Jan. 5, 2012
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Yesterday, I lead a worship service at a local nursing home. This is one of those things that I do nearly every month. With the residents, we sing a few songs, I share a message and then we celebrate with the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Because we are still in the season of Christmas, I picked all Christmas carols. One of the things I’ve learned in leading worship at the nursing home is to pick songs the folks are very familiar with. The people may not be able to read very well or know all the words. But many folks will know the words to the first verse and/or chorus of well-known hymns. They can join in as they know the words.
The message is usually something I’ve done as part of a children’s message of late. This Christmas, I’ve used a little lesson of making homemade “snow globes” of sorts as a way to remember the three gifts the wise men brought to baby Jesus. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this little lesson. Last Sunday, I sat on the floor with grandkids Waylan and Ellie and made “snow globes” on the living room floor while the adults watched the Packer’s game. They “oohed” and “ahhed” as I poured water into the globe and it turned color, based on the couple drops of food coloring they’d chosen for their snow globe.
After the message, one of the nursing home staff and I offered communion to the residents. As we approached one woman with the bread and the juice, she asked, “What is this for?” This is a woman who not too long ago recognized and appreciated receiving holy communion.
I know it’s not her fault that she didn’t recognize what we had before her. In situations like this, often dementia or Alzheimer’s clouds a person’s ability to grasp reality. Having had a grandmother who suffered for several years with dementia at the end of her life to the point she couldn’t put two words together, it’s difficult to understand why such a disease must be present.
I gently explained to the woman that we were offering communion and assisted her in receiving it. This brings forth potential questions regarding whether this woman understood what communion really is and whether or not she should have received it. I’ve had this discussion several times in relationship to young kids receiving communion, people who may or may not fully understand who God is and whether or not they should participate in a sacrament.
My intention today is not to discuss each of these situations and what is “right.” It is not my intention to start a discussion that could become very passionate with a variety of opinions.
One of the great challenges of the Christian faith is that very few aspects are what I’d call black and white. Personally, I see a lot more grey in how I interpret our so-called rule book, The Bible, than specific mandates. For me, there are two mandates, as stated by Jesus: love God and love your neighbor. Outside of this, wow, it gets sticky very quickly.
Too often, I think we try and put faith into nice, neat and square boxes. We want to categorize right from wrong, good from bad, better from worse. Yes, there are times when we need to draw lines and uphold the basic tenants of our faith. But when the basic tenants become more important than faith, we begin to loose what I feel basic faith is about.
There are many aspects of faith, God and belief I cannot adequately explain. Try as I might week in and week out, there are times when I simply must stutter and admit that I do not have adequate words or understanding to speak on behalf of God. Does this mean I stop believing or give up on faith? I pray not.
When the shepherds arrived at the stable, they certainly did not understand everything that was going on. Why would sane, highly educated men travel for months following a star? Only because they had faith this journey would enrich their lives.
Sometimes, we will be challenged to rely only on faith that there is a God who had a son Jesus who lived and died as our Messiah. We see this lesson over and over in the Christmas story. Faith is what granted Mary to say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to your word.” Faith is what Joseph kept in mind as he went against culture and did not leave his fiancé. Faith is what allowedElizabethto know that there was a special baby growing inside Mary’s womb. Faith is what beckoned Joseph to take his little family out of Bethlehem and into Egypt in the middle of one night after he’d been warned that King Herod would try to have his way with the Holy Child.
When have you had to let faith carry you along? I’m quite confident there has been at least once in your life when it would have been easier to abandon your faith … but for some reason you did not. Or maybe you did give up on God for awhile but now you are trying to redevelop that trust and or confidence in God again.
Is the journey of faith worth it? As my friend and artist Bonnie Mohr wrote and put on one of her prints, “Have faith, it fosters hope – it make the difference. Believe, with God all things are possible.”
Let us pray: O come and sing this song with gladness as your hearts are filed joy. Lift your hands in sweet surrender to his name. O give him all your tears and sadness; give him all your years of pain, and you’ll enter into life in Jesus name. Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill your lambs. Jesus, O Jesus, come and fill your lambs.