ďThe Journey of FaithĒ
February 2, 2003
What started out as another routine day for many of us quickly turned into a day of loss and sadness.† Like many of you, I sat in shock as I watched over and over again the video of the shuttle Columbia disintegrating in the sky.† My thoughts immediately turned to the seven astronauts on board, to our country and the countries of Israel and India, and especially to the families waiting at the Kennedy Space Center for the return of the astronauts back to earth just a mere 15 minutes from touchdown.†
I couldnít help but think about where I was 17 years ago on January 28, 1986.† On that morning, I was sitting in Mr. Martinís 8th grade science class when Mr. Martin walked in, and with tears in his eyes, told us that the shuttle Challenger had just exploded on takeoff.†
Over the last 17 years and 100 plus shuttle missions, I think it is safe to say that all of us became complacent and uninterested in the space program.† We may have heard in passing about a shuttle launch, a space walk, some scientific experiment the crew was doing, or a shuttle landing, but we didnít give it much thought.† It was just too routine for us.† But, like many things going on in the world around us, life is far but routine for us right now.† This tragedy is only the latest event in a long list of events that are on all of our minds and hearts.†
I, like you, am still coming to grips and grieving with what happened earlier in the day yesterday, and I canít help but think about all that has happened to us throughout these last few years.† First, September 11, 2001, the war in Afghanistan, a struggling economy, terrorism around the world, the coming war with Iraq, and now the loss of seven people who gave their lives in the pursuit of creating endless possibilities for humanity.† I began to wonder how much more of this can we bear, and I longed to see some hope in this midst of this tragedy and in the other things we are dealing with right now.†
Like the Israelites, when confronted with the tragedies, worries, and fears of life, we too have a tendency to forget the true dimensions of Godís strength and understanding.† The long years of captivity by the Egyptians had demoralized Israelís spirit, and not even their freedom brought much hope for them.† It was a long, hard journey for them and they began to wonder if God was ignoring their situation, if God even knew what they were going through, if God was even still with them.
Like the Israelites, we too know that sometimes it is just down right hard to walk on the journey of faith.† Sometimes it is just down right hard to see the hope through all the tragedies, worries, and fears we have to go through.† We all have times when we struggle with what is going on around us, when we wonder how much more we can bear, when we long to see just a glimpse of hope.†††
Yesterday, I struggled with what to say today.† The sermon I had written for today just didnít seem to fit with what had happened and how I was and still am feeling.† But then I remembered what I had heard yesterday afternoon in President Bushís address to the nation, when he quoted the first part of our text today from the prophet Isaiah:
Lift up your eyes on high and see.† Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name, because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.†
The Prophetís words remind us, as they reminded the Israelites, of the hope we already know, of the hope we have heard from the beginning, of the hope we have been told over and over again.†
Have we not known?† Have we not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless.
The everlasting God, who is the creator of all that there is, is OUR God.† And, the promise of Godís Word is that the everlasting God cannot ever faint or grow weary, and Godís understanding -- Godís love and care for us, is more than we can even comprehend.†
Those who are faint and weak, who wait for the Lord with eager anticipation and hope, will not just have their strength renewed, but they will have their failing strength exchanged for the unfailing strength of God.† God is not only a God who has power, but God is also a God who gives power.† Power to the faint, strength to the weak.† And it is only by the power of the everlasting God that can make the humanly impossible possible.
But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.†
Isaiahís concluding words are none other than an accurate description of the journey of faith.† A person of faith may sometimes soar on eagleís wings and be carried to new heights in their relationship with God, or they may run through life effortlessly without tiring.† But, the real test of faith comes, not when the person flies or runs, but when they must walk along, moving one step at a time through the ups and downs of everyday life.
A dear friend of mine helped me understand what it meant to walk along in the journey of faith.† Several years ago, she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.† One day she gave me a gift.† It was a journal where I could write my thoughts and feelings as I go through my ministry.†
Inside the journal was a photocopy of her journal entries she had written when she found out she had cancer.† She wanted me to read it to see what a person with cancer goes through.† Sadly for me and for those who knew her, the day came when my friend died, but in her weakness and weariness she had found the power and strength of the almighty, everlasting God, the power and strength which had allowed her to continue walking along, putting one foot forward at a time.† It was her realized hope and faith of Godís love and care in her life that allowed her to continue walking in her journey of faith.†
The last page of her journal has this heading:
Dear God, what a comfort to know that you care.
And to know when I seek you, you will always be there.
And under this heading, she wrote these words:
ďI know that my life on this earth has had meaning and when God allowed me to come into the world and endure all I had to fight through he had a purpose for me.† My there always be a purpose to my life and may it be revealed.† Thank you God for your awesomeness.Ē†
My friends, as we mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters who died yesterday, as we remember the testimony of their lives that people of different race, sex, and nationality can come together to achieve great things for all of humanity, as we pray for their families and their homelands, let us never forget the hope that we know, the hope that we have heard over and over again, even though the journey of faith can at times be a long, hard road to walk, it is a journey that we do not, and will never, walk alone.
Thank you God for your awesomeness.† Amen.