Rose Park Sunday School (Adults and Children) at 8:45 a.m. / Worship at 9:45 a.m.

Madison Sunday School (Adults and Children) 10:15 a.m. / Worship at 11:15 a.m.

Trust in God

Based on Gen 28:10-19a, Psalm 139, Mt 13: 24-30, 36-43


          A story is told of a grandfather and his four year old grand-daughter.  They were going out to lunch and as they were walking down the sidewalk, she found a nickel.  Her grandfather let her keep it and they went into the restaurant for lunch.  Once they were seated, the little girl put her nickel on the table and told the waitress it was hers for bringing them their lunch.  The waitress smiled indulgently at the child and left the nickel in place during lunch.  After lunch, the grandfather was musing about how remarkable it was that the youngster had parted so easily with her money.  He came to the conclusion that she didn’t need to keep her money to pay for lunch – she knew from past experience that he would take care of the bill.  She had learned that her loving grandfather would take care of her – she had learned to trust him.  How is it that you learned to trust others…have you learned to trust in God and God’s fidelity?  Let’s take those questions with us into a time of prayer…

          Erik Erikson was a very influential developmental psychologist who lived in the last century.  He, along with his wife Joan, described the stages of human psychosocial development.  Interestingly, the very first stage of our development, Trust versus Mistrust, occurs between birth and 18 months of age.  Thus, the bedrock on which all of the other psychosocial development occurs is trust versus mistrust.  Trust develops in the child as its needs are met.  For instance, a child has a wet or soiled diaper, it cries, a person comes in response to the cry and changes the diaper.  When this call and response happens consistently, trust develops and mistrust is kept at a minimum.  If this stage is completed successfully, then it leads to the virtue of hope.  If not, a feeling of mistrust dominates the child and fear develops as the prominent worldview.

          The interaction between Jacob and Esau in Genesis highlights this interplay between trust and mistrust.  In the chapters before today’s scripture, we read about two formative interactions between the brothers.  In the first, Jacob tricks his brother Esau out of his first born birthright. In the second place, Jacob (through the wiles of his mother Rebekah) steals Esau’s blessing from their dying father, Isaac.  Esau is so angry that he is planning to kill Jacob, so the latter runs away to the land of Haran to wait until Esau cools down.  There is no trust between Jacob and Esau – only mistrust and anger.  Jacob, whose name literally means “one who supplants”, appears to be aptly named.

          We pick up Jacob’s story then as he is on the run.  He lays down to sleep and God comes to him in a dream.  What a dream it is!  Angels going up and down a ladder between heaven and earth.  God promises Jacob what he had promised to Abraham and to Isaac – land and many offspring to fill it, and God’s abiding presence.  Now those of us who would like a nice story where the “good guy” wins and the “ne’er do well” loses are disappointed in this turn of events.  Why is the guy who is always scheming and taking what doesn’t belong to him getting rewarded?  Where’s the justice in that?  Esau seems to be a decent fellow – maybe a little slow on the uptake, but a decent, hardworking person, why doesn’t God bless him with land and generations?  Let’s see if our other scriptures offer any insight.

          In the reading from Matthew, we hear of a farmer who sows good seed in good soil, but his enemy comes in after dark and over sows a bunch of weeds.  When the weeds sprout among the wheat, the servants want to pull up the weeds to get them from inhibiting the wheat’s growth.  The farmer is wise however, and tells them to be patient.  Let the wheat and the weeds grow together and then at harvest time, separate the two.  In this way, the largest yield of wheat will be obtained.  The farmer understood that we often have to put up with evil and with unjust systems in this world – and that in the end, God will sort it all out; it is not up to us to do that.  Sometimes rotten things are done to us and we have to trust that God can make good come out of it.  This week, my devotional time has revolved around Proverbs 3:5, “…Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight….”  God’s ways and insights are so far above mine that I have to trust that everything will work out for the best – even when I am surrounded by evil and sin.

          In those times I need to remember Psalm 139; titled “The Inescapable God”.  All of who I am is known by God; my comings and goings, what I am going to say, my very thoughts – God made me in God’s image.  There is nowhere that I can go that God is not already there; leading me and holding me.  God’s knowledge is “too wonderful for me”, God’s thoughts vast in number and too heavy for me to understand.  God, in infinite patience and grace, longs for us to discover that God really does exist and does care for each of us – whether we are saints or sinners or somewhere in between.

          To repeat the questions from the opening paragraph of this sermon…”How is it that you learned to trust others…have you learned to trust in God and God’s fidelity?”   

The answer to the first question is probably like the story that opened this sermon.  The young girl had never been asked to pay for lunch in her whole life with her grandfather.  Thus, she trusted that she didn’t need her new found wealth and could share it with another person (like she had seen her grandfather do with a tip at the end of the meal).   She could be loving and generous like her grandfather who was the same way to her.  Without even knowing it, she had been taught to treat people in a certain way and that they would most often reciprocate. 

          Trusting in God is not so very straightforward though, is it?!  We cannot see God, God speaks to us in ways that are often hard to understand or we just can’t hear them (let everyone with ears, listen!).  There is always a sense of uncertainty where God is involved.  Case in point, God originally gave all of us 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy, Chapter 6).  Yet, when one studies the Hebrew Bible, one finds that it contains 613 rules or mitzvot that guide the lives of our devout Jewish brothers and sisters.  God gave us 10 rules to guide our lives with God and each other, but then people had more questions and wondered about what those really meant – so humans got involved, expanded on what God had given to Moses, and finally ended with 613.  Well, no one did very well with all those rules, so when God sent Jesus to further clarify things, He came down to just two rules.  These are what it is all about, the crux of what we have to do to really understand and trust in God.  Jesus said, in answer to a lawyer’s question about the greatest commandment, “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” 

          Love the God you cannot see, except in the neighbor sitting next to you (who is also made in the image of God like you, known by God like you, who can’t get away from God like you, who you might not like or trust) with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength – as you love yourself.  When we love something that much, we cannot do anything but trust that love and commitment.  When I am spending enough time with God’s word, both written and Incarnate, then I find myself really trusting in God.  I can place my life in God’s hands and hope that I understand what it is that God wants me to do and that God will show me the way to do it.  I know for a fact, that I will never be certain of this, but I can also trust that in all of our recorded history of God, God has never let us down.

          The great contemplative teacher, Thomas Merton, sums my thoughts on trusting God in the following prayer, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” {from “Thoughts in Solitude”}

Let all who have ears, listen…and say AMEN!