August 7, 2016 sermon "Have Faith"
Readings: Genesis 15:1-6 and Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

We just heard maybe the two most famous and often quoted bible passages about ‘faith’.
The best classic definition of faith comes from our reading today at the beginning of Chapter 11 in the book of Hebrews.
There it says that  “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen”.
Or, in other words - when we feel and act in confidence for something we want but which there is not any evidence or proof for.

The other key bible passage on faith is from Genesis and the story of Father Abraham’s dealings with God.
There, God promises Abraham that he will produce an heir despite the man’s failure to so up to that point.
God tells Abraham to look up at the stars and the number he sees there is the number of dependents he’ll have.
Then it says “(Abraham) believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”.
Which means that, for trusting him so much, God gave Abraham ‘a big kudos to you from me to you!’

It was the start of the covenant,….or ‘deal’,…..God made with Abraham as part of God’s plan for Abraham to follow.
It involved Abraham leaving his homeland and traveling to re-settle in a new and completely different place.
Abraham didn’t know anything about this land he was to inhabit.
He had no real estate book of pictures or ratings of the local schools.
He was just told to take his wife and all his things and head for where God sent him.
If that didn’t sound crazy enough for Abraham to believe, there was this idea that he would have an heir.
You see Abraham was a very, very old man, as was his wife, and they had been unable to have any children so far.
There’s a later passage where Sarah overhears the Lord telling this promise of a child to Abraham.
And it says that Sarah thought this was so crazy that she actually laughs at the idea.
It’s almost as if Abraham and Sarah could have, in all sincerity and respect, said to God,… ‘Are you crazy?!?”

So I suggest to you this morning,….that we come up with a simplified definition of faith
It’s not as good as those ones from the bible but it’s maybe one we can all remember more easily.
Are you ready?!?
Faith is believing even when we (or others) might say; 
“ARE YOU CRAZY!?!”
So I want us to try our new more simple definition of faith.
Together, now look at me and let’s all say;… “ARE YOU CRAZY!?!”
That really sums up what its like to have strong faith in something.

See, its easy to believe in the weather report (sometimes) with all the technology meteorologists have to predicting the weather.
Its easy to trust that the Mets will finish with a better record at the end of the year than, say, the Phillies - statistics and facts back it up.
But where there is little evidence towards an idea we want to believe in,… then trusting can be very hard to do.
When an idea has no proof compared to what we see and know in the reality of the world,…. faith is a long shot at best.
When nobody would agree with a proposition because it seems preposterous,…then faith can seem crazy.

So when Abraham accepted God’s promise of a better place and  committed to leaving his homeland,….
his friends and family might have wanted to, or maybe even did say to him,…. ‘Are You Crazy!?!’
When he told his buddies down at the local watering hole that he and Sarah were gonna be parents at their ripe old age,….
they must have laughed and shouted in chorus;… ‘Are You Crazy!?!’

Faith is about putting our trust in,…and even then acting upon,… something that has a lot of uncertainty.
The more the uncertainty - the greater the faith needed.
What Soren Kierkegaard called taking “a leap” from the security of where you are,… to a totally unknown place.
Going where only faith in what’s hoped for might be your only friend.
Faith can lead us to where there’s always the risk for embarrassment at the least,…and failure at the worst.

BUT…..and here is the big BUT in all this faith stuff -
Faith is the strong glue that holds relationships together.
The more you place your trust in someone or something,…the stronger and more enduring a relationship will be.
When my wife says to me “Come on, let’s go there…it’ll be fun”,….
I sometimes think to myself, “Are You Crazy?”….
But by having faith in her choice of social activities, I go along, even if I have serious doubts.
When my auto mechanic says you need a new water pump,….and I’m thinking ‘rip off’ and want to say to him, “Are You Crazy”,….
I end up trusting him even though I have no proof to do so.
Because I have a good relationship with him, the trust overcomes any doubts that I might have.
Faith enables you to take that ‘crazy’ leap beyond what we can see, or prove, or have evidence for.

So what’s all this got to do with God and us?
Well, when we have a good relationship with God through Christ,….. 
it’s a lot easier for us to trust God and His promises.
So when Jesus says that God’s Spirit will be with us,….in all times -
our logical mind says “Are You Crazy, Jesus?  How’s that possible with so many other people in the world?”
When he says God will help us out of all our quagmires,…
we might say ‘Are You Crazy?,… I got myself into this mess.
When Jesus says God forgives all people of any wrongs they do,…. 
our sense of justice says,  “Are You Crazy, Jesus?  That’s not fair” 
And when he says God will rescue us from death,…. 
some small part of us still may say to that, “Are You Crazy?  I have no real proof of that”.

But when we have a healthy relationship with God through Christ,….. we can believe that he’s with us and helps us all the time.
When we are close to God through regular worship, it builds our faith to know that He loves and forgives us of all things.
When we stay connected with God through prayer, like with a good friend, we trust that He’ll  save us from death.

We are usually not apt to trust someone who we do not know.
But the better our relationship with someone,…the more we’re apt to trust them.

You are more apt to have faith in what someone you trust says or promises,…. even when inside our minds we’re saying;… “Are You Crazy?”
We are more likely to live in peace with ourselves and in confidence through life, when our assurance is based on one we trust.

So when God promises all these good things to us and asks us to accept and embrace them - believe in them….through faith!
When Jesus tells us that God’s Spirit is with us all the time,…..
be assured that’s so, even if it seems crazy.
When he says that God will help us through any adversity,….
believe that its so, even if the facts say that’s a crazy idea.
When Jesus says God loves and forgives us,….
be certain of that, even if you think anyone would be crazy to love me.
When Jesus says that when we die he will come and take us to where he is,..
trust that, even if the whole idea of that sounds crazy to you.

Amen.