It had been more than 500 years since God had given to Abraham, their ancestor, this great promise: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.”
Five-hundred-years! Besides the expansive time frame, it’s also important to knot that for most of those years, the Israelites lived in horrendous conditions: as slaves under a ruthless taskmaster. Yet the people never gave up on God. They still knew the “God” that Moses spoke of. They had not forgotten. They continued in the faith and passed it on to their children. These people are my heroes!
That is why the saints of our parish are also my hero’s. Granted we haven’t as a church been here for 500 years yet, but we have been here for well over a century; and no one can tell me that in the course of the churches histories, there hasn’t been times that this church could have closed its doors. But, your parents or your grandparents wouldn’t allow that to happen. They are my hero’s too.
It’s pretty easy to be a Christian when things are going well. It’s easy to be a member of the church when everything is humming along and the church is bursting at the seams. But, faith is tested, and found, when despite failures and difficulties it keeps on going. So, we thank the saints and I also thank you (yes, you are all my hero’s too!) for being here, for keeping the faith when this area is struggling, and for believing that God hasn’t forgotten us.
William Willimon tells about a man he knew, who in the late seventies, at the height of the Cold War, was sent to be a part of a delegation from the World Council of Churches to investigate and report on the state of the Christian church under an atheist regime. This man was not impressed. “The church,” he told Willimon contemptuously, “is just a bunch of little old ladies praying.”
Willimon told this story in the early nineties, when the statues of Stalin and Lenin – the patron saints of atheistic Russia – lay toppled, ready to be crated for storage or quarried for stone. He concluded, “Beware of little old ladies praying! Secretly they’re revolutionaries who make Bolshevik look like kindergartners. They comprise a veritable bomb-making factory. Pray the Psalms, offer your whole life before God. Pray without ceasing, bring your whole life into the presence of God. For one day, in the hands of God, the fire will fall, and everything will become as it was meant to be.”
Faith isn’t an easy thing to have right now, especially in America where so many have forgotten who God is. So many choose to follow after the more visible gods of materialism and self-interest. In many ways we are the Exodus people, who need to journey to the land God meant for us – Jesus called it “The Kingdom of God.” To get there, we have to have faith, we have to hang on, and we need to remember that God will never forget us – and we are doing just that. Thank you, my heroes!
~ God bless, Dan