"Trust Without Borders" - Pentecost 10B
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
July 29, 2018 at 10:15 AM
Central Passage
Ephesians 3:8-21
Subject
Pentecost 10B
Description

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: July 29, 2018 – Pentecost 10B

Ephesians 3:8-21, John 6:1-21

 

Trust Without Borders?

 

            I am no fan of contemporary praise Christian music, as Sarah well knows (it’s one of the sticking points in our marriage!). For me, the gospel message of, say, “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” can never compare to that of a classic like “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High”:

 

O love, how deep, how broad, how high,

how passing thought and fantasy,

that God, the Son of God, should take

our mortal form for mortal’s sake.[1]

 

            Occasionally, though, a contemporary praise song surfaces that I like. One that’s been around a while is “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United. I like these lyrics in particular.

 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior[2]

 

            Trust without borders. Can we even imagine what it would be like to completely and utterly trust God, especially in this age where we often scarcely trust each other?

 

            In today’s reading from Ephesians, Paul reminds his audience that though he is “the least of God’s people”, he was given the extraordinary grace of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. That he, out of all people, was entrusted with revealing God’s secret plan of salvation available for all people – even for different groups of people who have no trust or love for one another. Moreover, God’s plan of salvation ensures that all God’s people have access to him through Jesus Christ. That kind of good news is extraordinary and life-changing. It tells his audience that they aren’t just random lumps of carbon floating in a meaningless universe, locked in endless struggle with each other, but people who are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139), who are provided for by God’s grace (Ps. 145:15-16), and who are constantly lifted up by God when they stumble (Ps. 145:14). Equally. Without prejudice. In short, God’s care, concern, and love for his creation is without borders. There is no limit on the love, grace, and mercy of God.

 

            And so, we ought to trust in such a God, right? We ought to be able to trust that God does provide for us, not just when we come into our full inheritance of eternal life at the end of time, but right now. It ought to be easy to love such a God, a God who loved us so much that he took on our form, lived and taught among us, was crucified, and rose for us to defeat the powers of sin, death, and hell. It ought to be easy.

 

            But it isn’t. The old sinful self within us, the “old Adam and Eve” within us still lurks and causes us to doubt our worth or the worth of others in God’s sight. In fact, we more or less disbelieve every single statement Paul says in verses 15-21. Do we believe that every ethnic group on earth is recognized by God? Our actions as a society towards immigrants and people of color would indicate otherwise. Do we believe that God really strengthens us in our inner selves through the Spirit, or that Christ can live in our hearts through faith? Do we believe that God gives us the power to grasp God’s love and know the love of Christ? And most importantly, do we believe that God can do far more than we can ask or imagine by his power at work within us? In short, do we trust God’s promise of liberation from death and sin for us? There’s always that lying voice within us that tells us that we are not really worthy of God’s promises, and that if anything is going to happen, we’d better do it ourselves. On our own, we cannot trust, we cannot believe. We believe that everything is up to us; that we’re on our own; that there is no one that we can trust but ourselves.

 

            But this is where God does something extraordinary. God doesn’t just tell us that we can trust his promises. He shows us. In the story from John, Jesus takes a meager amount of food – five small barley loaves and two tiny fish – and creates a feast, despite the mistrust and unbelief of his disciples. He comes out to the disciples over the rough waters and takes them to shore, despite their fear. Jesus knows the fear, mistrust, and unbelief of his disciples – and still shows them grace after grace, feeding the crowd and leading them to the safety of the shore. This life of pure grace continues through the healing of the man born blind, the man by the pool of Siloam, and the raising of Lazarus, all the way to the cross. Jesus lived, died, and rose for you. For us.

 

            Jesus can do and has done more for us than we can imagine. He keeps showing us grace after grace in this life – a grace which has the power to break the stony unbelief of our hearts locked within an icy cage of mistrust. When Jesus’ grace and love do this (and they will), we finally can believe. We finally can trust. We finally can have faith that Jesus is who the Scriptures say he is – the “righteousness of God for all who believe”. And when Jesus makes our relationship right with God, he makes us a new person, formed in the image of Christ. And paradoxically, when we are made in Christ’s image, we become more ourselves than ever before.

 

            Ultimately, the grace of God is not something we can manipulate or control. It’s not something we can earn. And it is not selective. The grace of God which breaks down the barriers of fear and mistrust and makes us new people in Christ’s image is pure gift. Nothing but pure, unearned, undeserved gift.

 

            Let us pray.

           

            Jesus, you take our sinful, mistrustful, anxious selves and you put clean and renewed hearts within us. Help us to trust you more each day, and live lives of gratitude in response to your amazing grace. Amen.

 

© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

 

[1] Attributed to Thomas á Kempis, translated by Benjamin Webb

[2] Joel Houston, Matt Crocker, Salomon Lighthelm, Lyrics © Songtrust Ave, Capitol Christian Music Group