A Leap of Faith

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  October 2, 2022

Click here to listen to the service 
Read Lamentations 3:19 – 26 (NIV)
This morning, the Lectionary text has us focusing our attention once again on writings that have been credited to the Prophet Jeremiah.  As you may recall from last week’s sermon, Jeremiah is also known as the Weeping Prophet.  However, unlike the text from last week, today’s reading does not actually come from the book of Jeremiah but is found instead in the book of Lamentations.
Now, Lamentations is said to have been written as a dirge, or a funeral song, for the city of Jerusalem which had fallen as a result of the people’s selfishness and sinfulness and their unwillingness to repent and obey God… in spite of repeated warnings of what was to come…
Jeremiah grieved as he watched while the people suffered the consequences of their actions… his grief and anguish are expressed in the writings found in the book of Lamentations… a book which has also been called the book of tears.
While it is not at all unusual to see people crying at a funeral… people may cry for a variety of other reasons as well.  They cry tears of laughter, tears of joy, tears of sorrow, tears of anger and even tears of frustration. 
Babies cry when they are hungry… when they are hurt or unhappy… when they are sleepy or lonely… or even when they are wet. 
Adults may cry for many of the same reasons (especially if they are wet) but they also cry when they have been wounded – physically, spiritually or emotionally – or when they are grieving a loss of some kind.
However, the tears that Jeremiah cried that earned him the title of the Weeping Prophet were not tears that he cried for himself or because of his own physical or emotional needs. 
Jeremiah wept for the people who had rejected God… a rejection which in turn led to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Now, if we were to pause and take a brief look at an outline of the book of Lamentations, we would see that it starts out in chapter 1 with Jeremiah mourning for Jerusalem.  Then as we move into chapter 2, we find the revelation of God’s anger at sin. 
But when we come to chapter 3 to the place where we find our text for the morning… what we find is hope in the midst of affliction and calamity.
And I don’t know about you but I think we could all do with a little bit of hope in the midst of the affliction and calamity we are seeing in the world today.  With everything from hurricanes and wildfires to political unrest and economic uncertainty… not to mention the war in Ukraine and this seemingly never-ending pandemic… I think we can all agree that a little hope sure would be nice right about now.
So, this morning, I want to invite us to take A LEAP OF FAITH… and trust that no matter what the situation looks like right now… we can hold onto hope…
… hope that there are brighter days ahead.
… hope that we have not exhausted God’s inexhaustible supply of grace, mercy and forgiveness.
… hope that in the face of evil that is running rampant in this world, God still loves us enough to save us from ourselves. 
… hope that no matter how bad things may seem right here and right now… God’s faithfulness provides not only strength for today but bright hope for tomorrow.
Perhaps, some of you know that our Hymn of Discipleship for today is one of my all-time favorite songs, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  
Based on verses 22 and 23 of our text for the morning… this particular hymn is said to have been composed in the 1920s by Thomas Obadiah Chisolm.  Chisolm was an insurance salesman and former minister, who found comfort in the Scriptures… and the fact that God had been faithful in being his strength during his prolonged time of illness… and that through it all, God had made provision for all of his needs.  
Thomas Chisolm is believed to have written over 1,200 poems… including the one that his friend, William Runyan, set to music… giving us this great hymn of the church.  
However, as the story is told… this hymn did not really become popular until a professor at Moody Bible Institute played it so much that it became the school’s unofficial theme song.  Then in 1945, George Beverly Shea, sang the song at a Billy Graham Crusade which allowed the song to be heard around the world.
And this song is still being sung today… and it is still giving hope to people around the world.
As I think about God’s faithfulness… I can’t help but reflect back on a time when I took my own LEAP OF FAITH… walking away from a 20-year career in banking… with no job prospects on the horizon and only a nudging in my spirit from God that it was time to take A LEAP OF FAITH.
And in the midst of it all, God gave me the assurance that as I walked away from a career that was not in the least bit fulfilling… I could hold onto the hope that there would be brighter days ahead.
And I could hold onto the hope that I would have access to God’s inexhaustible supply of grace, mercy and forgiveness.
… and that no matter how bad things may have been right there in those moments leading up to me taking that LEAP OF FAITH… God’s faithfulness provided me not only with strength for that day but it also gave me bright hope for every one of my tomorrows.
Now, for the time that we have left this morning, I want to turn our attention back at the text… to see where Jeremiah was able to find a ray of hope… even in the midst of the sin and sorrow that surrounded him… because then, just as now, Jeremiah had the assurance that the steadfast love of God never ceases… His mercies are endless. 
And I don’t know about you, but I am beyond grateful to know that God’s love and mercy are endless… that no matter how many times you or I mess up, God does not run out of love or mercy for us.
In fact, God’s mercies are NEW every morning… each day we start back at zero… with a clean slate… with a fresh start. 
Maybe that doesn’t excite anybody else but me. 
Maybe nobody else needs a fresh dose of mercy every day because you can make it through with whatever mercies you have left from yesterday.
But when I look around at this world and at our country… what I see is overwhelming evidence that we could all use some brand-new mercies… each and every day.
Now, if we are honest with ourselves, we can sometimes get lulled into a false sense of security… or perhaps a sense of complacency… because so much of what see happening is happening somewhere else or to someone else… that war in Ukraine is half a world away… the hurricanes are causing devastation in other states… those immigrants are being treated like cargo and getting shipped around to other cities.
But I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 (12), “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (RSV). 
In other words, we are all in this together.  It does not matter, White or Black, male or female, young or old, Democrat or Republican… “If one member [of the body] suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (v. 26, RSV). 
That means when our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Canada and Bermuda and South Carolina and Florida and Texas and Massachusetts (and… you can fill-in-the-blank) … when they hurt, we hurt, too. 
And it also means that when families right here in Novelty and Newbury and Chesterland and Cleveland are hurting… we, as the body of believers, hurt, too. 
But the good news is that we do not have to hurt forever.  Because as the text reminds us,

The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
When we trust in God’s faithfulness, we can be confident in His great promises for the future… for our future… for our salvation. 
But the key is that we must take A LEAP OF FAITH and trust in GOD’S faithfulness… not faith in ourselves, not faith in public servants, not even faith in spiritual leaders.  It is faith in GOD that provides us with the assurance that all of this adversity and calamity… it is all temporary.
The Apostle Paul said it like this:

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure (2 Cor. 4:16 – 17, NIV).
“Our inner nature is being renewed day by day” … that sounds a lot like those new mercies…  And that “eternal weight of glory beyond all measure” … well it sounds an awful lot like that salvation Jeremiah was talking about.
It would be so easy to look at this world and all the evil that is running rampant and simply give up… through in the towel and say, “I quit.” 
And yet, if we were to keep going down to verses 31-33, we would read, “…no one is cast off by the Lord forever.  Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.   For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”
In the Message Paraphrase, these verses read, “…the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return.  If he works severely, he also works tenderly.  His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.  He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.”
In other words, God is not sitting on the throne in His temple, rubbing His hands together and saying, “Ooh, goody goody, life is really rough for them right now.”  That has never been His desire for us. 
In fact, if we were to look at the words of Jesus in John 10:10, we would read, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

God’s desire for us always has been and always will be for us to have life more abundantly.
But as far back as Adam and Eve in a garden called Eden, humankind has been given the gift of freewill… the opportunity to make our own choices… choices that can come with some pretty stiff consequences if we make poor ones. 
Adam and Eve were made to leave the Garden of Eden because they chose to disobey God and ate the fruit from the tree that God had expressly forbidden them to eat.
The people of Jerusalem faced devastation and destruction because they made the choice not to follow God. It is why Jeremiah wept with such grief for them.
And it is because people have chosen to follow their own selfish desires that our world is in the shape that it is in right now… on the verge of collapse into chaos beyond anything we can begin to imagine. 
Yet even in this, God’s Word and His promise remains true when He said that, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, RSV).
No matter how bleak the news may seem when we turn on the TV or look at the Internet, God’s promises are true and His faithfulness is great. 
But He is calling us to action… to humble ourselves… to pray… to seek His face… and to turn from our wicked ways.
And as hard as it may be for us to accept…  we ALL have our wicked ways… we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 
Sadly, when certain people exercise their freewill in ways that cause pain and anguish to other people... the evil actions that they have chosen to perpetuate leave permanent scars… scars which are the result of the serious injuries and even the loss of life that are the byproduct of senseless violence and a wanton disregard for the wellbeing of others.
But even in all of this… we can take A LEAP OF FAITH and hold onto hope… because God’s faithfulness is still great and love is still stronger than hate.  Because simply put… God is love.  And God loved the world so much that He gave us His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
And because God loves us so much, He continues to grant us those new mercies day by day so that we can receive that eternal glory that far outweighs any of the afflictions we may be facing. 
Just as Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet, was able to find hope in the midst of Jerusalem’s affliction, we too can find hope because Great Is God’s Faithfulness! 
And if that is your hope today, won’t you join now in singing our Hymn of Discipleship – Great Is Thy Faithfulness (#86)?