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  4th Sunday after Pentecost                  ___ 2Cooorinthians 5:6-17        ___              June 17, 2018

                      

I’m not sure if you took notice of this or not, but if you take a look at your bulletin you will notice that I have added a Sermon Title, not something I normally do. Do you see it? “Walking by faith and not by sight.” That being said, this is not so much a sermon title, as a refrain that I will draw your attention to from time to time during this morning’s message.

With that word of introduction out of the way, let’s have a word of prayer…Holy Spirit, by your mysterious power speak to us your truth and show us your wisdom, that we may know and trust you more deeply and thereby serving you more faithfully for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen

So, it is the 2nd week of June and by now a great many of the Bible Camps across the country are engaged in the first week of Camp with actual campers. This past week I was up at Camp Onomia and the camp was busy with Confirmation students, pastors, and camp counselors engaged in Bible studies, playing assorted camp games, maybe doing some arts and crafts, swimming, canoeing, gathering around the campfire for camp songs and for worship. In short, growing in faith in a way that is unique to camping ministries.

A little further north at Camp Hiawatha where my daughter Katie is serving as the head cook, they just wrapped up Hockey Camp, something our own Jim Schmidt created when he worked at Hiawatha. Hockey Camp is unique to Hiawatha as it combines a hockey camp and Bible camp together coached by hockey players and coaches from Gustavus Adolphus College. Son, Ted was a hockey camper for as many years as he could and has been going back ever since to help coach. Suffice to say, Bible Camp has been a part of our family for a number of years.

In fact, eons ago, back when I was a camper and then later on when I was a camp counselor and then on camp staff—I recall one of the standard hands-on-teaching tools—the Faith Walk. What is the Faith Walk? Simply put, it is two campers paired up. One is blindfolded and the other is not. The non-blindfolded camper was responsible for safely leading the other around and through an obstacle course of sorts. Some variations of the exercise had the campers holding hands, and sometimes, the blindfolded is led by the voice of the other. The purpose of the Faith Walk was to teach us about Paul’s truth as found in our reading from 2nd Corinthians where we are…

REFRAIN… Walking by faith and not by sight!

Let’s be honest, this is not an easy lesson to learn. From an early age we are taught just the opposite – To “look where you’re going,” To “look both ways before you cross the street,” And to “look before you leap.” We are admonished to “watch out!” And to “watch your step!” We are reminded to “keep your eyes open,” And to “keep your eye on the ball,” And to “keep a sharp lookout.”

Walking by “faith, and not by sight” is definitely not encouraged in our culture. Yet the Bible, here and elsewhere, makes the bold claim that living by faith, walking by faith, trusting in God’s provision and grace, is the very heart of discipleship, it is what we who strive to follow Jesus are called to do.

In our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel’s we receive his vision of God taking a tiny, tender, sprig from the top of a tree and planting it on a mountain where it becomes a tall and strong. In this regard, the tree is a parable of sorts—a parable about trusting that God can, and will, create great endings from unpromising beginnings. It is a parable meant to teach us to trust God and to trust God’s promises, promises that God always fulfills. And as people of faith we experience best when we are…
REFRAIN: “Walking by faith and not by sight.”

In today’s gospel reading the sower in Mark’s parable of the kingdom lives by faith and not by sight. Listen to the words of Jesus, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how” (Mark 4:26-27). In other words…

REFRAIN “Walking by faith and not by sight.”

Did I mention that this is counterintuitive? Let’s be honest, we would rather not, trust, that is. We struggle when it comes to “trusting”. We struggle because we have drunk the Kool-Aid that tells us that there’s not enough, that we need to hang onto and protect what we got, that we need to fear anyone or anything that might take something away from us. And we struggle because we would rather be in control, in charge, taking the lead. And when it comes to matters of faith, should we want to do great things for God is often at the expense of allowing God to do great things for and through us.

It is common in this day and age for churches and its leaders to spend time planning and attempting to make five-year projections and then creating long-term mission and ministry strategies—we even did this last year about this time.
The problem is that no one really ever remembers the fruits of the efforts. As a pastor I spend time searching diligently for the next “new thing” that is “exciting and innovative”, something that will stir a bit of revitalization and excitement, something to restore some health and vitality to the life of this community of faith. I’ll be honest, this summer’s Come and Be Fed Sundays are one such effort. And like so many other church leaders we spend time looking hard at the data, the trends, watching our steps, watching the sketchy financial support and thinking that if we just keep a sharp eye on what the other, larger churches are doing—surely, we will find the golden key and succeed. And sadly, by doing this we tend to forget that we are called to be

REFRAIN: “Walking by faith and not by sight.”

There is a wonderful line in Sinclair Lewis’ novel Elmer Gantry. The book is a long ramble through the life of a blowhard ex-football player turned preacher who is simultaneously successful and self-destructive.

Gantry is on an upswing; he is the minister at a big church in a big city and he is on a speaking tour around the state, telling other people how to be as successful as he is. Andrew Pengilly is a gentle and humble minister with a long career in the same little church who volunteers to put the famous preacher up for the night when he comes to town. Gantry sits at the kitchen table, drinking coffee while boasting and bragging about all the things he has done, and plans to do, to bring in the kingdom. Suddenly, Pengilly interrupts, “Mr. Gantry, why don’t you believe in God?” I wonder if we all have a little Elmer Gantry within us as we boast and brag trying to do this all on our own, forgetting that we are

REFRAIN: “Walking by faith and not by sight.”

It is not uncommon for us that say: “I’ll believe it when I see it,” —and in many cases and with many people, that is a good thing to say and to do. But not with God. To believe God, to trust God, to have faith in God, is to remember daily that we are …

REFRAIN: “Walking by faith and not by sight.”

It is to plant sprigs of hope on wind-blown mountain tops, fully believing that a mighty tree will someday fill the sky. It is to sow seeds of kindness, and compassion, generosity, and forgiveness, and joy, trusting that these tiny seeds will burst forth into an abundance of love and community, we know not how. Yes, struggle though we may, I suspect we all strive to have confidence in this invitation to walk by faith, rather than by sight as children of God because deep down we have experienced deep comfort in that. There is the assurance that we don’t have to see the end of the trail to know we are following the right path. There is the promise that there is more to life, more to our destiny in Christ, than the difficulties we experience as we struggle and stumble in the dark.

Faith Walks are not only wonderful teachable moments for Bible campers—they are good for congregational members, church leaders, in short, any one of us. We would all do well to team up and take a turn wearing the blindfold and a turn leading the other—and from time to time holding each other’s hands tightly, trusting the voices that call us forward, leaning into the hands and arms of the One, Jesus Christ, who has been on this way before and who promises to stay with us till one day we are all reunited in the kingdom of God where we will join the refrain of all God’s children that we are…

REFRAIN---“Walking by faith and not by sight.”


Let us pray: Holy God, you have invited us to walk by faith and not by sight and while we stumble and trip from time to time, it is our desire to trust your Word. Guide us O, Lord, guide us step by step, day by day, day and night, stir us to scatter the seeds of your grace and hope. Encourage us to gather in the shade of your healing and comforting presence. Help us to believe that you alone can make even a dry tree flourish and turn our struggling lives a new creation. Amen

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