Building Trust

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

"I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer,
without anger or disputing."
1 Timothy 2:8

I thought it was ironic... or should I say providential... that our sermon topic today is trust. I had really hoped that the scandal in Washington would just go away... and that I would not have to preach about it. I suspect that you are as tired of hearing about it as I am... but I think our texts this morning may shed some new light on the subject... and perhaps give us a new perspective.

Jeremiah is sometimes referred to as the "weeping prophet"... and I'm sure it is not too difficult to see why. To say that he lived in difficult times would be an understatement... so the first thing I would like to say this morning is that we are not alone living in difficult times. As a matter of fact... I suspect that there has never been a generation that hasn't had to face it's own difficult times. I must say that some of you here faced your fair share of difficult times... and some of you still have difficult times ahead.

Why has the human race always suffered from difficult times? Well, you and I know that it has to do with our arrogant attitude toward God. Almost since day one we have wanted to play God... and have our own way. We have consistently forgotten whose we are... what our position and purpose is in creation... whom we are to serve. So once again... we find ourselves... as a nation... facing a difficult situation... and asking ourselves how we should respond.

The situation we face... of course... is the moral degeneracy of our President. We don't have to go far to find similar situations... that is... moral degeneracy among those in leadership. Quite a number of churches have experienced this very crisis... my previous church had lived through it shortly before I arrived. Their minister had an affair with the church organist... it's almost a cliche isn't it? Male pastor... female organist... thrown together by the mutual concern for meaningful worship. That may be just another blessing that comes with having a female pastor. Of course... it's always possible that a church might have a female pastor... and a male organist!

There's even a story in the Bible that is very similar to our present situation... remember King David... who was a man after God's own heart? He was tempted one day... and had an affair with Bathsheba. And then he had her husband killed in battle so that he wouldn't be found out. He then married Bathsheba... and her first child died. Later their son, Solomon, became king... and eventually the Messiah... Jesus was born... a descendant of David's line.

Actually... that's not the only scandal in the ancestry of Jesus. In the linage given us by Matthew... you will find... in Matthew 1:3... the name of "Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar". You may check out Genesis 38 for the complete story on that scandal if you like. As if we hadn't heard enough about scandal already!

The question I would like to consider this morning is... how do we as Christians respond to situations such as these... and more especially... how should we respond to the present situation.

There is an old adage about "sticking your head in the sand"... which is supposedly what ostriches do when they are frightened. Unfortunately their huge bodies are still fully exposed to danger... so their strategy is not very effective... and it hasn't been very effective for the President either. It seems that for most of his time in office he has had his head buried in the sand... just hoping all his personal problems would just go away. This has certainly been my attitude... and I think the attitude of a majority of the American people... up until the Congress and Mr. Starr got involved.

On the other hand... quite a large... and influential group... including Congress... and some Christian groups... have taken a different approach all together. They have chosen to investigate in order to find the fault... place the blame... and mete out the punishment... to the wrongdoer... and... no doubt... some of us feel that is our duty... as Americans and Christians. This is in harmony with our justice system... which does work... sometimes! We are firm believers in just punishment for crimes committed... aren't we?

Still others... most of whom have now joined the group just mentioned... want us to return to former days... when there were values that good people honored and practiced... the so called "good old days." Unfortunately the "good old days" in American government does not actually mean better days... when men and women were more honorable... it only means the days when such scandals were kept private. Human beings have always been sinners and will continue to be sinners until the end... there is no such thing as "the good old days."

How should we as Christians respond to the present crisis in our government? Should we continue to "bury our heads in the sand"... hoping against hope that it will all go away? Or should we join the voices of accusation... blame... and punishment? Should we step up on our soapbox and urge the world to return to the old ways... the supposedly better ways? What do you think God would have us do?

When the people Jeremiah loved so much were facing a catastrophic situation... Jeremiah lamented! That's a word we don't use much today... but if you are a student of the Hebrew Bible... you are very familiar with the "lament." In fact... there is even a book in the Old Testament called "Lamentations." The author of this book shares the overwhelming sense of loss that accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple... the despair at the exile of the people. To lament was to express one's grief... the deep and poignant distress caused by bereavement. Many of the Psalms are laments including our Psalm 79... our Psalm for today:

79:1 O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
2 They have given the dead bodies of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth.
3 They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead.
4 We are objects of reproach to our neighbors, of scorn and derision to those around us.
5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;
7 for they have devoured Jacob and destroyed his homeland.
8 Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.
9 Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake.

This is suppose to be a Christian nation... and we have dishonored God in the eyes of the world with this scandal. Dishonoring God is something to be lamented... and something that needs to be forgiven. Our greatest need right now is to cry out in anguish and to seek forgiveness... for "burying our heads in the sand" without discernment ... for "pointing a finger" without compassion... for "judging and seeking vengeance" without forgiveness... for "looking backward" without hope for God's future.

Our topic this morning is trust... and while it is true that the President... and our Congress... have behaved recently in a most untrustworthy fashion... it is still also true that we can trust God... and ultimately it is only God we can trust. Our passage in 2 Timothy urges us to pray... to give thanks for what God has done for us... to seek forgiveness... and to petition for those in authority. Have you prayed for the President recently... for Mr. Starr... for Congress? Have you confessed your own propensity to "bury your head"... or to point an accusing finger... or to seek revenge... or to turn back time. Have you lamented the dishonor we have brought upon our God by the way we have behaved?

We are desperately in need of God's love and grace... so let us express our sorrows... let us lament our downfall... and let us trust in God's faithfulness to bring about good from this evil. "In God we trust" has to be more than a truism... it has to be a way of life. You and I have been called to that way of life... and our trust in God is being tested right now. Let us remember how trustworthy God has always been. Let us seek his forgiveness and be willing to receive it in Jesus Christ. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on September 20, 1998
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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