Sunday, March 13, 2022
TRUST IN GOD
The Rev. Mark Wilkinson, Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Katy TX 77493
2nd Sunday in Lent 2022
As I read and prayed over the passages that we have this week especially our passage from Genesis and the Psalm one word kept coming into my mind, trust. In particular trust in God. I suspect we are in all in place where we need to have a deep and abiding trust in God as we towards our futures.
Our Genesis passage is midpoint of the Abram/Abraham saga. He has been to Egypt and back. Abram is described at the beginning of the chapter as very rich. He is still Abram and has no direct heir so he is bemoaning the fact that someone outside his direct family a slave named Eliezer will inherit. This is very painful given the promises that Abram thought God had made to be the father of a great family. God has done a great deal for him already yet there is this problem of an heir. In fact, Abram, who has been faithful, gets just a little whiney in this passage. God how are you going to keep your promise is obviously on Abram’s mind
One of the theological concepts that is important to understand is that in this stage of the development of the relationship between God and man is a quid pro quo understanding. In other words the person does something and God rewards or punishes the action. This was the standard understanding upon which ultimately the entire temple worship system will be built 1000 years later. Sometimes we fall into that same trap and the challenge comes when what we think has been promised does not occur.
What is truly remarkable is even this far back in the Bible we see a totally different relationship with God. God tells Abram simply trust me. You may not understand, but you will. Even more remarkable is the covenant that God makes with Abram. A covenant in biblical terms is a promise of a relationship between God and a person or persons. There are two types of covenants, Sinai and Zion. Sinai is like the ten commandments. Keep these and I will protect you.
The Zion covenant is one where the promise is all on one side and in this case the promise is all from God. In a vision God shows Abram the stars and says his heirs will be more numerous than the stars and doesn’t ask for anything in return. The passage says that Abram believed. However, it is important to know that the Hebrew word used for believe can also be translated as trusted. The passage could easily say, Abram trusted God. We all know how this story ultimately turns out with Abraham being the father of the Jewish world. Also don’t forget the Arab world looks at him as their patriarch as well.
However today I want to think in terms of someone else who trusted in God and did great things as a result. St. Patrick’s Day is coming up next week and here is a man who trusted God. Unless you really know his story you may not realize what a risk he took later in his life.
Patrick was born into a family that was part of the early Christians in Britain. His father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest yet he really wasn’t all that interested. At 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland where he was forced to work as a slave serving as a shepherd for several years. The legend says that one night he had a dream where God told him flee to the coast where a ship would take him back to England. Trusting in this message he headed for the coast and indeed found a ship and returned to England. He studied in France to become a priest and then was called back to Ireland to convert the Irish. His biggest challenge was the Druids and in the legend they came to represent the “snakes” that he drove out of Ireland. There never have been any snakes in Ireland.
All during this time his life was in great peril and he easily could have been martyred at almost any time. At one point he is attacked, this time by English raiders, who kill all the men in his party and carry the women off. Yet he patiently and effectively spread the word of the gospel often in a very gentle manner. One that met people where they were or explaining things they believed, but putting it into a Christian context. This was truly the start of what today we refer to as Celtic Evangelism. All throughout he writes in his memoir of a deep trust in God.
Celtic Evangelism is based on a monastic model rather than one of conquering the people. Monasteries were founded rather than churches. Patrick would train monks who would maintain the monasteries and care for the physical as well as the spiritual needs of the converts. After Patrick we have Columba who founded the monastery on Iona where Aidan later lived. From Iona, Aidan was sent to Northumbria and found the monastery on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. He was charged with brining Christianity back to northern England in the early to mid 600s about 200 years after Patrick. Aidan used those same Celtic evangelism techniques and laid the foundation for the strong return of the Christian faith to Northumbria.
None of these men knew for certain how their mission would turn out, but they trusted that God had sent them out for a reason and they trusted that they would live into their call. They trusted that God would give them what they needed to succeed, they just had to believe, they had to trust. That trust kept them going through the many challenges they face in spreading the gospel. It was not easy and they both experienced setbacks, but they persisted and ultimately succeeded.
We are living in a time when some are finding it hard to trust in anyone or anything including God. A time when for many it is hard to be hopeful. Yet as we come out of the pandemic and struggle to make sense of what is happening in Ukraine, we need to trust God more than ever. The Wednesday Theology Lunch group has been watching a series by Walter Brueggemann on the prophets. One theme that comes up in the Abraham saga is the idea “Is there anything that God cannot do?” I believe we need to trust that this is true. We also need to listen to where and what God is calling us to do.
The prayer I say quite often and may use at the vestry meeting coming up. It is one of the most famous prayers by Thomas Merton. It is pinned up on my bulletin board next to my desk. In fact you only need to Google “Merton Prayer” and this will come up. Let us pray
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.
This prayer is one of hope, faith and trust. This is a prayer that can lead us through the challenging times we live in