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Fully Convinced
The Rev. Dr. Baron Mullis
March 1, 2015 - Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25

 

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Fully Convinced
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25               

Rev. Dr. Baron Mullis
Morningside Presbyterian Church
March 1, 2015

 

What does it take for you to be fully convinced about something?

The apostle Paul attributes the attitude of being fully convinced to Abraham. 

There are relatively few things about which I am fully convinced.

I am no longer fully convinced by weather reports, for example.

It has been a long time since I have been fully convinced by a politician, but I don’t want to indulge in endless cynicism either.

There was a time when I was at least relatively convinced that senior clergy were figures of authority, knowledge and wisdom.

I called to a good friend of mine the other day who is a retired minister and I raised that – I said, “Tell me, how was it that y’all always seemed to know the right thing to do in any given situation that arose in church?”

He replied, “We didn’t.  Here’s our dirty secret: we were faking it.  We knew folks wanted guidance from us, so for the most part, we guessed.  The ones who guessed the best looked like we knew what we were doing.”

I would say I was shocked, but I’d come to expect that was true. 

I wonder sometimes if we live in an age of doubt.

I wonder if the concept that all ideas must have so-called “balanced” consideration, with equal weight given to all viewpoints regardless of validity conspires to inject the element of doubt into the common tongue. 

It is hard to be fully convinced of much. 

Since the apostle Paul attributes that attitude of being fully convinced to Abraham as having been reckoned as faith, if there is one element of faith that I would covet for myself and for you, it is the idea of there being aspects of faith of which we can be convinced with rock-ribbed certainty.

And if could pick only one aspect of faith, for you and for me, of which we might be fully convinced, it would be that God keeps covenants.

To be honest, there are a whole host of educational things about faith that Drew and I, as your pastors, are beholden to make sure we present to you.

But the truth is that while it matters to us both a great deal that you all know what you’re talking about when it comes to your faith, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really rise or fall on whether or not you know the difference between an apostle and an epistle.

(Please tell me you do.)

It does matter, though, whether or not you believe that God keeps promises.

Because if we don’t believe that, much of what we do is pretty meaningless. 

In fact, the idea that God keeps God’s word is one of the foundational commandments.

You may have been raised, as I was, to know that the third commandment is, “Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord thy God in Vain.”

(The Decalogue screams out for the King James Version.  Sorry.)

And if you know it, you were probably raised to believe that it meant that saying the unsanitary version of “I Suwannee,” “Goshdarnit,” “Hail Columbia” or any other such euphemism was in fact, breaking a commandment. 

It’s not.   Don’t, by the way, take that as license to start cussing copiously, because I’m sure God doesn’t care for having God’s name used as a cussword, but that’s not what the commandment is about.

The commandment not to diminish the trustworthiness of God’s name by making claims misusing God’s name is a direct prohibition on bringing the trustworthiness of God’s promises into question.

In other words, we don’t make claims on God’s behalf based on our own agendas. 

To do so is to misuse God’s name.

God needs us to know that God always does what God promises. 

If I could only have one faith claim for all of us, it would be that we know that God keeps promises.

Because it is the belief that God will keep promises that enables us to do everything that we do. 

I couldn’t, and wouldn’t have asked Tara, Doug, Hillery and Tom and all the people who have worked so hard on this campaign – and all who have already turned in pledge cards to do so - if it turns out that next week God is going to change the way God works in the world and suddenly the rainbow in the sky no longer means that God is on our side.

It would be meaningless.

I couldn’t, and wouldn’t be willing to stand here and tell you that it’s important to work and give our time to projects such as RHINO if, next month we could expect a memo from God that the poor no longer matter. 

It is the belief that God will be God as God has been that sustains every bit of our commitment.

That’s what Abraham believed. 

That’s what Paul is citing. 

But let me offer just a quick word of reassurance to anyone here today who is perhaps not fully convinced.  Let me offer a word to anyone who struggles with skepticism. 

Let me offer a word to anyone for whom some of what we say here is just a bit of a stretch.

Paul is exceedingly generous in his treatment of Abraham.  The truth is, a lot of the time, for Abraham, there was an element of faking it until he could make it.

I won’t go into too many details, but let’s just say he sold Sarah into a harem because he was concerned about whether God really would protect them.

Twice.

No, he wasn’t so consistent, really.  Not all the time.  It’s the arc of his life that shows the whole picture.  But isn’t that true of us all – not that we should be measured by our failures, but by the arc of our whole lives?

            But here’s the truth: God was faithful the whole time. 

Which I suppose is why those words, fully convinced, jumped out at me so much. 

Paul uses that word, convinced, again, by the way, a few chapters later, when he writes, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I have lost count of how many times I have recited that promise at the graveside.

That’s a promise worth trusting. 

That’s a promise that will sustain us.  And the good news of the Gospel is not that we are always faithful to that promise, but that God is.

So as we come to the Table of Jesus Christ in just a few minutes, remember, we’re not there on our own promises.  We are not invited by virtue of any good work we’ve achieved or even by the strength of our faith.  We are invited to come and seek strength for our faith.  We are invited to come and try to be a bit more fully convinced, if that is what we need.  We are invited to come and rest in the one who is always trustworthy, the one who was faithful even unto death, because God always keeps promises. 

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

Last Published: March 6, 2015 11:22 AM