Aug. 7, 2022
“‘They Desire a Better Country’” Chan Willis – F.P.C.-L.C./Welsh
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40 August 7, 2022
When I first read over these two passages, I personally found them to be FILLED with great statements about our Christian FAITH… in the past, present, and future. The heading in the NRSV Pew Bible for the reading from Hebrews: “The Meaning of Faith.” [repeat] Sounds fairly important, wouldn’t you say? The faith of ‘Father Abraham’ as it has been handed down through past generations to our own.
And then, for the Luke passage, it begins with the subtitle heading, “Do Not Worry.” Who here thinks that these words could be of ‘some’ VALUE in our current times? The final section is entitled “Watchful Slaves.” It speaks of how the servants must be ready for their Master’s return from a ‘wedding banquet.’ Hmmm… sounds like some language we also hear in that ‘eschatological’ (end-times) book of Revelation, with its ‘wedding feast’ of the Lamb… i.e. JESUS.
The future life we look forward to in that ‘banquet hall’ called HEAVEN.
And as I looked over my notes in my initial reading… filled with various color-hilited phrases and statements, it became quickly evident that there was WAY too much in both of these passages to address them ALL! And so, I’m giving you a ‘homework assignment’: GO HOME AND READ THEM BOTH! I challenge you to go back and see how these ‘Ancient Words’ apply to YOU. How they call you, and me, to make a difference in our own lives, and in the lives of our world… through a HISTORIC, timeless faith that we are to live out in PRESENT in order to shape the FUTURE.
In thinking about how we do… and do NOT… make a difference TODAY in the world we live in, that lead me to focus my eyes on a phrase at the end of the Hebrews passage: “They desire a better country.” For some reason, this statement stuck, and rolled around in my head. ‘They desire a better country.’ WHY? Perhaps because of a group of guys that I try to regularly walk with in the morning, whose conversation often goes in the direction of the ‘state of the union’… and all that is NOT ‘right with our world. A world which, I think we ALL could agree, could certainly be a WHOLE lot… ‘better.’
But as you (Hopefully) got from this morning’s ‘recitation’ of the words of Hebrews, that ‘better country’ that was ‘desired’ was NOT an earthly one. But rather, “a heavenly one.” It was that ‘heavenly,’ ‘better country’ that Abraham “looked forward to … (a) city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” I HOPE that it is this same city ‘built by God’ … NOT by human hands, but eternal, in the heavens… that you ALL are looking forward to. Because if NOT… well then, ‘Lucy… we got some ‘splainin’ to do.’
But even though we, as Christians, are to consider ourselves “strangers and foreigners on the earth,” does that mean we are to spend our time on earth simply just waiting to be ‘deported,’ ‘transported’ to our true home in heaven? NO! Because how we spend our life on this earth has a direct relationship to where we will spend our eternal life. We must always bear in mind the truth of those words we can so glibly, casually, rotely say every Sunday in the prayer that JESUS taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven.” If anyone is going to want to be a resident of this heavenly kingdom that you and I profess, they must first see how we are demonstrating our ‘citizenship right here on earth.
And so, I will give you a few of my own favorite lines out of these readings in order to spur consideration of your OWN. Let us consider what these authors of Hebrews and Luke have to say about how we bear witness to this ‘faith of our Fathers’… the fruit of the Spirit that will cause cynical doubters of TRUE Christianity to say and believe about us, “They Desire a Better Country.”
‘Now… and Later’… How our ‘longing’ for a better place in the future can shape and help fulfill our desire for a better place in the present.
Under those three ‘titles’ of the three different sections of these readings, I would give you one verse from each one to ‘spur’ you on in your personal consideration of these passages. With regards to “The Meaning of Faith,” in the reading from Hebrews, it says that “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8) Whether as an individual, or a nation… whether as a believer or one still wandering in their belief… it is vital that we can trust that our journey in life has a purpose. A greater plan not merely our own, but founded on a greater GOD. Our journey of faith will take us to places where we don’t know where we are going. But we must yet TRUST and OBEY. Trust and obey the One who promises never to leave nor forsake us…
Some of you may have heard my ‘truncated’ message on Tuesday morning’s devo (let’s just say there were some serious ‘technical difficulties’). Anyway, it was related to our dependency on ‘GPS’ navigation systems in our cars. I spoke of how much I missed old-fashioned MAPS (you remember those?). Something I could put my hands on, be in control, use my own reasoning powers to figure out the best way to go. Only to get either frustrated by unforeseen problems like road construction or traffic delays, OR lost in my own mis-interpretation of what I thought was the best way to go. Now we have those reliable systems that speak to us in such comforting tones (“Po-lice in the road up ahead”), guiding us in the most efficient way possible, bringing us reliably to our final destination. (Even after we STILL sometimes take matters into our own hands, and after we’ve satisfied our ego, will bring us back on track.) That tiny screen only gives us a small glimpse of what is right before us, but ultimately has the ‘bigger picture’ in mind in getting us where we need to be.
Abraham had his own ‘GPS’ as he set out on his journey. G-O-D. And after thousands of years, that is STILL the ‘best brand on the market.’ And despite our own prideful efforts to be in control… no matter how we may stray from the right path to our final destination… God is faithful to bring his wayward children home. No matter what unforeseen problems we may encounter… often of our own making. Like Abraham, we must ‘trust’ and ‘obey’ the original ‘GPS.’ We must believe that “God’s Provision is Sufficient.” God gives us just enough of the immediate surroundings to get us where we need to be. That comforting voice of reassurance in the face of obstacles and dangers…
In the second portion of our Bible readings, entitled “Do Not Worry,” Jesus also reassures His faithful travelers of the end result of their perseverance. He says “‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it IS your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom… an unfailing treasure in heaven.’” (Luke 12:32-33) Not only will God provide us what we need for the journey, but also promises a destination unlike any other. And that the ‘promised land’ towards which we travel will be well worth whatever ‘trials on the trail’ we might encounter. (Interesting, isn’t it, how little difference there is between those two words… ‘trails’ and ‘trials.’ Hmm…) Jesus speaks to US, His modern-day disciples, that We must not fear, because we KNOW that God will reward our efforts made in faith. How are YOU sharing this confidence with others…?
As some of you know, I myself will be embarking on a journey for the next week. I have been asked by a family I knew from serving the Covington church over 10 years ago to officiate a ‘Service of Witness to the Resurrection.’ Commonly known as a ‘funeral.’ This service is in MARYLAND. Undoubtedly the farthest I have ever traveled for such a responsibility. Unfamiliar territory that will require two-thirds of those ‘Planes, trains, and automobiles’ modes of transportation. And while I do have some anxiety about getting lost along the way, this journey will also allow me to spend a couple of days with our daughter and her family in northern VA. So, it will be well worth the effort of traveling in order to renew relationships with both friends and family. Any uncertainty about the journey will be FAR offset by the knowledge that great rewards lay at the end.
Which is how we should think about our life’s journey on this earth. That whatever anxiety and uncertainty we may experience along this path of life, they are FAR outweighed by the ‘great rewards that lay at the end’: the joy of full renewal of relationships with those we love… especially our Lord and God. It is such confidence that our labors on this earth will NOT be in vain that should be an example for others… for those who doubt the value of their earthly lives. Not matter how bleak situations can seem, we need to be living examples of those words in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I KNOW the plans I have for you… to give you HOPE and a FUTURE.” Just as Abraham was called to be a living witness to HOPE and a FUTURE based on his TRUST in God, We too must not fear, because we KNOW that God will reward our efforts made in faith.
And finally, we must remain ever vigilant as “Watchful Servants.” Jesus warns those faithful, yet flawed followers, “‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.” (Luke 12:35-36) These words of our Lord in His ‘parable code’ are actually quite clear: Jesus IS coming back. And we must be READY!
There were a LOT of ‘moving parts’ that had to be made ‘ready’ for this journey to the northeast. Worship and meetings at two churches that required a lot of preparation. Making sure that everything was in place for my departure. Not to mention all of planning and packing for my time with the family of the deceased, and the service. And also of great importance, that I make sure to be ready for the journey to catch a flight this afternoon in Lafayette. For all those labors would be in vain if I don’t get there! The last thing I would want to do is be unprepared and be left behind… especially with limited opportunities to get to where I need to be.
My friends, there are too many people in our world today that are in a hurry to get somewhere, but really don’t know WHERE they are going. Ones who rely only on their own strength and abilities, rather than believing that ‘God’s Provision is Sufficient.’ Those who trade a ‘failing treasure on earth’ for an ‘UN-failing treasure in heaven.’
As citizens of these ‘United’ States, we all should ‘desire a better country.’ Giving thought to our ‘civic duty’ on just how we are making it so. But even more so, let us consider our duty to GOD. Are we ‘dressed for action,’ with the lamps of our hearts shining the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, to open the eyes of those who ‘walk in darkness?’ TODAY, let us give serious thought to how our lives communicate ‘the meaning of faith’… giving us the security to say ‘Do not worry’… as we prove ourselves to be ‘watchful servants.’ And as we do, we will show to the lost and alone that we do indeed, ‘Desire a better country’. Now… and more importantly, FOREVER. And may all of God’s faithful followers say… AMEN!
CHARGE: I saw a Meme this week that really caught my attention: “‘But what can I do? I’m just one person.’ Said 7+ billion people.” It is a reminder to me that no matter how insignificant we can feel as a single individual, we yet have been given abilities to do great things… both individually and collectively.
Look at Abraham. The one of whom it was written, long after his death, “Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, ‘as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.’”
Like him, EACH ONE OF YOU can make a difference. In your families. In your communities. In your church. In the Kingdom of God. One SOUL at a time! As you and I earnestly ‘desire a better country’… in this world and the next… let us NEVER forget that we do NOT do so alone… but that the Spirit of the living God… And my all of God’s triumphant travelers say… AMEN!
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