God’s compassionate call pushes us to have readiness for the reign of God. We are to trust God’s calling and trust that God is a part of that calling.
Vicar Mollie Hamre
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, year C
Texts: Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When rock climbing, you have two options: hang on tight and climb to the top of the wall–or fall off the wall.
Either way, the options are anxiety-inducing, forcing you to be ready for action. This is a situation I frequently find myself in when I go indoor rope climbing with my husband and brother. Rope climbing involves three important aspects: the climber, the belayer, and the rope that holds them together.
It is the belayer’s job to keep the climber safe by managing the rope supporting the climber through a pulley system connected to the ceiling. Trust between the belayer and climber is incredibly important because if, or when the climber falls, they are caught by the rope the belayer is in charge of.
The first time I climbed, I was anxious.
How am I to trust that I will be caught while 60 feet up in the air?
As I climbed up the wall, with my brother as the belay, I carefully chose where I wanted to put my hands and feet, making sure that I had everything under control, but the further up the wall I went, the more limited my options became.
I paused as I held on to the wall looking around, realizing as panic seized me: I would have to jump to the next place for my hand.
My arms started shaking, I slowly turned to look down at my brother. “You sure you got me?” I called down. My brother looked back and replied, “yes, you got this.” So, with my trembling arms, I jumped and reached for the next part of the wall. Despite my anxiety, I knew there was a wall ahead of me to climb and had to trust in my brother belaying on the ground.
“Do not be afraid Little Flock”
We hear these kind and comforting words from Jesus, amidst a backdrop of anxiety-inducing challenges. Sell your possessions, be dressed for action, and be ready: the son of God is coming at an unexpected hour. Although the statement of readiness feels uncomplicated, such as just climbing to the top of a wall, we know that there is a lot more that goes into following the call of discipleship. Jesus’s first statement about not being afraid gives us comfort as we enter into the discomfort of the text.
There are two parts to the Gospel reading. The first reminding us of the loving, parental connection that we have with the Triune God, while the second describes being ready at the door for action whether that be the return of a master or a thief in the night.
Take note, Jesus states his words of comfort at the beginning of the Gospel for a reason. If we hear only the statements of readiness and intensity, we have lost being told that God is with us. The Greek tense tells us that God is not in the action of giving God’s Reign, but it has already been given. Jesus is here with us, this is not something that is far off in the distance. You are dearly loved and held, now. God delights in us being a part of God’s reign, but we are faced with the question: how are we actively a part of it?
This is a question Abram knows far too well.
Abram has the knowledge that God walks with him and receives a similar message: “do not be afraid.” Yet, Abram has questions about an unsure future. How will God’s promises be fulfilled? What am I supposed to be doing right now to live out my calling? Who will be the heir of my house? God’s answer to Abram appears to be simple: come outside, look at the stars, and have faith and trust in the call as it comes. In the coming chapters, Abram appears skeptical of what God’s call means as Abram’s journey takes twists and turns. Did Abram see all of these promises fulfilled in his lifetime? No, but as Hebrews text, today says, he looked from a distance, saw, and greeted God’s promises.
So when we are anxious about our callings, how do we trust?
The first time I climbed with my brother being the belay, I climbed 5 ft into the air and asked if I could experience what it would feel like to let go. Obviously, this was a commitment that I still held some control over, but I needed the reassurance of knowing that he was there.
This is how trust and faith grow. So often faith is examined as a thing that we can acquire with enough knowledge or if we read enough, but when we shift faith into the lens of trusting, we see that it takes time, growth, bravery, and a community to uphold one another. The kind of alertness that Jesus speaks of is attention to one’s call that comes from seeking and trusting, living into the promise of God’s Reign. Jesus tells us that because we are loved, there is a call to action that comes as a result of living into this love. Trust, be alert to God knocking at your door: how does this call appear in your life? Does it come in the form of trust as you enter into a new career? Maybe it is risking perfectionism in order to change and learn. Or taking the jump being vulnerable in a relationship?
And what about when it feels as though God is not present?
One aspect that I did not anticipate when climbing was when I fell, I would experience a millisecond of free fall before the rope would catch. This millisecond fall could feel like years when trusting in the presence of God, whether that be long-term illnesses or major decisions that can impact for a lifetime.
Often the upward climb on the wall is a lot more intimidating than the option to stay on the ground. Abram knew that weight when looking at the intimidating expanse of the stars and we still know that today when we anxiously look at the world. Looking at the Gospel, we learn that trust and the anxiety that can come with it go hand-in-hand. God tells us to trust in how we are being called and if that anxiety arises, to look to God for guidance, even when we are unsure where God’s presence is. We do not know at what hour God appears, but what we do know is that we are to answer that call and to trust that God will catch us if or when we fall.
As I continue to go climbing, my anxiety is still there.
When I reach the top of my climbs and have to go back down, sometimes I am able to happily let go, trusting that the 60-foot drop will be taken care of. Other times, anxiety takes over and I ungracefully scratch at the wall with thuds on the way down. The consistent part is that either way, my brother, who is belaying me, brings me to the ground safely.
“Do not be afraid, little flock” God walks with you, being the solid ground as you climb. Be ready for ways that God will appear, have curiosity and courage to open the door, greeting the calling.
In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.