A sermon on Hebrews 11.1-12, John 14.1-11, and 2 Corinthians 4.13-18
Every year since the beginning of college, I've given up meat for lent.
Of course I messed up a couple of times at first but
each year I had fewer and fewer slips, until I just didn't feel like it was a sacrifice anymore.
It all just came too naturally.
Having friends who are really interested in food justice, and hearing them talk about it,
I became curious about the cost of putting food on my plate,
So my Lenten observance two years ago came in the exploration and diligent discernment of this cost:
the environmental cost,
the economical cost,
and the sustainable cost.
I watched several documentaries,
read countless books,
and poured over articles about the treatment of animals in factory farms across the country.
Giving up meat wasn't good enough.
I became a vegan.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term,
a vegan is someone who doesn't eat or drink anything that is the product of an animal;
this means no beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy.
Yeah, you heard right.
No cheese and no bacon.
No sausage pizza.
And no... chicken parmesan.
People asked me why I would do this to myself.
And the reality is, that there are typically three reasons why someone would become vegan:
1. Some people are told to, by their doctors, for medical reasons.
2. Some people do it for the health and nutritional benefits.
and 3. Some people do it because they don't agree with the practices of the industrial meat and dairy companies.
the third reason,
was my reason for doing it.
Being from Iowa, this might seem strange but;
I didn't grow up on a farm
or around a farm.
In fact I've visited a farm... once?
I wasn't aware that the American farm was no longer wide-open fields and big red barns.
When I found out about factory farming, I knew that I didn't want to be a part of that industry.
So I quit paying money into it.
I never got to meet a chicken that I saved by not eating it.
I never got to see the cow I didn't eat.
In fact, I'll most likely never witness any kind of effect from my decision to not eat meat.
I didn't do it for my tomorrow.
I did it for the future's tomorrow.
Welcome to our last week in the summer lectionary,
and out last week in the mini-series on the book of Hebrews.
The end of this 12-chapter sermon to a congregation who absolutely needed to hear it.
Needed to hear that Christ understood their personhood,
that they were children of God,
that Jesus knew their struggles,
that his sacrifice purified them,
and what exactly faith means.
In this way,
this Hebrew congregation is a lot like so many contemporary congregations.
Because people are people
and because faith is faith,
so many of the same problems arise,
no matter the century they exist in.
In the reading in Hebrews today we heard about five extraordinary individuals,
and their great acts of faith.
And believe me, while the things they did during their lives is nothing short of remarkable,
it's important to realize that true faith means acting without seeing.
It's trusting that even though you can't see the destination ahead of you,
that it's there.
So let's talk about Noah.
We know the story.
From countless Sunday school lessons,
and movie variations... we know the story.
God chose Noah and his family as righteous,
so God told Noah to build a boat.
And Noah did.
And animals got on the boat,
and the flood came...
we know the story.
But have you considered
that God told Noah to build an ark,
longer than a professional soccer field,
on dry land.
Noah most likely lived in a desert-like climate.
When was the last time you were told to build an igloo in August?
I doesn't make sense.
We often hear this story and understand that Noah showed great faith when he blindly built the ark, and that's partially true.
However, no matter the enormity of the boat,
we're missing the big picture.
When God decided that Noah and his family were righteous,
and decided to spare their lives,
it was because when it came time to repopulate the earth,
God knew that the descendants of Noah would be an improvement.
God then, after the flood subsided, promised Noah that the earth would never again be destroyed in such a way.
According to Genesis, when Noah built the ark, he was 600 years old.
There was no way he was going to live to see the earth repopulated,
human or otherwise.
There was no telling that he would survive the flood.
That wasn't promised.
He built the Ark,
gathered the animals,
endured the flood,
not for his own tomorrow,
but for the faith he had in the tomorrow that was promised.
Let's talk about Abraham and Sarah.
God called them to a foreign place.
They got up and just started walking.
Walking toward a place that would eventually be their inheritance.
In order for an inheritance to mean anything,
Abraham would need someone to leave it to...
someone to inherit it.
Abraham and Sarah set off, not on a trip,
but on a life-changing move to a place where they knew no one.
They did this because they had faith in the promise that one day,
in the distant future, their descendants, which they had none of, thus far,
would be as numerous as the stars in the sky,
and would inherit and rule that land.
The plot thickens.
After receiving this promise, God comes to Abraham in a dream and tells him that these descendants of his
would one day be enslaved for 400 years.
But that Abraham shouldn't worry because God would persecute that nation,
and free Abraham's people because God made a covenant with Abraham that from now on, Abraham's people were God's chosen people.
To travel to a land you've never been to, where you know no one,
for the benefit of the descendants you can't have,
to then have those descendants enslaved,
and for them to be freed...
...that's a lot of faith.
But much like with the Noah story,
the move and the fertility of an otherwise barren older couple
is not the big picture.
No, the big picture is the birth of an entire people,
the birth of God's people.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Almost the complete opposite of instant gratification.
Whether your faith calls you to
build a large boat,
work towards food justice,
mold young minds,
help end homelessness,
or practice a sustainable lifestyle,
we don't do these things with the faith in a brighter literal tomorrow.
We do these things with faith in a brighter tomorrow we may never see.
And that is true faith.