- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Lynn D. Cairns at Mill Creek Parish United Methodist Church in Rockville, Md.

Life is good, and we, as we are on the threshold of Thanksgiving, have so much to be thankful in our country. But life can also be so hard. The prayers this morning reflect some of the illnesses that we face. We know there is brokenness in relationship when someone lets us down or perhaps when we let someone down. Life can be very difficult.
And it's at times like that we turn to our faith. In those good times, we give thanks to God and ask God for guidance, because sometimes when things are going right in our lives, that's when we need to turn to God the most for guidance. And also to turn to God in those difficult times so that God can strengthen us and keep us true to our values and commitments, to help us find our way.
I suppose another way of saying this is the way one writer put it: "Life is a contact sport." It can get rather difficult sometimes. A few weeks ago we talked about the D.C. marathon. There comes a point in that race, even though you're sucking down those gel packs and popping Gatorade, that you hit the wall and you're totally expended. You're exhausted in body, mind and spirit, and it's only sheer determination that will keep that runner going. You ever hit the wall in life?
Life can be like that for us sometimes when we've hit the wall with relationships or discouragements or disappointments. And that's when we turn, I believe, to this passage we read this morning in 2 Thessalonians [1:1-4,11,12] and Romans [5:1-5], where Paul reminds us that we have the great gift of God's love and presence made known to us and experienced to us through Jesus Christ.
One of my professors in seminary talked of that faith and said, "It's an expectant faith, that God is present in the cosmos." Well, that's good hello out there, God. But he also said, "God is not stuck out there. God is involved in our world. God is involved in the affairs of human beings. God is involved in our lives, bringing about redemption and creation and re-creation and salvation in this life and the life to come. Yes indeed, Christian faith is an expectant faith."
And isn't there a great word of encouragement and hope there in that passage from Paul to the Christians in Rome or around the world?
He says we have that assurance, that great gift of faith, God's gift of the Spirit to us in life. And all through the Scriptures, this work of God, bringing about restoration in our lives, is the work of the Spirit. It's that gift of the Spirit that nurtures us and encourages us on the way. And Paul says when we face those tribulations, those difficulties, those pressures, that that Spirit is there to minister to us.
So what do we make of all this? Well, faith is a gift to others and to us, and as we look at others, we are inspired by what they have done.
Terry Mattingly wrote about Dr. Martin Luther King and what an inspiration he was to him, this man of peace and nonviolence. Mattingly says as you read his sermons, you can hear the echoes of gunshots, because we knew this man had threats upon his life and someone would try to assassinate him and indeed did. He also reminds us that Martin Luther King wrote that if we by the age of 30 haven't found something we're so determined to live by and for, then are we really willing to live?
Who has been an inspiration to you in carrying the faith?
Well, is this a good time for you in your life right now? Or is it a hard, difficult time that you're passing through? Or could it be a little mixture of each? Thank God for those good times because I believe they strengthen us, as do the difficult times.

Next week: A sermon preached by the Rev. Arthur F. Hebbeler III at the Church of the Abiding Presence in Beltsville.

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