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By Faith, Not By Sight

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 and Excerpts from Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church and A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Sunday June 13th, 2021

Thank you again for worshiping with us this morning, whether you are experiencing it on, our Zoom watch party or right here on our Terrace, we welcome you as you are to the Third Sunday after Pentecost and the kick off to our Guns to Gardens day long three part event.

It is our practice on occasion to remember to breathe, so as you are comfortable I invite you to do that now, to let yourself arrive more fully to hear whatever word God has for you today.

As you are so moved, I invite you to join me in a spirit of prayer and centering from Psalm 19. God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

For we walk by faith and not by sight, these words from scripture felt exactly right, for today, for this time, for tonight. By faith and not by sight, making our way forward without knowing for sure what is ahead, feeling a bit frightened, not knowing for sure how to hold ourselves together at times, not sure how to hold one another. We are moving ahead without knowing all that we need to know, to get where we are trying to go... But what has given me peace is that we don’t need to know…we don’t have to…in fact maybe we miss essential signs, important information, valuable people along the way if we think we know for sure…

As Rachel Held Evans wrote, “ isn't about having everything figured out ahead of time; faith is about following the quiet voice of God without having everything figured out ahead of time.” She goes on to write of the dream of the church as a place where our aim is less about knowing and more about accompanying one another through whatever comes. “We are called to enter into one another’s pain,” she said “anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.”

In addition to the new array of people and possibilities that arise when we let go of thinking it is our job to know, I believe we are living in a time that needs our fresh questions more than familiar answers. This time needs our unknowing and our unseeing and our unbelieving in the idea that what is, is what should be. So, what is needed right now are more who don’t believe they have it figured out, instead what is needed are more who join one another in a shared vision as we say let’s figure it out together.

We need unlearning and reimagining, we need open hearts and wounded healers, we need wonder and awe, seeking what might be possible when we dare to live into our call…

Maybe we need what our ancestors in faith wrote in the letter to the Community in Corinth: Find a kind of confidence in knowing that even when you don’t feel at home in yourself, when you feel distant from the Divine or like you are wandering in the dark, keep going, keep working, keep walking, keep moving by faith and not by sight, which I think just might mean this: follow what you know is right, in spite of not knowing exactly how… By faith and not by sight.

For we are in the midst of a shift where it seems as if our movements that are generative, fruitful, soulful and sacred come from a place of faith- faith in the possibilities of love, faith in one another, even when that feels hard - faith that we can be a part of God-sized dreams, from all the little “ME’s” to the great big WE.

Many wise and well-read people are saying that human civilization in some ways is undergoing a massive shift. As the climate changes, and as our nation grapples with becoming more diverse, more equal, more honest, there is anxiety in all of our systems and our organizations, and our institutions because it is clear that the paths many of us are on are or have been unsustainable. I mean this both in the macro sense and the micro sense- our consumption is unsustainable, our materialism and militarism, our flying and building and also what is unsustainable is our individualism, our impatience with difference, our meanness and mistrust, our narrowness and indifference to the suffering of others, what is unsustainable is our fears, our denial...

My sense is that many of us feel at least some of this internally at some level. And whether we can articulate it or not, I believe that we sense all of this because we are alive right now for what could be called a mass rethink, a sort of revolution, or a reset… and if we are tuned in to this, it is uncomfortable.

I suspect this might be one of those things that sounds poetic only in the history books or from a distance or glimpsing the period through the view of artists who portrayed partial and pallid faces in masks on a canvas in a museum. But to be alive for it, for this, for this great reimagining is another thing, to be present for it, it is stretching and the loss, the sorrow and the pain, to speak the truth to our kids and also to have hope in a future for them, is just too much to hold on many days. Some of us are just getting by or barely hanging on. Some of us are angry and anxious. Some of us have retreated, some of us have doubled down on what we care about and why we are here. The pandemic sped it up and stripped illusions away and assured us that tomorrow will never be like it was…a today, now has changed. This feels like a bit of darkness. Like a place where you have to keep going even when you cannot see, taking just one shuffled step at a time.

We are living in a time that summons us to be able to follow by faith and not by sight, following what we know is right, in spite of not knowing how…and not seeing far beyond just right now…

As you heard from the letter to the Corinthians Paul contends that we can be confident in all circumstances, whether we find ourselves in a sense “at home” in God or away. This theme resonates with his refrains in Philippians that “living is Christ and dying is gain” (Philippians 1:21) and that in any and all circumstances — whether in plenty or in need — we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:12-13).

As Lois Malcom contends, maybe this text presents us with questions like these? “Can we boldly defend the common good in the face of powerful detractors concerned solely with their own interests and agendas? And when we do speak the truth about what needs to be done in specific circumstances, can we do so with love and forgiveness, the kind that is needed to bring about the justice and love we are calling for?”

And beloved of God these questions are for us now too. Can we boldly defend the common good in the face of powerful detractors concerned solely with their own interests and agendas? Can we do what we are called to do with love and justice, ensuring that we ourselves become the thing internally that we are seeking to create “out there?”

This is an excruciating and incredibly exciting moment on planet earth, where new possibilities are emerging because they have to, because all of creation is in labor pains. Some of us attended part of the Rocky Mountain Conference Annual Meeting this week where we heard from Valeria Kaur, a Sikh activist who invited us to consider whether this is the darkness of a tomb or the darkness of a womb? Perhaps this is the darkness where all of creation is groaning in labor. Because I don’t know about you, I have never been a part of something so big before. And what we are doing today is something so big we can only do it with God and with others. I had more peace when I realized it wasn’t about the outcome of today. In a way, we have already been faithful to God’s call for us. We refused to let thoughts and prayers be enough. And here we are today, actually doing something big. There are two other United Church of Christ congregations that have already expressed interest about joining us and learning from us and joining us and doing this too. We have already changed the conversation about what is possible for a church to be a part of. It becomes alive in us, like a fuel for our days, this is what hope has felt like, it is palpable, it gives us energy.

This is what I think it means. When we move by faith and not by sight, faith in the possibilities of love, and also have faith in one another, in people we know and people we just met because they are also willing to follow by faith and not by sight, following what we know is right, in spite of not knowing how…and not seeing beyond now… May it be so for this day and every day. Amen.

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