August 13, 2018

What do you trust?

This has been a very interesting week in the church office for Severna and me. On Tuesday when we had the power outage, we didn't think much about it until we had to use the photocopier Wednesday morning. No matter what we tried or how many times we turned it off and on to reset it's system, the photocopier refused to work. We couldn't print off bulletins or the announcement sheet, we couldn't do up posters for our upcoming summer events, or print out photos for Marvyn's memorial service, or letters of support for a town homeless count‎ initiative. Severna quickly contacted the repairman and he popped in that very day and told us he would have the replacement part by Thursday morning, as it would be shipped from Calgary. We were impressed and relieved to hear that! But the part was not in Calgary, nor was it in the rest of Canada. So we're hoping it will show up on Monday. And we spent the whole week realizing exactly how much we depended on having a great photocopier to help us do much of our work.
Technology is like a seed that grows invisibly without our knowledge into our lives. Even if we don't have a computer, our cars probably do. The satellite TV we watch is very dependent on computers and every time we use our bank cards to buy something, we are trusting in technology. When we fly somewhere or talk to someone on the phone, we are trusting in technology.
Everyone needs to trust someone or something to make the most of their days. I trust the grocery stores to have safe food. The people who ran the Muskeg Creek Trail run yesterday had to trust the volunteers to steer them in the right direction and help them get enough water to keep going.
The volunteers had to trust that the volunteer coordinator would have the resources to do their job. The coordinator had to trust the organizing committee would have enough time and money to provide the things that were needed. The committee needed to trust that people would want to come and walk the trai‎l.
Trust is something that is a part of life. It's why we get caught up in cons so easily. The first nations in Canada trusted that the Federal government would help their children learn to survive in a land that the bison had disappeared ‎from.  Grandparents trust the caller who tells them that they are a grandchild in serious trouble, needing money to bail them out. Parents trust that a playground is a safe space for their children to play.
And then something happens to change all that trust. An infection sets in after a major surgery. A gunman shoots at a man while children are enjoying a ride on a swing. An island volcano ‎won't stop spewing lava. A grandchild bullies a grandparent. Someone applies for a job and is treated to abuse and sexism.  Someone else acts impulsively to solve a problem but causes more harm than good.
The ancients put their own trust into, of all things, horses and chariots. Did you hear that line in the psalm, "Do not put your trust in horses and chariots"? They were the nuclear weapons of the Pharaohs and Babylonian princes. There's a wonderful documentary on PBS about reconstructing an Egyptian chariot, and how incredibly effective it was in war. And yet if you do a careful exploration of the bible, every time the Hebrew people are up against an army of chariots and put their trust in God, things turn out okay for them. Moses had no chariots and got his people safely away from the Egyptian army. Joshua fought battles with foot soldiers against chariots and won every time.
David used no chariots to defeat Goliath and went up against Philistine armies with chariots of iron and won. And when he was caught up in a civil war, he easily destroyed the chariot armies he faced. One war ended when his own traitorous son had his hair get caught up in a tree while riding away in a chariot. Deuteronomy 20 tells the people not to be afraid of chariots in battle, but to trust in God. And Solomon, the supposedly wisest and richest king Israel ever knew, stockpiled chariots and horses, filling whole cities with them, according to biblical accounts. Solomon's military power did not prevent the kingdom from splitting up, and his descendants lost battles and wars and even their lives in chariots.  And even though he was supposed to be the richest and wisest of all of the kings of Israel listed in the bible, it’s his father David that is remembered so fondly by the people of Israel.  Jerusalem is David’s city.  The kings that followed Solomon in the history books who continued to stockpile chariots were seen as unfaithful. Jezebel's husband Ahab died in his chariot just as Elijah had predicted. Isaiah ranted against Israel having a chariot army as a sure invitation to disaster, and Babylon conquered it and took the people into exile. The only chariot mentioned in a positive light is the one from heaven that was sent to bring Elijah straight to heaven.
We humans want to trust quick fixes, big shows of strength and stockpiles of stuff.  And the big things don’t work.  Threats and bluster only escalate the tension.  So what can we trust?
I am reminded of a story about John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism and indirectly the United Church of Canada.  When he was in his advanced years, he was going out to preach to some coal miners in England, and was traveling by a horse-drawn coach.  The road was on the edge of the sea, and a storm came up, threatening to wash out the road. 
The coachman turned to Wesley and asked if they should turn back, that the storm was getting too dangerous, and he couldn’t guarantee that they would make it safely.  Wesley reportedly said that he was called to go boldly into the storm, trusting that God would be with him whether he drowned or whether he made it to the other side.  And despite brushes with pneumonia, he continued to charge through storms and blizzards until he died at the age of 87, but not after making sure that he had sent ordained preachers to North America, pushed for the end of the Slave Trade, recognized women as preachers and worked tirelessly and relentlessly to help people struggling with poverty, illiteracy and addictions.  He died in poverty but had written hymns, established churches and wrote 32 volumes of articles on the power of Christianity.  He trusted God, and he made a difference in this world.  May we find the courage to trust not in the big splashy chariots of our own times, but in the still small voice that makes seeds to grow and people to live brave lives of faith and hope.  Amen.

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