers see God and Israel as being symbolically married to each other; that’s what the covenant is all about. Let’s explore this idea in our reading from Jeremiah today. Look with me first at verses 1-3:
‘The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD: I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the first fruits of his harvest. All who ate of it were held guilty; disaster came upon them, says the LORD’.

This is an allegorical description of the time when Israel was wandering in the desert on the way from Egypt to the promised land. God had led them out from Egypt, delivered them from the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, and now he was guiding them through the wilderness under the leadership of Moses.

Jeremiah uses two poetic images here. First, he describes Israel as a newlywed bride. Speaking for God, he says,
‘I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown’ (v.2b).
God and Israel had gotten married to each other, and the wilderness journey was their honeymoon! Where our English Bible says ‘the devotion of your youth’, the Hebrew word for devotion is hesed, sometimes translated ‘steadfast love’ or ‘committed love’ – the love that’s not just about feelings but faithful actions. Usually in the Old Testament hesed is used to describe God’s love for people; this is one of the rare occasions where it’s used to describe human love for God.

Most newlyweds don’t have to be told to spend time together – they love it! They have a sense of wonder about each other, a sense of embarking on a journey of new discoveries, of plumbing the depths of love and passion for each other. It was the same with God’s new bride, Israel, in those desert days: she was deeply in love with the God who had rescued her from slavery in Egypt, to the point of being willing to turn away from all other gods and follow him through the dreadful wilderness to the land he had promised to give her.

Second, Jeremiah describes Israel as the first fruits of God’s harvest.
‘Israel was holy to the LORD, the first fruits of his harvest’ (v.3a).
The Law of Moses said that when the harvest was gathered in, the first fruits – the grain and fruit that was harvested first – was to be given to God for the exclusive use of the priests. No one else was allowed to eat it, because it was ‘holy’ – a word that means ‘set apart for the exclusive use of God’. ‘Holy’ comes from the same root in the Bible languages as ‘sanctified’ and ‘saint’ and ‘consecrate’. So Israel was God’s holy people; God had consecrated her to himself. Israel accepted this joyfully and was happy to live it out daily.

You might be thinking, ‘What’s all this got to do with me?’ Well, this feeling of spiritual honeymooning is common among people who go through a conversion experience. In some cases, the conversion is from a lukewarm faith to a deep, heartfelt relationship with God. In other cases, it’s what we call a ‘darkness to light’ conversion: someone who has no faith in God suddenly discovers that God is real and commits himself or herself to knowing and following God.

This kind of honeymoon faith is often passionate, even reckless. I remember my own conversion experience as a young teenager. I was raised in church, but never really had a sense of connection with God. When I found that, I was passionate about it. I read the Bible eagerly every day – I spent time in prayer – I went at least once a week to a small group for prayer and Bible study. I loved singing the new worship songs that were coming out at the time. I read the things Jesus had to say about living a simple life with few possessions, and living without violence, and I was attracted by them and tried to practice them. And I did my best to share my faith with other people. This was my spiritual honeymoon, and I look back on it with great fondness.

But sooner or later things start to cool down, and then comes the potential for trouble. God’s tone changes in verse 4, and he definitely starts to sound like a jilted spouse. ‘Was there something I did wrong? Didn’t I love you enough? Was it something you wanted me to do that I didn’t do? Was it something I said? Tell me, and I’ll make it up to you!’ So in verse 5 God says,
‘What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?’

In desperation, God reminds them of all he did for them - rescuing them from Egypt, leading them safely through the desert, bringing them to their promised land. What was their response? They abandoned him and turned to other gods instead.

According to the Old Testament, this turning to other gods came after the Israelites settled in Canaan after their desert journey. When you understand the culture of the time it’s not actually hard to understand it. In those days the idea of one god being the god of the whole earth was very rare. Most gods were seen as territorial, and so Yahweh was the god of Israel, Molech was the god of Moab and so on. When you moved to a new land it was smart to get to know the local gods; they were in charge, so you’d be wise to avoid offending them! Also, if you were a farmer, the local fertility gods were the ones who made your crops grow, so not making offerings to them wasn’t a smart thing either.

But the weird thing is that this never actually worked for Israel. The Old Testament story is clear: when they turned to other gods, things went badly for them. Jeremiah says ‘They went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves’ (v.5b). The Hebrew word for ‘worthless’ can also mean ‘empty’, ‘vain’, ‘useless’. Worshipping idols turned out to be a gigantic waste of time.

How does this apply to us today? Modern idolatry in our western world is not about statues of gods made out of wood or stone. In Jeremiah 1:16 Jeremiah says of his people, ‘They have made offerings to other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands’. Today, we’re still worshipping the work of our own hands. We still think that the things we make for ourselves or buy for ourselves are the things that can make us happy and bring us a sense of fulfilment. We can build a big house, buy a big car, fill a big bank account. We can make a big country that the rest of the world fears; we can start a fashion trend, we can learn the secret of eternal youth, we can build a business empire second to none.

We were created to have the one true God at the centre of our lives. We were designed to find our primary identity as his children, made in his image, loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbour as ourselves. This is what the human being was designed to do. But idolatry is putting something else – something other than God – at the centre of our lives.

Why would we do that? I can think of a couple of reasons. First, idolatry is widely accepted in our society. Of course, we don’t call it ‘idolatry’, but that doesn’t matter; whatever you want to call it, the fact is that the majority of people in our world live with something other than God at the centre of their lives. And that’s generally applauded. If you’ve decided that the meaning of life is to get ahead, to gradually become more and more wealthy, to own more and more things and to enjoy a more and more luxurious lifestyle, no one in our world thinks that’s weird. Why would they? Politicians love people who do that; they call it ‘economic growth’! Jesus called it ‘worshipping mammon’, but who listens to Jesus?

Likewise, in our society, if our country is attacked and you join the chorus of people calling for a dramatic act of revenge, no one thinks that’s weird – it’s just common sense. The Bible says that vengeance is God’s – it’s his prerogative, so to take revenge is to make yourself into a false god. But very few people take that idea seriously, even in churches. In this and many other instances, idolatry is seen as normal, and faithfulness to God is seen as swimming against the tide. It’s much easier just to go along with the idolatry.

Another reason we turn to false gods is that the good news of Jesus no longer seems like news to us. We’re used to it; if we’re honest, we’ve maybe even become a little bored with it. In contrast, our modern idolatries seem new and cool and exciting. This is the same sort of dynamic that drives extra-marital affairs; my relationship with my spouse has become old news, and then along comes someone else, and I feel again that sense of excitement, that intoxication. You know what comes next.

But the truth is that this is all useless. Jeremiah gives us a vivid picture in verse 13. Speaking for God, he says,
‘For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water’.

On the one hand you have God, the fountain of living water. ‘Living water’ in the Bible usually means moving water – water coming from a spring, a stream, a river, as opposed to brackish water from a slough or a cistern. And worst of all would be a cracked cistern that couldn’t even hold water; you’d be parched with thirst, go to it for a drink, and find nothing.

That’s what false gods are like: they promise to quench your thirst, but they don’t deliver on their promises. We’ve all experienced that. How much money is enough? Well, more than I’ve got now, that’s for sure (even though I’ve got a lot more than I used to have)! I’m working hard toward my goals; what happens when I achieve them? Will I be satisfied, or will I have to set new goals, even harder and more challenging? And how are my perfect spouse and perfect children coping with the pressure of being perfect? Asking our spouse to be God for us – to take godlike responsibility for making us happy and secure - is a rather big job description!

St. Augustine one said to God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”. Many people feel that restlessness, even if they don’t know what it’s about. The British newspaper columnist Bernard Levin – who, by the way, was not a Christian – once wrote these words:
‘Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, together with such non-material blessings as a happy family, and yet lead lives of quiet, and at times noisy, desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with, however many well balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it…it aches’.

What he is describing is the failure of our false gods, and this is as relevant to us today as it was in Jeremiah’s time. Christian conversion involves turning away from false gods and turning toward the one true God who has been revealed to us in Jesus. What motivates many of us to do this is that we experience what Levin has described: the failure of our false gods. When this happens, some people go into denial and look desperately for another false god to try. But some, perhaps, have the courage to accept reality, and to begin to seek the Creator God who made them and who loves them.

Christians need this ongoing conversion too, of course, not just non-Christians. False gods are all around us, and we’re tempted by their voices. So we need to hear again the Gospel message, the good news that God is real, that God is love, and that God is like Jesus. When we hear and believe that good news, we’re motivated to stop chasing after vanity and come back to God and to his Son, Jesus Christ.

So what should we do? Let me conclude by suggesting three things.

First, be aware of what your favourite false gods are. One of my personal favourites is the approval of others. I struggled with poor self-image as a teenager and a young adult, and the approval of others is pretty intoxicating for me. Over the years I’ve done all sorts of stupid things to get it, most of them involving pretending to be someone I wasn’t. And it never worked, because deep down I always knew that the person I was pretending to be wasn’t real. I’ve got through most of that now, but I know the potential is still there, and so I keep a sharp lookout for it.

Second, take steps to guard against those false gods. If there are situations where you’re going to be tempted to respond to their siren call, try to avoid those situations. Remind yourself of how often you’ve experienced the failure of those false gods in the past. Burst the bubble; point out to yourself that the emperor has no clothes!

Finally, seek the Lord. Do all you can to deepen your relationship with the one true God. Strive to know God better. Take time each day to pray and to meditate on the scriptures. Ask him to help you listen to his teaching and put it into practice in your daily life. Make it your goal to please him in all that you do and say.

Don’t expect this to yield immediate results; remember, if God is God, he’s not under our control. We can’t compel him to show up. But what we can do is to put ourselves in the place of listening to his word and living obediently toward him. And then we can ask him to make himself known to us.

Not sure how to ask for that? Psalm 27:7-9 is not a bad place to start:
‘Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come”, my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, LORD, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me’.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2016

This Week at St. Margaret's

Events This Week
August 29th, 2016
  Office is closed
September 4th, 2016 (16th Sunday after Pentecost) 
  9:00am  Holy Communion 
10:30am  Holy Communion  

Lorne Rice is looking for a group of volunteers to assist with a variety of building and maintenance jobs. If you would like to help, please contact the church office at 780-437-7231

St. Margaret’s is looking for Sunday School Teachers for the Fall. We currently have two classes – preschool age and school age. If you have a love for children and are interested in helping our young kids grow in love, knowledge, and faith in Christ, please contact the church office at 780-437-7231.

Anglican Marriage Encounter Weekend 
November 4-6, 2016 – Providence Renewal Centre 
“Refresh your Marriage” 
For more information please contact the church office at 780-437-7231

Winnifred Stewart: Empties to Winn Project
Please feel free to bring some or all of your empty bottles (juice, milk, cans, and other beverage containers) and drop them in our bags. Please support Winnifred Stewart by making provision for this project! Next pick up should be September 9th, 2016.  Thank you!

September 11th: 'Welcome Back' Sunday

On Sunday September 11th we will have special events to celebrate Sunday School registration, the return of our members from summer holidays, and the beginning of the school year.

Sunday School registration will take place at the 10.30 service. For more information about this place contact our Sunday School Coordinator, Tricia Laffin (call or email the office to get her contact information).

At both services we will have a blessing of backpacks for children beginning a new school year. Children are asked to bring their backpacks (with any contents that seem appropriate to their parents!) and we will ask the kids to bring them to the front and have a special prayer of blessing for them. We will also pray for those returning to college or university.

After the 10.30 service we will have a barbeque. Everyone is invited to stay behind and join in; hamburgers, hot dogs and drinks will be provided. Note that we will be using some of the Reach Campaign money to cover supplies for this event. 

September monthly announcements sheets were sent out through email on Friday. If you have not received a copy or have changed your email address, please update your email with Tim or Melanie. Extra copies are available on the table at the back of the church.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Don't Be Afraid to Open Your Mouth (a sermon on Jeremiah 1:4-10)

The mainline churches in Canada today have a problem, a big one.

Well, actually, we have several problems. In most of our congregations, our demographic is a lot older than the population at large. We’ve not been very good at getting younger people interested in what we’re all about. Many of our congregations are in decline, and at the same time, costs are going up. Our clergy are better paid than they’ve ever been, but there are less jobs out there for them, because fewer and fewer churches can afford to pay their clergy. And there aren’t as many people willing and able to help out on a volunteer basis any more. Life is busy, and in most families the parents are running themselves ragged just to keep up. The church is having a harder and harder time finding musicians and Sunday School teachers and all the other willing workers it needs to do the things it wants to do. And what’s with the culture around us? We used to have a sense that people liked organized religion! Boy, whatever happened to that?

These are all difficult issues. Underneath it all, however, I would suggest that there are two fundamental problems. Our other problems, for the most part, can be traced back to these two. And I’m only going to address one of them today, but I want to name them both at this point, because I think they’re both hugely significant.

First, we’ve never really come to grips with what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ - to be growing disciples of Jesus Christ, to be in the process of learning, day in and day out, to put his teaching and example into practice in our daily lives. How many of us are growing in our confidence as Bible readers, to the point that we can say we know the Bible better now and understand it more than we did a year ago? How many of us have a sense that we’re growing in our prayer lives, in our sense of connection with God, in our confidence in bringing our prayers to him? How many of us would say that we’re growing in our ability to live a simple life with less possessions? That we’re growing in our ability to forgive people and love our enemies? That we have a better understanding of what it means to follow Jesus in our place of work? That we’re growing in our ability to share the gospel with other people and encourage them to become followers of Jesus?

I think the answer is obvious, and so I repeat: we’ve never really come to grips with what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ. He calls us to follow him, and too often, our response is, “Would you be happy if I just came to church once or twice a month?”

The second problem is this: we’re terrified of opening our mouths and talking to other people about our faith. “What if I get it wrong? What if they reject me? What if I make them mad? What if they think I’m bigoted – that I’m one of those nasty fundamentalists? What if I somehow offend them? And, scariest of all, what if I discover that I’m really not sure what I believe anyway?”

Personally, I think the first problem is the fundamental one, and I’m going to be addressing it in several sermons over the next few months. But for today, I want to address the second problem, because it’s touched on in our Old Testament reading for today, from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Look with me again at Jeremiah 1:4-8:
‘Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”. Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy”. But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’, for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD”’ (Jeremiah 1:4-8).
Jeremiah, you see, is terrified of opening his mouth!

He actually reminds me of another prophet, Moses. Do you remember the story of the burning bush, back in Exodus chapter 3? Moses is eighty years old, he’s helping out as a shepherd on his father-in-law’s property, he sees a burning bush and goes to look, and God speaks to him. God tells him to go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let his people go. Moses offers all kinds of excuses: “Who am I, that I should go talk to Pharaoh?” “If they ask me ‘Which god?’, what shall I say?” “Suppose they don’t believe me?” But then eventually he blurts out the real reason:
“O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10).
In other words, “I do not know how to speak!” Moses, you see, is terrified of opening his mouth!

Young or old, it’s the same problem. Moses is an old man, in his eighties. Jeremiah is a young man; he calls himself a ‘boy’, but the Hebrew word probably means a ‘youth’. You know how you feel when you’re young? You look at all the people around you and they look so self-assured, so confident, so intimidating! You look inside yourself, and all you can feel is fear; “I’m just a child! How can I possibly speak to them? I don’t know anything, and they know everything!” When we’re young, we think that it’s just a young people’s problem – “I’m only a boy!” – but as we get older, we realize that it’s not about age, because we still feel it! It’s about confidence – and when it comes to speaking about the things of God, it’s about confidence in God.

“Well”, you say, “it’s not surprising that I don’t feel confident! Honestly, you don’t know the situation I live in. Let me tell you…”

Well, you can if you want, but before you do, let me tell you about the situation Jeremiah lived in! We’re told in our scriptures that he was born in the village of Anathoth, three miles from Jerusalem. He was from a priestly family and was probably in training to be a priest himself.

Jeremiah lived in a scary time in the history of God’s Old Testament people. He began his ministry as a prophet around 626 B.C., during the reign of King Josiah, a good king who tried to encourage his people to turn away from idols and worship the one true God of Israel. But he lived in times of political upheaval. In those days there were three great superpowers – Egypt to the south of Judah, Assyria to the north, and Babylon to the east. Assyria and Babylon had been feuding for quite a while. Over a century ago, before the time of Jeremiah, the Assyrians had destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel and taken the people into exile; all that was left now was the two little tribes of Judah and Benjamin that made up the southern kingdom, Judah, centred on Jerusalem.

During the forty or so years of Jeremiah’s ministry, there were several invasions from Assyria and Babylon. Good King Josiah was killed in battle against Egypt; at least two kings were deposed by foreign rulers and replaced by new kings that were more to their liking. Israel became a vassal state of Babylon; it rebelled twice, and each rebellion was put down with brutal force. After the second rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, burned its temple and palaces to the ground, broke down its walls and took all its leaders and ruling classes away to exile in Babylon. But not Jeremiah; he ended up in Egypt, and we have no idea how or when he died.

That was the world that Jeremiah lived in. God didn’t call Jeremiah to be a prophet in a nice peaceful time when the churches were full and the word of God was popular. Far from it. God called Jeremiah to speak for him in hard times, when people were more concerned with surviving brutal wars and picking which superpower to support. Which was the wrong question, Jeremiah insisted. The right question was not which superpower to support, but which god was the true God.

Listen to the word of the Lord through Jeremiah:
“And I will utter my judgements against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshiped the work of their own hands” (1:16).
Today, we’re still worshipping the work of our own hands. We still think that the things we make for ourselves or buy for ourselves are the things that can make us happy. We can build a big house, buy a big car, fill a big bank account. Working together, we can make a big country which the rest of the world fears; we can start a fashion trend, learn the secret of eternal youth, or build a business empire second to none.

All these things are like cracked cisterns, says God:
“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water” (2:13).
That’s what these false gods are, Jeremiah says: they’re like cracked cisterns. You think you can go to the cistern to quench your thirst, but when you get there, it’s empty! False gods are like that: they make all kinds of promises, but they don’t deliver on them.

That wasn’t a popular message in Jeremiah’s time. In fact, we can safely say that Jeremiah was not successful. Oh, maybe some people listened to him, but not many – not enough to change the course of history. The majority continued to worship idols and follow the wicked kings of Judah, and the result was the exile. Jeremiah failed.

Or did he? After all, we don’t have too many writings left from King Nebuchadnezzar, but two thousand six hundred years later we’re still reading the words of Jeremiah! And even though Jeremiah never really got over his fear – we can read some of his words to that effect in his book – still, he did what God asked him to do. He spoke the word of God faithfully, and in the end, that’s what God asks of us – faithfulness.

What does faithfulness mean to us today, as people who have been called to speak in God’s name?

Called to speak in God’s name? Yes, that’s our call – you and me. Jesus told his followers that they would be his witnesses ‘in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). We’re part of that church, so that commission is given to us too. By our words and actions we’re called to spread the message of Jesus and invite people to be his followers. And we’re also called to speak in the name of Jesus to challenge injustice and oppression and violence and hatred. These are not the values of the Kingdom of God; the Kingdom of God is about justice and compassion and peace and love. In the name of Jesus, we’re called to spread that message and do what we can to promote it in the messy world we live in.

And this will involve helping people to see the failure of their false gods. Coming to faith in the Creator God involves learning the futility of trusting in the gods we’ve made – money and possessions, success, popularity, false national pride and so on. None of these false gods deliver what they promise. We have to help people accept that their false gods have failed them, and encourage them to turn to the one true God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

Does this scare you? Of course it does! It scares me too! And we have good reason for our fear. In Jeremiah’s time people didn’t treat him very well; he was imprisoned, locked up and kept on bread and water. One time when he wrote down his words on a scroll and sent them to the king, the king chopped up the scroll and burned it in the fire. On another occasion Jeremiah was thrown into an empty well and left there to die – and he would have died, if a friend hadn’t rescued him.

People did not respond well to the word of God! In the Bible, they very rarely do. I don’t know why we think that if people are rejecting our message we must be doing something wrong; Jesus seems to have the opposite expectation! “Woe to you when all speak well of you”, he said, “for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). So we should not be surprised that people aren’t exactly jumping for joy to hear the message of Jesus. We shouldn’t be surprised that most people aren’t eager to accept our invitation to come to church with us.

But that doesn’t excuse us from sharing the message anyway. God called Jeremiah to speak his word, knowing full well that most of the people wouldn’t want to listen to him. Jeremiah spoke that message faithfully over forty years; at the end of his life he saw the fulfilment of all the dire warnings he had given, and as we read his words we’re left in no doubt that he was heartbroken about that, because he loved his people. And because he loved them, he kept on speaking as God told him to.

What was his secret? Surely we find it in verses 6-8:
‘Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy”. But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD”’.
Jeremiah was able to be faithful to God’s call because God was with him.

How did he know that God was with him? There’s absolutely no evidence in the Book of Jeremiah that he knew this because of any sort of emotion or feeling. It wasn’t shivers down the spine or supernatural joy in his heart or anything like that. It was simply a promise that he had heard from God: “I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD” (v.8). And the promise was enough.

Interestingly enough, when Jesus calls his disciples and sends them out to speak in his name, he gives them the same promise. In Matthew 28 he gives his great commission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (19-20b).
And then he adds,
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v.20b).

Jesus is with us, and he invites us to take him at his word and trust that he is indeed with us whether we feel anything or not. In fact, we probably won’t feel anything. What will happen is that we’ll step out in faith, engage in conversation with other people, speak our little word of witness, and discover in the long run that it went better than we thought it would. We’ll shake our heads and say, “I wonder how that happened?” We might even add, “I guess someone must have been looking after me!” Right! Someone was!

Sisters and brothers, if we in the mainline church are going to have any future – and, more importantly, if the message of the love of Christ is ever going to be passed on to a new generation – we’re going to have to get over our fear of opening our mouths. If we’re Christians, we’re disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus called his disciples to fish for people – that was an integral part of their call. In the Old Testament days Jeremiah knew that, and he was prepared to pay the price, because he loved God and he loved God’s people. Do we have a similar love?

So let’s step out in faith and courage. Let’s thank God for his promise to be with us to the end of the age. And then let’s take every opportunity to speak our word of witness for him - and let’s leave the results in his hands.