A Faith Even When You Tremble
Where is faith for you when hard times come?
I’m so glad to see people giving thanks to God, living with a profound sense of having been blessed, when life is easy and good and rich.
Sometimes it is easy, when we are successful and strong and healthy and powerful, to think these things have all come to us because we deserve them. We are blessed because we are wise, hard-working, and just a little better than others. That kind of attitude tends to squeeze God and thanksgiving out of our heart and head.
So I am thankful when people look at their blessings and understand that behind every good thing is the God who is gracious and extravagant.
But what goes on in your soul when life is tough beyond words?
Trembling insides and quivering lips
We believe Habakkuk was a temple prophet who lived between 640-598 B.C. in Judah (the southern kingdom where Jerusalem was located). He had lived through the reforms of King Josiah and now the nation was under attack by the violent Babylon army. The people of Judah looked around and saw the violence, the injustice, and it felt like the world was coming loose from its moorings. The people and their prophets cried out, “O Lord, how long must we wait for you to deliver us from our enemies?” but God seemed to ignore their pleas.
Even though Habakkuk was a person of deep faith, even though he goes up to a watchtower to think and pray, even though his life’s work is to sing songs to God in the temple, things were so bad that he says (Habakkuk 3:16), “I hear and my insides tremble. My lips quiver at the sound. Rottenness enters my bones. I tremble while I stand, while I wait for the day of distress to come against the people who attack us.”
Waiting for deliverance isn’t easy.
I suspect that more than a few of us know what it is like to have our insides tremble because of the pain, violence, racism, and injustice loose in the world. Some of us may be trembling because we are going through a family crisis, a spiritual crisis or a health crisis.
Yet I will rejoice
After chapters 1 and 2 of the small book when the prophet laments God’s inactivity, and how the nation and people are suffering, the book comes to a close in the 3rd chapter with a declaration of faith. In the middle of overwhelmingly painful stuff, the prophet sings this song: (Habakkuk 3:17-19) Though the fig tree doesn’t bloom, and there’s no produce on the vine; though the olive crop withers, and the fields don’t provide food; though the sheep is cut off from the pen, and there is no cattle in the stalls; I will rejoice in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my deliverance. The Lord God is my strength. He will set my feet like the deer. He will let me walk upon the heights.
The Lord God is my strength
It was a snowy day when our family gathered at Wallace Street Presbyterian to celebrate the life of my maternal grandmother, Zenith Owen. She was an amazing woman. She and my grandfather eloped. They went across the county boarder, got married, and then returned home to Vincennes to live with their families. They didn’t tell a soul they were married for months until my grandfather announced, “You’re my wife and I’m tired of living apart.”
In the Stock Market Crash of 1929 the bank where my grandfather worked went broke. He lost his job. They had to move. Two of her children died in childbirth. Later, after they had moved to Indianapolis, she sent two of her sons off to fight in World War II. Both came back but one was never the same. A little later in life she was crippled in the same auto accident that took the life of my brother, Eric. Multiple surgeries allowed her to walk but it wasn’t easy.
None of that was able to take the faith out of her. She could still laugh. She still would play the piano that sat in their small living room. She would cook the life out of green beans and fry chicken southern Indiana style, and through it all she loved God and loved life. She loved food and music and her church and God. Jewelry made her eyes dance.
She could sing, along with Habakkuk, that “The Lord God is my strength.”
Where does that kind of faith come from?
I don’t know. I can’t explain it. I suppose the seeds were planted as a child when her family attended the local Disciples of Christ church. I suppose the faith was nourished by the years she and my grandfather worshipped and served at Wallace Street. I suppose the faith was deepened and stretched as she and my Grandpa Owen opened their home to the youth group, and let God’s love flow through them to scores of teenagers over the years. I suppose the well-worn Bible in her bedroom had something to do with her faith.
I have come to the conclusion that faith often comes as a divine gift. As the risen Christ breathed his breath into the fearful disciples (John 20:22), so somehow God breathes faith into us. Sometimes we “catch” it because of the seeds planted in us by our parents or friends or grandparents. Sometimes faith comes as we open the Bible, or stand beneath the stars, or as we help in a food kitchen, or go on a mission trip…and sometimes faith just happens.
I want to have a “Yet I will rejoice” kind of faith. And that is the kind of faith I am praying for you—especially during the days that make your insides tremble and your lips quiver.
I will rejoice in the God of my deliverance. The Lord God is my strength. He will set my feet like the deer. He will let me walk upon the heights.
Grace and peace,
Church Council takes major steps.
On Monday, July 18th your Church Council, voted to do the following:
- Accept the report of the FCJ Building Study Committee
- Authorize the creation of a Building Committee to move forward to develop a plan to address deferred maintenance issues and explore re-forming the building so it will work better for coming generations
- Authorize a capital campaign committee to eliminate the existing $1.43 million debt from the 1999 construction project, and take next steps to address pressing building concerns.
- The Communications Task Force recommended that we refer to ourselves as “First Methodist” rather than continuing to use multiple names (FUMC, FUMCB, First United, First Church, First United Methodist Church, etc.) which confuse the community. Our legal name doesn’t change. So, we should all do our best to refer to our church and ourselves as “First Methodist.”
The Church Council also was informed of a new major initiative which will begin this Fall with the launch of multiple small groups. The group also celebrated the 23 youth and 4 adult counselors on the youth mission trip to West Virginia who will be returning this weekend.
Grace and peace,
Holy Land Trip in February of 2017
Pick up a brochure for the Holy Land Trip in February of 2017 at the Sanctuary entrances. Led by Pastor Mark Fenstermacher, the trip is with experienced tour operator EO (Educational Opportunities Inc.). At this point it appears we may have approximately 20 persons making this life-changing journey. The cost is about $3,700 per person (including airfare, hotel accommodations, tour guide, motor coach transportation in Israel, morning and evening meals, etc.). Contact Ms. Cath Foreman: email@example.com, if you have questions.
Join us this Sunday, in a Jesus community where all are loved and welcomed, as we continue our series Soul Songs: A Journey Through the Psalms. We will be exploring Psalm 116. Pastor Mark’s sermon will be, “Soul Songs: As Long As I Live!”. Please, invite a friend to join you!