so it’s been a while since I posted, and a few things have been going on… in the last few weeks we’ve made some stellar progress on whether I’m going to have an ongoing job, the building work has started and been completed (we have a new floor and we’re back in- wahey!!), and I’ve also had a number of things crop up- some good (a great time teaching on eco-theology and climate change, yes, the notes will appear here one day) and some not so good.
Anyway, we’ve begun to think about how we might, in our lives, come to a deeper place of trust and faith, and what it might look like to make the step of trusting God a bit more… yesterday I spoke from a passage in Paul’s letter to the Roman church, and here’s what I said:
I’ve had two sermons in my head this week- the first is an exposition of why Paul’s writing seems to flit between these two style, looking at why Paul at one moment harks back to the deep roots of the Jewish faith, and in the next seems to be writing for those who have none of this… looking particularly at how these things show up in the passage we’ve had read for us today as he writes about faith and justification (being made right). The second is to look simply at what Paul is writing about, and to consider how we can know it for ourselves. Its not that I don’t consider it important to understand that the Roman church was a mix of Christians from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, nor that I don’t think its interesting to think about the comparisons between claiming Abraham as a direct forefather and the things Paul writes about how all Christians can claiming him as a spiritual father. I just think that the main thing here, the main thing for us, is to be able to do what Abraham did, what Christians through history and today have done: to trust God in our lives.
God made a promise to Abraham. A promise. Jesus made a promise to his friends and followers. A promise. Promises are based on trust, which comes from relationship.
When someone puts a blindfold over your eyes and says ‘trust me’- there’s all sorts of things going on- what do I know about this person, our previous contact- their ability to give instructions etc, as well as the stuff that’s to do with you- am I basically a trusting person or is that something I’m hesitant about… but it has a lot to do with your relationship with the person who says trust me…
SO what does it mean to trust God? And how do we do it more?
On one level, to trust God in our lives is simple: when I become a Christian, when I move from being someone who has some knowledge of God to being someone who knows God- whether as a child or an adult, whether I can pinpoint the date or just know that it happened at some time in my life; when I do that, I am trusting my life to God- I’m saying that God is my God, that I want to live his way, I want to call him my Lord. The next stage is very important, and one that we can easily miss out. It’s the action that defines whether we are believers or disciples- it’s the one that defined Abraham- God asked Abraham to go, Jesus asked his followers to come… its simply that we allow our trust in God to shape our actions. It doesn’t have to all happen at once- it can take many years to realise that we’re still waiting to make that decision to actually follow God, and there’s no shame in that- it no one’s ever told you, how could you know?
Beyond that first level, trusting God in our lives is something that we do on a day by day basis, in the things that we face- do I trust that God’s way of life will be the best way to live in this situation, or do I trust in my own ideas? If we’re thinking that the Bible doesn’t contain much help when it comes to accountancy or IT, or planning care packages for a relative etc… it doesn’t specifically, but it does contain all we need to know about getting through our day. So we learn to trust God, to know what God says- by reading and absorbing our Bible, whether on our own, in small groups.
What about our relationship with God- I said that’s key to trust… Well our relationship with God, is based partly on Scripture- what we can read, and what we know God has said; but its also based heavily in our own prayer life. Two questions- both rhetorical, so there’s no need to raise your hand or worry that I’m going to ask for answers… firstly, have you ever prayed? The statistics suggest that almost everyone in the world has at some stage, even those who claim to have no faith. Prayer being simply that expression of emotions that goes out from us, when we’re not speaking to another person, when our heart cries out at something terrible on the news or soars at the sight of a sunrise. Secondly, have you got prayer completely sorted? When I talk with folk about prayer things like distraction, uncertainty of what to pray about, what words to use… these things seem universal to everyone. So- most people pray or have at some point prayed, and no one I know of claims to have prayer sorted… sounds a bit like every other relationship: we all have them, and none are perfect.
As with every relationship, it has to start at the beginning- thanksgiving, baptism, coming to church, the first prayer in the still of the night, prayers with our parents… these are all possible start places, but that’s all they are. As we mature in our faith, so our prayer matures- that might mean we pray freely, or that we dig deeper into the riches of the prayers written over the years, it might mean that we pray in tongues or can hold silence and stillness. But it will most often only do so with the help of others- we learn to pray as we experience prayer with other people… sometimes it might feel a bit formal or false to get help in learning to pray, but no more so than in learning to speak, the difference being that few of us now remember learning to speak our native tongue.
What would it mean, what would it be like if prayer was as natural and easy for us as speaking to each other in English? If we were to become fluent in prayer?
Maybe, maybe it would help us to know how close God is to us all the time, maybe it would help us to include God in everything we do, maybe it would help us to trust God in our lives every day.
I’m conscious that if this stuff comes out wrong, it feels like a burden, a pressure, and a cause of guilt for already busy people… but that’s not how its meant to sound, or how a relationship with God should work… so I hope you can read this with that in mind.