Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Faith and Certainty

By Dennis Sanders
Text: Genesis 12:1-9

I've always been a bit irked by this text. I remember when I was in college, the campus pastor would marvel at the faithfulness of Abram. There was no questioning, no wondering what this was all about, Abram just heard the voice of God and took off for an unknown adventure.

I, on the other hand, took some issue with this. Surely, Abram had to wonder what was up. He had to have some doubts about leaving all that was familiar to him and go somewhere far all because some voice told him to do it. Was this God or that pickle he ate earlier in the evening?

Don't get me wrong, I think Abram (soon to be Abraham) was a person of strong faith. But I just thought that he had to question at times, because we all do.

Faith has always been a struggle for me because my logical mind is more suited to facts. Faith is elusive. There are questions and doubts and confusion, not something you can hang your hat on. More often than not, I would love to not have doubts, to know all that there is to know and feel more certain about faith than I am. But I am beginning to think that maybe those questions, and doubts and confusion are part of the deal. Maybe that IS part of faith after all.

Abram had a good life. He was in his seventies, the same age of my parents. He had probably worked had like my parents did as former autoworkers in my native Michigan. Now was the time for Abram to kick back and relax.

And while Abram was settling in to retirement, God calls him to move to some unknown place where he will father a nation. At seventy five.

Abram had to be swirling with questions. And yet, in spite of those questions, he picked himself up and moved to this new land with his family. Abram takes one step of faith, then another and then another until he gets to where God wants Abram to be.

This life of faith wasn't all roses for him, though. He and his wife Sarai would doubt God would give them a son, so they use the young slave called Hagar to father a son for him. But God still worked through Abram, not because he was smart or certain, but because he was faithful.

We live in a time when we are certain in so many things. But certainty can at times be an idol that can take us away from faith in the Living God. Maybe God is okay with us being a bit unsteady in our walk, but placing our trust in God. In the end, God has a bigger plan than we can see.

This past Sunday (June 1), the Associate Pastor at Lake Harriet Christian Church in Minneapolis preached a sermon based on the parable of the house built on sand and the one built on a rock. It was a vivid sermon in light the recent death of a grandchild of two elderly members of the congregation to a tornado. Even when houses fall when the winds blow, she said, we stand on the solid rock of God.

Abram wasn't certain, but he was faithful. He knew he stood on solid ground and went on a journey with God.

May it be so with us.

Dennis is an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and lives in Minneapolis.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They were helpful as I prepared my sermon for today on this text. I especially appreciate your willingness to push back a little on this passage and confront the common ways we read the text.