The question of Nathanael was a profound one that may catch us by surprise. When he's told that the one who was promised has come and his name is Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth, his response is, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Sounding kind of cynical, yet also very profound. What in
Nazareth could be good? It's a question that we ourselves might associate with. We could ask that question in a number of ways when we apply it to our lives. "Can anything good come out of Taneytown?" "Can anything good come out of Littlestown, or Westminster, or anywhere in this area?" "Is there a prophet who will come from
among us?" If someone said the next prophet of God would come from our area, would our response be similar to Nathanael, "What good could come out of this place?"
I am still only a newcomer here, but I know there is goodness in the areas in which we live, and there are good people. And good people have been raised up from among us. So good things can come from these places. But the Spirit of truth in the form of the one coming from God? We might understand how
someone who may not be so connected at the time could have that very profound question, "What good could come out of Nazareth?" And if we were told that, we would probably be as skeptical. But Jesus is able to win over Nathanael very quickly. First Philip says, "Come and see." So Nathanael goes and then Jesus greets him as if
he knows him. Jesus, as God's chosen one, somehow knew Nathanael and was able to give Nathanael the right words at the right moment: "I saw you under that tree before you were called." And immediately this faithful Israelite says, "My God, it is you."
Now Nathanael, who may be somewhat cynical…and as church members and people of faith we too can be somewhat cynical at times…was faithful, just as you are faithful. And it did not take much for Nathanael to recognize who Jesus was, for faith in him to be awakened, and for Nathanael to be changed in
heart and mind and spirit in an instant.
So the faith of Nathanael has made a difference. Though he was cynical in the beginning, he had a change. And that brings us to the question in the sermon title, "Can anything good come out of faith?" Can anything good come out of our belief? We know all too well what it is to be discouraged or what it
is to be cynical at times about our life, or our family, or our church, or our community, or our country. We know what that is. But, like Nathanael, the faith that we have in us, I believe, does draw us in closer to God. It draws us in closer in the community of faith here at Grace. It draws us in closer with our families and
it draws us closer in, uniting us with all those who are around us when we rely on our faith in a loving God, when we rely on the one who joins us together, when we rely on the one who redeems us from all of our difficulties, and all of our perils, and all the mistakes that we've made.
So can anything good come out of faith? Well, this week was a busy week for me. We started the week off with a funeral for a church member. Here was a lady who was of very great faith. And I can tell you that in the days leading up to her death, we talked about her life and we talked about faith. And
something good that came out of her faith was that she was comforted in the time of readying herself to be in God's presence. That faith gave her comfort in a time when she was really struggling. So that's one answer: yes, something good can come out of faith…comfort in the time of dying.
I also got to go and be with a family as their child was in surgery. She was having the last of the surgeries needed to repair her heart. And there was some nervousness in that room. But in our talking and just being together, you could feel a sense of that anxiety being released. In the moments of
prayer in the hallway, waiting for her to come down from surgery, you could sense what faith was doing for the family. And we could hope that faith in that little girl had also done some good for her. But I saw what it was doing for the family, and it brought them ease in the midst of their anxiety. So faith can give us
comfort in those times.
Then, toward the end of this week, another church member was about to have surgery. And here is a man who was facing an amputation, but said, "I hope they take enough. I'm not worried about the loss…I just don't want to come back again and again, like I hear happens to some people." Here is a man who I
have visited numerous times. He's a newer member of the church, but one of great faith…great faith in God and 'some' faith in the doctors hoping that they do what's best for him. But it was amazing to see him sitting there and the only thing he was anxious about was getting bumped and having the surgery several hours later
than scheduled. Some of you in the church have been through that before. So that was the one area where he was struggling because he was ready for everything that was coming, except being told, "Well they have an emergency, you'll have to wait another couple of hours," and then it happened again after that. But can anything
good come out of faith for him? Yes, it did. I saw a certainty and surety in him, in trusting in God, and in hoping that the doctors received the wisdom that we prayed for before his surgery.
So God can offer us comfort through faith in the times when we need it most. And the love that we receive as well from others around us in the joys of new births, family gatherings, visitors from afar, spending time with grandchildren, spending time with those we love and adore, and realizing in those
moments what a gift that really is when we make the time to do that, realizing from a faith perspective that God has given us these moments. That is another place where goodness comes out of faith because the joys that we are given are a gift to be savored, to be celebrated, and to be lived in in that moment.
So I ask you, from your experiences, "Does anything good come out of your faith?" Do you resonate with Nathanael and his question, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Do we find cynicism in ourselves in our personal lives and in the life of the church? I'd venture to say that at times, we all feel
those things. And I offer you absolution. That is okay! You have permission to be there in those moments. But I encourage you, in those moments, to reflect on your faith, and have faith, because God is always doing something new in each of us, in our church, and in the larger community. So let us look at our faith as where
goodness is actually rooted and where it comes from. And let us not be so worried about those questions that do come at times, but that fade fast when we lift them up to the Lord.
January 18, 2009
Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve