Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY
Faith is hard. Discipleship is challenging. Following Jesus is a perilous, frightening adventure. So often we assume that Jesus makes everything easier. In our trials, in our troubles, in our sorrows, we sing – I want Jesus to walk with me – thinking, that’ll make life easier. (And, to be fair, Jesus with us in our trials, troubles, and sorrows is comforting.) But we often dupe ourselves into believing that faith is a quick fix for things. Or worse, that faith is going to make life simple and easy, when in reality following Jesus in some ways makes life really hard.
Faith does not make life easy. Rather, faith helps us endure when life is hard. Jesus does not promise a quick fix to all of life’s problems. Rather, Jesus is a model for how to tackle life’s problems with a strategy that differs from what we’re taught by this world.
In the assigned readings for this Sunday we hear how perilous a life of faith can be. In Genesis Abraham is given an unlikely, improbable, and nearly impossible promise. He’s told that despite his old age and lack of an heir, that he will become the father of a multitude of nations. He can’t believe it. He doubts. He questions. In Philippians the Apostle Paul writes that there are “enemies of the cross of Christ.” He warns Christians that there are those who would prefer that we didn’t believe in and follow the Lord. And in the gospel of Luke, Jesus is warned and deterred by Pharisees who tell him to knock his mission off because it is going to get him killed.
There are times in life when we find ourselves like Abraham – confronted by unlikely, improbable, and nearly impossible promises. We are tempted to doubt, to fear, to question, and worry. Moreover, there are times when we encounter those whom the Apostle Paul warns us of – the “enemies of the cross of Christ.” We encounter hostility, persecution, hatred, and adversarial opponents. And there are times in life when we, like Jesus, are tempted to stop our mission and encouraged to quit by others.
How many times do you think has a Christian thought: I should help, I should give, I should go, I should forgive, I should assist, etc. Only to find a so-called friend say, “Don’t do that.” “It’s too dangerous.” “It’s not safe.” “It’s not wise.” (Moreover, how many times have we been that person who gets in the way of the mission of God?)
This Lent we are reminded of the challenges of faith. We are reminded that there are times of doubt, frustration, fear, and difficulty. However, we are not merely left with that sobering reality – we are also encouraged and exhorted to carry on. The lessons that teach us the challenges of faith, also teach us how to tackle adversity. These texts offer not just warnings about following but suggestions for the times in life when our faith challenged and tested.
In Genesis, God responds to Abraham’s disbelief with an invitation to go outside and count the stars. So too, in our times of doubt are we called to enter creation where even the trees and seas seem to be shouting: resurrection. In Philippians Paul writes about the enemies of the cross and exhorts his listeners to imitate him. We are called to follow the example of the faithful servants and saints who have gone before. By their example, we can find strength to persevere. And In the gospel of Luke we are reminded that our Lord will not be deterred, derailed, or distracted from his mission to save. We are called to call out the sly foxes of this world and follow the one who breaks the darkness.
Faith will not erase your problems. However, it will give you the strength to persevere. In your trials, troubles, and sorrows may you find Jesus as a constant companion and may your faith carry you through to a brighter day.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.