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Four Steps to Trusting God

The Church of Our Saviour at Oatlands, August 18, A.D.2013 – Rev'd Elijah White
First please read Luke 1:26-38, also found on Prayer Book page 236

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

You’ve seen a child and a father at a busy intersection. The child may not understand traffic and traffic lights, but he instinctively puts his hand in his father’s hand and, when the father indicates, crosses safely. The child trusts his father.

Do we really trust God? While we celebrate Christmas in August today we can learn about trust from the example of Saint Mary and what led to that manger.

I hope that each of us has (as Saint Paul writes in First Corinthians 13 verse 11) has ‘put away’ the child-ish aspects of Sunday-School-level thinking about the Bible. I hope that by God’s grace we’ve begun to approach that mature faith which in Matthew 18:1-4 Jesus Himself commends as child-like, that is, open and sincere, clear and trusting, not stumbling over details, growing in faith to come to understand that the purpose of the Bible and therefore of the Church its servant is to bring human souls to salvation through the knowledge and love of God in Jesus Christ. We are to grow, and grow up, in and into Christian Faith.

This process of growth to maturity in Faith can be seen at work in Mary the Mother of Jesus. You and I should readily relate to Mary because she was an ordinary person like us – she wasn’t born a saint [no one is], her trusting faith in God made her a saint… as you and I are called to be and to become, perhaps through the four [4] different stages of her reactions to her own personal spiritual experience described in Saint Luke’s Gospel, chapter 1 verses 26 through 38.

No less a personage than the Archangel Gabriel comes to this young teenage hick-town back-water-village girl saying, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women” and [1] her first reaction is what yours or mine would be: verse 29, “she was greatly troubled at this saying.” A revelation from God disturbs her to the point of confusion, even fear. Well, yes – when the reality of God suddenly breaks in upon our human consciousness, the effect can be overwhelming, our soul may hesitate and shrink back from the vast magnitude of realizing God’s power, the vast differentness of the new larger reality with which we are unexpectedly in touch. It seems too much!

So if our first reaction to an in-breaking understanding of God is awe, the second [2] is often perplexity: verse 34, Mary says “How can this be?” We grasp and are grasped by the fact that God is for real and has something to do with us, perhaps something for us to do, a life to live, a person to be and become, and our awe moves into uncertainty, we’re hesitant, unsure, we’re not sure that we can handle this – the life we had all planned out seems to shift under our feet, we feel blinded by the light of our new consciousness of God. We suddenly want to walk in the way of Him who is the way, the truth and the life, but how? How can any clear path be found though the briars and brambles, the difficulties and confusions that seem so much more obvious to us than our own abilities? Am I really up to living like, believing like, being a Christian? Can we possibly keep those promises we’ve made in Holy Baptism and Holy Confirmation and in every resolution we’ve made in every confession we’ve made in private or public worship? Have we? Can we?

But then to our sense of insufficiency, as to Mary’s, comes the voice sent by God with a message of that divine Grace which must be trusted before its ways can be known: step [3], no details, no precise plan, but the thundering affirmation which invites us into absolute trust, verse 37, “With God nothing is impossible.” That is the personal conviction which can come to us in faith we know not how, as a gift through faith by faith creating ever deeper faith, that inner conviction of soul to still our perplexities and enable us to settle our anxious hearts in child-like confidence that God will keep His promises and will take care of His own, even thee and me.

After which wrestlings of spirit may we all reach, as Mary did, the crowning response of obedience -- step [4] four, verse 38, Mary’s answer, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord: let it be to me according to His word” – the Beatles may not have practiced that response, but at least they knew of it: “Let it be…” Humbly and simply Mary puts herself into the hands of God, puts her hand in His as the child puts his hand in his father’s to safely cross the dangerous street.

The assurance of God’s revelation to the human soul lies not in analysis or speculation but in trust growing from love of the One who is trust-worthy. Our knowledge of God in Christ comes not from human deduction, induction, reduction, speculation about Cain’s wife’s maiden name or how long a day might take before the sun was created: with such things man may be perplexed, but with such speculations God is perhaps amused, thinking, with Puck in The Tempest, “What fools these mortals be!”

Remember the 1880’s Sunday School hymn perfectly exemplified by Mary 2,000 years ago, “Trust and Obey / For there’s no other way / To know and love Jesus / Than to trust and obey.” We learn to understand Christian Faith not by analyzing or thinking about it, but by doing and living it : G. K. Chesterton observed that “The Christian life has not been tried and found lacking – it has been thought difficult, and therefore not tried.” We don’t have to go through life living in a power-outage – there is power available, divine power, infinite power: we just have to plug in to the right source, put our hand in His and, like Mary, trust God like children who know Him as ‘Our Father…,’

in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.