Rev. George Miller
“Faith as a Verb”
Aug 28, 2011
It is good to be here, preparing for my vacation, sharing today’s scripture.
This is a fitting Scripture to end this season of ministry because it’s a summation of so many stories and themes we have talked about since the last time I went on vacation.
It is also good to have my momma with us, sitting in the congregation today. Let me tell you something about my momma.
I remember growing up and going to amusement parks. The big event was always the rollercoaster; so big, so fast, so high and daunting.
Mom had a unique view. She said that if I was ever scared I should just yell; and not just yell anything, but yell “Yahoo!”
And that’s just what we did.
Go onto the coaster and it pulls you up, higher and higher. And then for that moment it pauses, and you can see everything, including how far you’ve come.
And then you’re dropped and at lightening speed you go faster and faster, taking sharp turns and dips and jolts.
And instead of allowing our fear to get the best of us, Mom and I would be shouting out “Yahoo!”
And something that could have been scary became fun; something that looked daunting became doable.
And we yelled and we shouted “Yahoo!” and we laughed and by the time the ride ended, I was saying: “Let’s do that again.”
That’s how we rode the rollercoasters, from the Big Bad Wolf in Virginia to Space Mountain in Disney World, shouting “Yahoo!” all the way.
Not only did we end up having fun, so did the people around us. They’d hear our cries and start laughing; you could spot the people on line below smiling at our verbal escapades.
It was as if we were setting people at ease and helping them to be less afraid. To this day, whenever I go on a ride that’s fast or scary, a loud “Yahoo!” makes everything seem OK.
Rollercoasters involve a bit of bravery; but also a bit of faith.
Faith that you’ll be OK, faith that you’ll have some fun, faith that whatever drops and turns, highs and lows you encounter, you’ll be able to “Yahoo” right through.
Rollercoasters also involve faith because in order to experience them, it requires you to act: to step up, to sit down, and to hold on.
Faith, you see, is not simply a thought, but faith is an act. Faith is not simply something you feel, it is something you do.
…Faith is also some times the only thing you have left to hold onto after a horrible experience…
Today’s Psalm was most likely written under such a circumstance, for a group of folk who were going through a difficult time in history.
It was after the exile was over. Their country lay in shambles, their fields were dried up, and their economy was shot.
When they looked around there was little reason for hope or laughter. In fact, it would have been a good time to quit and walk away.
Since their present is bleak and their future unknowable, the psalmist invites them to look back: back over their story, from where they came and who their ancestors were.
By having them look back, he reminds them of all that has been accomplished by the grace of God.
In other words, this psalm is trying to say “Look at who else has ridden the rollercoaster of life and hear the ways in which God gave them a reason to shout “Yahoo!”
In today’s portion of the scripture, the psalmist tells about two key rollercoaster riders.
First there is Abraham. Abraham who spent most of his life childless, Abraham whose family tree was considered good as dead.
If you recall, it was Abraham who was told to get up to go; the Lord had a plan: that he would be the father of a nation.
It was to be a wild ride that God had in store for Abraham, a ride involving many twists and turns; a ride that would leave him and his wife and all the people’s laughing.
But it was not going to happen with Abraham sitting around, doing nothing.
Abraham would have to act; he would have to get onto the rollercoaster God had designed.
Same thing for Jacob. Do you remember how Jacob started off as a momma’s boy? While his brother was out in the world, hunting, Jacob preferred to stay inside.
When Jacob did act, it was through lies and deceit. He wasn’t so much on the ride as he was making life difficult for those riding it.
Eventually Jacob did get on the rollercoaster when he received assurance from God that he would not be deserted; later he would engage God in a wrestling match of strength and of will, in which he would have his name and life changed forever.
These two ancestors did not simply change the course of history because they had a faith in which they only felt, but because they had a faith in which they acted.
Sometimes they did the right thing, many times they did the wrong, but by golly they lived their faith as a verb and they made the nations yell “Yahoo!”
So; what is the point; why would the psalmist bother writing this song if their glory days seemed to be over?
Because if the people can recall the past, perhaps they can rejoice in the present and believe in a future.
The economy seems shot and things are looking dead?
Recall how God called forth a childless man and blessed him with enough ancestors to build a nation.
Current state of affairs make you feel like no one will ever take our nation serious again?
Recall how God called forth a momma’s boy who upset everyone around him, and used him to bless the world.
If God could do those things then, God could do them now, and God could certainly do them again.
But it will require more then sitting and hoping, it will involve actions that we do.
Actions like give, make, sing, tell, seek, and remember.
Ultimately, all these faithful actions come together for perhaps the ultimate act of faith: to praise.
In conclusion, life is a roller coaster, one that our ancestors have been on before.
There will be moments where you are pulled up, going higher and higher in which you’ll see how far you’ve come.
And there will be moments in which you will drop at lightening speeds with sharp turns and dips and jolts.
But you have to get on, and instead of allowing your fear to get the best of you, shout out “Yahoo!”
And something that could be scary can become fun; something that looks daunting, through God can became doable.
And who knows how you will bring smiles to all of those around you.
For that, we can give a big “Hallelujah!” and an “Amen!”