"The Opposite of Faith" - April 11th, 2021
"Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth."
Message of Stewardship
from Leah Bass-Baylis
I grew up in a small town in Ypsilanti, Michigan and I think anybody growing up during any kind of war must have seen a million signs where people said, “I need you!” Well time passes and the sense of urgency for that time passed, but now we see “we need you” over, and over, and over again. We see we need you to purchase car insurance. We need you to wear your mask. We need you to practice social distancing. And at Church of the Valley? We need you! We need you!
I can't say it enough. We need you to manage your resources in a way that really supports the workings of our church and God.
We have all these resources. We always think in terms of just dropping a dime in the bucket, but we need resources in terms of your personal gifts, we need you to pray for your brethren, we need you to work at the pantry, we need you to be in the choir. We need you to support our church in many, many ways. That's part of stewardship too.
We know that during this time of the pandemic it's been stressful for everybody.
We need you to pick up your phone and call up a brethren and say, “You okay?” Check in! Our church can't keep its lights on, we can't continue to support everyone if we're not all giving. We need you to give.
There are lots of ways that you can give. You can give your time, your energy, your effort. You can give your donations to Church of the Valley in many ways. You can take your little envelope, you can drop it in the box at the Little Brown Church. You can drop it in the box at the big church, Church of the Valley. You can drop the donation via PayPal. You can drop a donation in the mail, snail mail. But we want you to understand that every time you see one of those commercials that says “We need you!” - understand that we need you to support the kingdom of God in our church. We truly do need you.
There's a song by Grammy award-winning gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds, “Make Room”. The lyrics are, I find space for what I treasure, I make time for what I want. I choose my priorities and Jesus, you're number one. So I will make room for you. I will prepare for two. So you don't feel that you can't live here. Please live in me.
So I want you to make room. Make room in your budget to support the Church of the Valley and the Little Brown Church. Thank you.
Pastor Michael's Sermon - April 11th, 2021
There is a Bible story that pops up just about every year on the Sunday after Easter Sunday. And when I was the associate pastor of this church, I almost always preached on the Sunday after Easter Sunday, as do most associate pastors. So I have preached this story many times. But the message that we can take away from this story is such an important one that I think that we need to hear it at least once a year.
As it's told in the Gospel according to John, it’s the evening of the day of Christ's resurrection. We're told that the disciples were meeting in a house with the doors closed for fear of the Jews. And even though the doors were locked, suddenly Jesus appeared among them.
He said, “Peace be with you.” and he showed the disciples his wounds on his hands and on his side, and with that the disciples rejoiced because they knew now that it was truly Jesus. And then he gave the disciples a charge saying to them, “As the father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
And then we're told something that is very important to this story. We're told that one of the disciples wasn't actually in the room at the time. Oh, yes our friend Thomas happened to be elsewhere when Jesus appeared. So the other disciples had to go and tell Thomas that they had seen Jesus. They said, “Thomas, we have seen the Lord!” But as you probably know, Thomas didn't have the reaction that the disciples were expecting. He said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hand and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
And there it is. The reason that Thomas has been granted the title Doubting Thomas for decades, for centuries!
Now I mentioned before that I think that Thomas has taken a little bit too much criticism from Christians over the years. What I mean is his reaction was not that much different than the reaction of the other disciples. Remember the others didn't even recognize Christ to be Christ until he showed his hands and his side.
Poor Thomas has had to carry around with him this title of Doubting Thomas when there are examples throughout the gospels of the other disciples doubting. Christ is forever pointing out their lack of faith.
Besides, some of our greatest faith leaders also have experienced doubt and they've never been labeled. Moses experienced doubt. The Buddha felt doubt and so did Muhammad. All of these individuals were at one time or another unsure of their loyalty to their calling.
After Mother Teresa died, letters that had been written in the 1950s and 60s suddenly surfaced. She had written these letters to her church’s spiritual guides and in the letters, she wrote about troubling and painful conflicts that she sometimes had with her faith. She even went so far as to say that she spent 50 years not sensing the presence of God in her life. Fifty years. As people of faith that can be pretty hard for us to hear or even imagine because doubting is often thought to be the opposite of faith.
If we doubt, we're not being faithful. This is why we as people of faith will often look down on doubt. We don't want to admit that we may experience doubt. That there may be times in our lives when we have questioned our faith.
But doubt is not the opposite of faith. Not believing is the opposite of faith. Fear! Mistrust is the opposite of faith. Despair is the opposite of faith. Not doubt.
The truth is, doubt can be a very good thing when we're talking about our faith.
Believe it or not, doubt is an important tool used to achieve faith. Doubt can be an important part of our faith. I’m going to say that again. Doubt can be an important part of our faith.
Faith looks beyond what some people would say is sensible and faith holds onto an understanding of what we just simply know to be true. We know it to be true because of a divine knowledge. Because of the knowledge that we have received not from books, not from proof right in front of us, but rather from that which has been conveyed conveyed to us by God. And as Christians, that knowledge, that faith comes to us through our relationship with Jesus Christ. And when we as Christians experience doubt, that divine knowledge that we have inside of us isn't gone. We're simply re-examining it. We're taking it out and looking at it from all sides. When we face doubt in our Christian faith, we begin to ask questions and that is a good thing.
A time of doubt, a time of re-examination of our faith can provide us with an opportunity to add to our faith. And remember, doubt can come in many forms.
It's not necessarily a time when one dismisses all belief and turns ones back to God, to Christ. A time of what we might call doubt can simply be a pondering.
I remember a couple of days after Pastor Bill died, I was talking to him, as I still do, and I asked him a question. I asked, “Did we get it, right? I mean God? Jesus? Heaven? The Holy Spirit? All of that. Did we get it, right?” Which is a rather ironic question since the fact that I was talking to him and honestly felt that he could hear me meant I truly already believed that we got it right.
Asking questions about our faith exercises our faith. It focuses our mind on our faith. It forces us to look at why we believe in our faith. How we know the Christ
walks with us, why we know that God watches over us. We can ask ourselves, what is it in my faith that allows me to fully understand that there is life beyond this time here on Earth?
We can find a strength in our faith through searching.
There was a preacher who has many years since passed by the name of G. Campbell Morgan. Well, by the time he was only 19 he had already maintained
and grew success as a preacher. By the time he was 19! But right about that time, he began having some doubts about the Bible. He had begun reading the writings of popular scientists and published agnostics of the time, people like Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer and people like that, and their writings began to disturb him. The more he read and the more he listened to their debates, the more Morgan became more confused.
Eventually, he got to a place where he didn't feel comfortable preaching the gospel because he was having these doubts. So he ended up canceling all of his preaching engagements.
But before he would give up preaching all together he decided to try something. He took all of those books that he had been reading and he put them away in a cupboard. He went to a bookstore and he bought himself a new Bible. And he held the Bible and he thought to himself I am having some doubts about the words in this book. But of this, I am sure. If it truly is the word of God and if I receive this book with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul. And he spent the next several days living with and reading that Bible and
when he finished, he was quoted as saying that it wasn't he who found the Bible in the bookstore, but rather he said that Bible found me.
After this time with the word, asking himself questions, re-examining his understanding of the message, Morgan found a new strength in his faith. He found a faith that was stronger than ever and he went on doing ministry and preaching the word of God throughout his entire lifetime.
If we have questions, God wants to give us the answers. If we don't ask questions,
we will never fully understand our relationship with God or our relationship with our faith. You are already people of faith.
I invite you to question your faith, to re-examine your beliefs, and in doing so you will find a new closeness, a clearer understanding, and a fresh confidence in your already faithful heart.
Holy One, we thank you for renewal of faith, a better understanding of your word,
and a closer walk with your son. And it's in his name we pray.