We Resist; God Persists.

Exodus 1:8-14 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
8 Many years later a new king came to power. He did not know what Joseph had done for Egypt, 9 and he told the Egyptians:
There are too many of those Israelites in our country, and they are becoming more powerful than we are. 10 If we don’t outsmart them, their families will keep growing larger. And if our country goes to war, they could easily fight on the side of our enemies and escape from Egypt.
11 The Egyptians put slave bosses in charge of the people of Israel and tried to wear them down with hard work. Those bosses forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses, where the king could store his supplies. 12 But even though the Israelites were mistreated, their families grew larger, and they took over more land. Because of this, the Egyptians hated them worse than before 13 and made them work so hard 14 that their lives were miserable. The Egyptians were cruel to the people of Israel and forced them to make bricks and to mix mortar and to work in the fields.
Exodus 3:1-15 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
3 One day, Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and Moses decided to lead them across the desert to Sinai, the holy mountain. 2 There an angel of the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. 3 “This is strange!” he said to himself. “I’ll go over and see why the bush isn’t burning up.”
4 When the Lord saw Moses coming near the bush, he called him by name, and Moses answered, “Here I am.”
5 God replied, “Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals—the ground where you are standing is holy. 6 I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face.
7 The Lord said:
I have seen how my people are suffering as slaves in Egypt, and I have heard them beg for my help because of the way they are being mistreated. I feel sorry for them, 8 and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians.
I will bring my people out of Egypt into a country where there is good land, rich with milk and honey. I will give them the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 My people have begged for my help, and I have seen how cruel the Egyptians are to them. 10 Now go to the king! I am sending you to lead my people out of his country.
11 But Moses said, “Who am I to go to the king and lead your people out of Egypt?”
12 God replied, “I will be with you. And you will know that I am the one who sent you, when you worship me on this mountain after you have led my people out of Egypt.”
13 Moses answered, “I will tell the people of Israel that the God their ancestors worshiped has sent me to them. But what should I say, if they ask me your name?”
14-15 God said to Moses:
I am the eternal God. So tell them that the Lord, whose name is “I Am,” has sent you. This is my name forever, and it is the name that people must use from now on.
How do people learn about God? Some learn from believers who go door to door to talk about God. Many of us grew hearing about God at home or by going to church with parents or grandparents. Others heard about God when they learned to say the Pledge of Allegiance—one nation under God. Maybe studying literature in school introduced the idea of God. No matter when or where you are born, eventually you learn that some people believe in God. Even people who don’t believe in God have some idea of what they don’t believe in.
How do we get to know God as more than an idea? We listen in church and Sunday School and Bible study. We listen to people talk about God. We read about God. We watch people who believe in God. And sometimes, as believers, we feel God’s presence. Sometimes as believers, we sense that God is acting in our lives. Sometimes we get the idea that God actually tries to be a part of our lives.
God wanted to be a part of Moses life. It wasn’t just to meet for coffee once a week. My experience is that when God wants to be a part of our lives, God has a task for us. God had a task for Moses: 10 Now go to the king! I am sending you to lead my people out of his country.
That was no small task. It took years. It involved hundreds of people. It involved persuading a king to free all his slaves, thus decimating his building program. It involved convincing hundreds of people to leave their homes for an unknown destination.
Moses didn’t know all that when God first presented this plan to him. But, like any of us, when Moses was asked to do something that seemed impossible, he came up with reasons to tell God he couldn’t help out. And they were valid. There is a fine line between reasons and excuses. What do you think? Was Moses giving reasons or excuses?
First, he questions himself.(https://www.patheos.com/progressive-christian/god-who-hides-yourself-john-holbert-08-25-2014)
11 But Moses said, “Who am I to go to the king and lead your people out of Egypt?”
How often have you been asked to do something that was beyond your level of confidence? When I think back to my farm girl days, I remember a time when my Dad was sick and our sows were farrowing. Sows can be vicious, and one squeal from a baby pig will make them go ballistic. I had to climb in those pens to get out the feeding pans to fill them. I did it.
Just as often though, when I’ve been asked to take on a challenge, I’ve thought of reasons why I can’t say yes to the task. Moses is nobody important at this stage in his life, and he’s more comfortable keeping it that way.
But God persists. And Moses resists.
13 Moses answered, “I will tell the people of Israel that the God their ancestors worshiped has sent me to them. But what should I say, if they ask me your name?
Moses wants to have as much information about God as possible if he is supposed to convince people that he is acting on God’s behalf.
Moses thinks of another reason he would fail:
4 Moses asked the Lord, “Suppose everyone refuses to listen to my message, and no one believes that you really appeared to me?”
God has a solution:
2 The Lord answered, “What’s that in your hand?”
“A walking stick,” Moses replied.
3 “Throw it down!” the Lord commanded. So Moses threw the stick on the ground. It immediately turned into a snake, and Moses jumped back.
4 “Pick it up by the tail!” the Lord told him. And when Moses did this, the snake turned back into a walking stick.
5 “Do this,” the Lord said, “and the Israelites will believe that you have seen me, the God who was worshiped by their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Next excuse:
Exodus 4:10-12
10 Moses replied, “I have never been a good speaker. I wasn’t one before you spoke to me, and I’m not one now. I am slow at speaking, and I can never think of what to say.”
A movie came out in 2010. The King’s Speech told the story of King George VI. He was not first in line to the throne, but when his brother abdicated in 1936, George was next in line. Kings make important speeches to thousands of people. The problem: King George had a terrible stutter. He overcame that handicap to inspire his citizens through the darkest days of World War II.
God promised to help Moses overcome his own shortcomings: 4:12 Now go! When you speak, I will be with you and give you the words to say.”
Moses ran out of excuses. He finally asked God to just send someone else. It wasn’t exactly a flat-out no, but it certainly wasn’t a yes.
4:13 Moses begged, “Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
14 The Lord became irritated with Moses and said:
What about your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know he is a good speaker. He is already on his way here to visit you, and he will be happy to see you again. 15-16 Aaron will speak to the people for you, and you will be like me, telling Aaron what to say. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will tell each of you what to do. 17 Now take this walking stick and use it to perform miracles.
No matter which way Moses turned, God headed him back in the right direction.
Are we so different from Moses? We know where God is leading us. We know what God wants us to do. Love God. Love our neighbor. We also know “loving our neighbor” isn’t always so simple. If we only lived among people who are just like us, who always agreed with us, it would be easy to follow all those commandments. We’d all have about the same income, keep house the same way, have the same kind of front yard, shop at similar stores, eat similar foods, listen to similar music, drive similar cars, raise our kids the same way.
Same ol’, same ol’. But it’s not like that. The world is full of very different kinds of people. Different people have different ideas about what is right and what is wrong. But here’s the thing: when it comes down to knowing right and wrong, we agree more than we disagree. The ten commandments are almost universal. All cultures honor the older generations. All cultures think it is wrong to kill—that seems debatable, given our propensity for war. All cultures have rules about family relationships. Envy, lying, cheating, stealing are seen as being detrimental to a community. How do we know that? Because such acts are punished.
What does all that have to do with us? God calls us, not to punish but to prevent. God call us, not to turn away, but to comfort. God calls us, not to fear, but to bless.
Our sinful nature tells us to punish, to retaliate, to force others to conform to our standards. Our sinful nature tells us to ignore what we cannot stand to see or hear. Our sinful nature tells to be afraid of what is different.
We have a name for people who provide food for hungry people, who provide shelter for displaced people. We have a name for people who place themselves in the same space as the broken, the sick, the ostracized, the foreigner. We have a name for people who trust God over fear. We call them Christians.
Moses is considered by many to be the first and greatest of the prophets. He had a blemished background, to say the least. He was born into a slave family, was raised by the king’s daughter, killed a man, escaped to a faraway place, worked at the lowliest of jobs—-a shepherd. Yet God, sought him out, prepared him, provided him with all he needed to accomplish one of the most monumental task ever given to a single man.
God does not choose people at random to do God’s work. None of us can escape God’s eye, nor God’s command to love our neighbor. When we love God, we are expected to love all the neighbors. Neighbor is another word for person. Loving neighbors is complicated because it requires all our energy and all our intellect. Loving neighbors requires thinking about how our actions affect other people. Every action has a reaction—you might have learned that in a science class sometime. When I support an idea, when I buy a product, I am a part of a system that has consequences. Sometimes I suffer from those consequences. Sometimes I benefit. As a Christian, I want the consequences of my words and actions to reflect the love of Jesus. I want someone else to benefit from my choices, from my decisions, from my actions.
Here is the good news: God gives us the ability to love our neighbor. God gives us the means to love our neighbor. God gives us the opportunity to love our neighbor. Our congregation is good at serving people who are just like us.
The people who eat our cakes and cookies are pretty much like us. I wonder if we have more neighbors who don’t go to fish fries or car shows, but who are lonely or troubled or who don’t fit in. I wonder if we have neighbors who are oppressed by poverty or ill health or bad luck. I wonder if God wants us to reach out to them. Our church’s motto is to “To be a presence in the community.” I pray that God can pester us like God pestered Moses to lead people out of isolation and suffering into this community of Christ that loves all neighbors. Amen.


Genesis 32:22-30 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

22-23 Jacob got up in the middle of the night and took his wives, his eleven children, and everything he owned across to the other side of the Jabbok River for safety. 24 Afterwards, Jacob went back and spent the rest of the night alone.
A man came and fought with Jacob until just before daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not win, he struck Jacob on the hip and threw it out of joint. 26 They kept on wrestling until the man said, “Let go of me! It’s almost daylight.”
“You can’t go until you bless me,” Jacob replied.
27 Then the man asked, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”
29 Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”
“Don’t you know who I am?” he asked. And he blessed Jacob.
30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, and I am still alive.” So he named the place Peniel.
Jacob is an interesting character. He was born to Rebekah and Isaac, grandson of Abraham and Sarah.
Genesis 25:24 When Rebekah gave birth, 25 the first baby was covered with red hair, so he was named Esau. 26 The second baby grabbed on to his brother’s heel, so they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.
27 As Jacob and Esau grew older, Esau liked the outdoors and became a good hunter, while Jacob settled down and became a shepherd. 28 Esau would take the meat of wild animals to his father Isaac, and so Isaac loved him more, but Jacob was his mother’s favorite son.
As the oldest, Esau would receive a blessing from Isaac that assured Esau would inherit a position as leader and authority of the family. For some reason, Jacob wanted that position, so he tricked his dying blind father into giving him the blessings. That is another story. Of course, Esau was angry. Isaac sent Jacob to live with his Uncle Laban to protect him from Esau’s anger. The funny thing is that Jacob was tricked by Laban.
Jacob fell in love with with his cousin Rachael. Laban approved the marriage and threw a big wedding for the two. But when Jacob woke up the next morning, he discovered he had married Leah, Rachael’s older sister. Laban claimed that it was the tradition that the older sister must marry first.
Eventually, he was able to marry Leah, but there is some sweet irony in how these rules of the oldest child can be used for against Jacob.
Eventually things sour between Jacob and his uncle/father-in-law and God tells Jacob to return to his childhood home.
Jacob is caught between a rock and a hard place. He can stay where he is and endure the abuse of his father-in-law or he can return to his family and endure the wrath of Esau.
He chooses to face Esau.
On the night before he crosses into Esau’s territory, he sends his wives, livestock, servants to a safe place and he retires by himself to sleep. He was hardly asleep before a man attacked him, not with a weapon, but with his own body. They wrestled all night. Back and forth. This was no three-minute high match on a cushiony mat. This was on the ground, for hours. Jacob held his own. Finally, the first light of dawn crept over the horizon. The stranger had had enough. He disabled Jacob by putting his hip out of joint.
Once again, Jacob asks for a blessing.
This scene of Jacob wrestling and asking for a blessings brings up questions. Why does Jacob want a blessing? He’s received the most important blessing a man could receive—the blessing of his father. Perhaps this blessing is more significant because Jacob is about to face his sin: the sin of cheating Esau.
Jacob is at his most vulnerable. He is alone, in a strange land. He has no weapon that we know of. His only defense is his own body.
One of my high school wrestlers told me that wrestling was 95% per cent intellect and only 5% physical. Was that what kept Jacob going? There is no winner in Jacob’s match. He does not give up. It is the stranger who says it is time to quit. When Jacob asks for the blessing, the stranger agrees and asks whom he is blessing. Then a strange thing happens. The stranger changes Jacob’s name as he blesses him. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, which means “one who struggles with God.” After Jacob is blessed, he asks the name of his opponent. The stranger says,”Don’t you know?” and then Jacob realizes he has been wrestling with God.
Why does God wrestle with Jacob? Perhaps because Jacob has wrestled with God during his speckled and spotted life.
Wrestling with God is not unusual. I’d like to say that wrestling with God is unnecessary, but real life puts us in so many awkward positions that we often choose to break God’s rules. The rule of expediency, the rule of convenience, the rule of reputation often trump the rules that God handed to Moses.
It is easier to lie than to accept blame. It is easier to shame someone than to forgive someone. It is easier to criticize than to understand. It is easier to lecture than to listen.
Let me give you one small example from the last few days. I worked at the North Scott Food Pantry on Friday morning. There were five of us workers, so we spent most of the time chatting. One of the topics was the new location of the River Bend Food Bank. Most of us are happy about this, because it means that our clients now have two places to access food. However, one member of our group accused any client who would get food from two places as “double-dipping.” “Double-dipping” is not a complement. It indicates a kind of cheating. The speaker thought that it was wrong for anyone to get free food from two different places. Is it wrong for a grandfather raising his three grandchildren alone to get extra help providing for them? Is it wrong for a mother working full-time to get enough food for her children so that they are never hungry? Three boxes of cereal, three pieces of meat and six cans of soup doesn’t last a month.
But we wrestle, because many of us grew up thinking that not being able to provide for your family was an actual sin. We grew up learning to shame people who weren’t lucky enough to have the skills or the health or the example to provide for their families. So we wrestle with our own pride, our own jealousy, our own weakness.
Here’s the thing: God wrestles with us. Sometimes God wins. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we let God win and accept the rules that God wrote. The eighth commandment is the one I most struggle with.
The Eighth Commandment:
”You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
We should love and fear God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well for him, and interpret charitably all that he does.
In other words, I should never say anything bad about anyone, no matter what. In fact, I am supposed to do quite the opposite. I am supposed to say nice things about my neighbor and look for the good he does. I’m supposed to understand why he does what he does. Why she does what she does. Why they do what they do.
Not to mention that if I look in the mirror, I see a not so pretty reflection of a sinner.
Everyday is a wrestling match. Here is the good news. God blesses me.
God has blessed all of us, not with a broken hip, but with God’s son, Jesus. When the Ten Commandments seemed like more than humans could handle, Jesus simplified them and reduced them to two: Love God. Love your neighbor. We love our neighbor because we love God. Just as our love for our parents or our children or our friends causes us to do good things for them, so does our love for God inspire us to do good things for others. Who are the others? Every person ever born. No borders. No requirements. No visas. No wristbands. No dress codes. Just treat every person with respect. Welcome every person. Yes, it’s the real world we’re talking about. Sin abounds in the real world, but we Christians can change the score and tip the balance to good and kindness and generosity. Eventually, we know, sin loses. We are blessed.
Glory be to God, who loves all, forgives all, blesses all. Amen.

She Laughed Genesis 18:1-15 Genesis 21:1-7 Mark 10:27

Genesis 18:1-15 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
18 One hot summer afternoon Abraham was sitting by the entrance to his tent near the sacred trees of Mamre, when the Lord appeared to him. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He quickly ran to meet them, bowed with his face to the ground, 3 and said, “Please come to my home where I can serve you. 4 I’ll have some water brought, so you can wash your feet, then you can rest under the tree. 5 Let me get you some food to give you strength before you leave. I would be honored to serve you.”
“Thank you very much,” they answered. “We accept your offer.”
6 Abraham quickly went to his tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get a large sack of flour and make some bread.” 7 After saying this, he rushed off to his herd of cattle and picked out one of the best calves, which his servant quickly prepared. 8 He then served his guests some yogurt and milk together with the meat.
While they were eating, he stood near them under the trees, 9 and they asked, “Where is your wife Sarah?”
“She is right there in the tent,” Abraham answered.
10 One of the guests was the Lord, and he said, “I’ll come back about this time next year, and when I do, Sarah will already have a son.”
Sarah was behind Abraham, listening at the entrance to the tent. 11 Abraham and Sarah were very old, and Sarah was well past the age for having children. 12 So she laughed and said to herself, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, will I really know such happiness?”
13 The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Does she doubt that she can have a child in her old age? 14 I am the Lord! There is nothing too difficult for me. I’ll come back next year at the time I promised, and Sarah will already have a son.”
15 Sarah was so frightened that she lied and said, “I didn’t laugh.”
“Yes, you did!” he answered.

Genesis 21:1-7 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
21 The Lord was good to Sarah and kept his promise. 2 Although Abraham was very old, Sarah had a son exactly at the time God had said. 3 Abraham named his son Isaac, 4 and when the boy was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, just as the Lord had commanded.
5 Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born, 6 and Sarah said, “God has made me laugh. Now everyone will laugh with me. 7 Who would have dared to tell Abraham that someday I would have a child? But in his old age, I have given him a son.”
Mark 10:27 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.”
Sarah laughed. Of course, she laughed. She was old. Very old. Her opportunity for pregnancy and motherhood was long past.
The whole scene was ridiculous.
First of all, three strangers appeared, walking in the heat of the day. Nobody traveled during the hottest part of the day.
Second, Abraham was recovering from being recently circumcised. He was in no shape to entertain company.
Third, the strangers called her by name, even though she had never seen them.
Fourth, without even seeing her, they announced that in a year she would have her very own baby, born of her own womb.
Of course, she laughed.
The whole scene could have been some desert mirage, some afternoon half-dream.
A year later, she was indeed laughing, because the strangers had been right. Imagine this 90-year-old first-time mother bouncing a laughing baby on her old skinny lap. Imagine her laughing with baby Isaac, whose very name meant “laughter.”
Sarah, concealed in that tent as Abraham entertained the visitors, had laughed not out of happiness, but out of disappointment, disbelief, cynicism. She laughed the laugh of hopes unfulfilled, plans obliterated, promises broken. Her laugh was in reality a cry, full of unshed tears.
Laughter is not always happy. Sometimes we laugh in disbelief. Sometimes we laugh because we are embarrassed. Sometimes we laugh because everyone else is. Real laugher, genuine laughter is rarer.
Sarah’s cynical laughter was based on a promise that had been made a few years earlier. It was a promise God made to Abraham
Genesis 15 Later the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision, “Abram, don’t be afraid! I will protect you and reward you greatly.”
2 But Abram answered, “Lord All-Powerful, you have given me everything I could ask for, except children. And when I die, Eliezer of Damascus will get all I own. 3 You have not given me any children, and this servant of mine will inherit everything.” (He was referring to Ishmael, the son of Sarah’s servant, Hagar.)
4 The Lord replied, “No, he won’t! You will have a son of your own, and everything you have will be his.” 5 Then the Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky and see if you can count the stars. That’s how many descendants you will have.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord was pleased with him.
We don’t know if Abraham shared that promise with Sarah. If he had, how would she have felt about that promise? Even when that promise was made, she was too old to get pregnant. Did she believe the promise? Did she think Abraham was a fool to believe the promise? By the time of that promise, Abraham and Sarah were wealthy. They had livestock and servants to take care of the livestock. They wanted for nothing—except children.
We take promises seriously. Wedding vows are promises. Baptismal vows are promises. Confirmation vows are promises. The rules of government are promises. When they are not kept, we suffer.
What has God promised us?
Matthew 6:31-34 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
31 Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” 32 Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. 33 But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.
34 Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.
Revelation 21:4 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
4 He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone forever.
The funeral liturgy that I use begins with the promises of God.
Psalm 145:18-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
John 11:25-26 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
25 Jesus then said, “I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. 26 And everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die.
Isaiah 41:10 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
10 Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Don’t tremble with fear. I am your God. I will make you strong, as I protect you with my arm and give you victories.
These promises are the basis for our faith.
The American dream is a promise. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. When those promises were written, they were meant for white, male landowners. Over the years, that promise has been extended to women, to people who don’t own more than the clothes on their back.
In 1903, a plaque was attached to the Statue of Liberty. It read: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Some people interpret this as a promise.
God’s promises trump any promises made by humans. Sometimes humans interfere with God’s promises. Isaiah’s promise that we don’t have to be afraid may seem foolish, but the prophet is not saying that we won’t be threatened. We have plenty of reasons to be afraid, from our own physical frailty to the dangers we navigate in the world. Jesus tells us that if we ask God for anything, God will provide. I’m guessing some of your requests to God have gone unanswered—prayers for healing, for reconciliation aren’t always answered in the way we wish. What is more important in those verses from Matthew is Jesus command to not worry. To not worry is to trust. To worry is to lose faith.
The promise that we Christians count on, no matter how our lives unfold, is the promise of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus is the anchor to which we hold.
God provides. We try to believe that, even when it seems like God provides too much or too little. Too much illness, too much poverty, too little rain, too little compassion. We become cynical. We lose faith. We scold God. We mock God. We are like Sarah. Yeah, right. I’m going to get pregnant. Yeah, right. I’m going to get healthy. Yeah, right. My kids are going to settle down and find a job. Yeah, right. My neighbor’s dog will quit barking twenty-four hours a day. Yeah, right. I’ll be able to afford health insurance. Yeah, right. My broken heart will mend. We laugh at God because we don’t see any results.
The world laughs at God. Karl Marx famously said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Atheism is on the rise in this century. Sam Harris wrote in his book The End of Faith, that faith is “the devil’s masterpiece.” Atheism is not a new idea. In the19th Century, Frederick Nietzsche coined the phrase, “God is dead.” What he meant was that the idea of god was no longer useful. He did’t see this as a good thing because God being alive was foundational to western philosophy, politics, and civilization. But Nietzsche saw humanity giving more credit to its own knowledge and less to God. In other words, people saw God as less important, less necessary to their lives.
Yet here we are, gathered again, giving God another chance. Why? Because we believe. We believe that God created us, that God loves us, that God sent Jesus to rescue us so that we could, someday, leave all the broken promises behind and live in eternity with the ultimate promise of eternal life in the presence of God. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Amen.