Guided By Faith

Sunday, October 11, 2020
Intern Michael Poeschl

Exodus 32: 1-14

Dear Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Without God as our guide we venture into the unknown with uncertainty and fear.  Deciding which path to take is difficult when we think of ourselves first and forget about God.  Faith is having the courage to let God have control.   With God first, there is no substitute.   Whether you have an easy path or a path that is uncertain, trust in God to guide you.

Moses led God’s people into the desert, which was difficult and required faith. Even though they complained along the way, their fears were comforted and their bodies fed because Moses was their leader, a constant reminder to keep faithful. They were not alone.

God was there, leading them with a smoky cloud during the day and a bright fire at night. They walked together, deep in the wilderness, with much to fear, but God’s presence encouraged them to follow. At Mt. Sinai, Moses was gone for 40 days and they felt abandoned. Threatened by unknowns their panic made them question their faith.  Could they remain faithful to God or would they go back to relying on themselves?

At the people’s request, Aaron made them an idol, the Golden Calf.  Their quick decision to worship the Golden Calf, to faithlessly override God’s plan, instantly fractured their relationship with God. God knew this and ordered Moses to return to his people at once. Burning with wrath God wanted to punish them and Moses asked for mercy.  God knows what we are thinking and doing.   When we try to follow a “better plan” or think we know better than God, we put faith in ourselves. When the road ahead seems uncertain, following God is the faithful choice.  The Israelites turned to the Golden Calf, not God. Turning away from God, turns us away from God’s promise for us.

How do we stay on the right path with God?

Since March I have had moments of doubt about where God is guiding me. Covid-19, Racial Injustice, and wondering what my internship would look like in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest.

When I first applied for internship in February I was excited to meet Pastor Aune and hear about Augustana.  I heard about “Ridiculous Generosity” and I wanted to be a part of a congregation that practiced that, along with your rich tradition of welcoming seminarians as Pastor Interns.  Augustana felt like a good fit for me and a place to use my life experiences. I was looking forward to worshipping together, singing together, and learning together. In March I was notified that I would be the next Pastor Intern at Augustana and my prayers were answered. In the next few months, with the pandemic statistics reaching new high levels and racial injustice in our own neighborhoods, I wondered how my internship might change.

My faith has been challenged. I don’t have the answers, but I continue to love and trust God.  Faith allows me to share in the lives of other people, using my ability to listen to their story and share how God is there for us.  I have faith that God is working through me at Augustana, helping me to find new ways to connect and teaching me how to be a pastor.  While we aren’t gathering in the sanctuary; drive-in worship, online worship, and virtual gatherings are all becoming a part of how we relate to each other. Through these new ways of connecting, I trust that God is guiding me, making my path towards the future.

In an effort to protect each other from the spread of Covid-19; it has been much more difficult to maintain relationships.  Racial awareness and privilege divide us by revealing deep seated fears.  Our church community longs to be together.  We want our safe familiar normal, but what was once normal is a thing of the past.  Even with these tremendous challenges, we can take comfort that God loves us and we are safe in this new wilderness.

God is guiding us in many new ways. What was Zoom nine months ago? Who knew you  could have a Zoom family reunion. I was getting to know my neighbors as we checked in on each other. On family walks I saw my neighborhood in a new way.  When my kids came home early from college, we had the opportunity to create newer and stronger relationships.  I had to care for my own parents in a way that they had not needed in the past. I am sure all of you have had changes in relationships and your environment as you navigated our new normal. None of this would have been apparent if we hadn’t been led through this wilderness. Through God all things are possible. If we keep waiting for the old normal to return, we might miss the new normal where God is guiding us.

I wonder how many of you are feeling this same way?

Can we open our hearts to the possibilities that God has for us, even though we really don’t know where we are going?

When we place our trust in God, we can.

God listens when we share the hopes and dreams in our hearts.  The story of the Golden Calf shows how we hedge our bets when we feel unsure and try to find a quick fix.  Even while Moses was up with God, getting the 10 Commandments, God knew what was in the Israelites’  hearts. The Israelites believed that they had made life “normal” again. God had reason to be angry, but as a result of Moses advocating for them, God chose not to end his relationship with them.  When we trust God, who has given us everything, it creates the possibility of being faithful stewards.

Stewardship is about sharing God’s abundant gifts with one another. When I am guided by my faith in God, and my life is centered around Jesus Christ, I enjoy helping people and treating them with love.  I share this loving relationship with others because of my faith and trust in God. When I follow God I receive blessings; my wife, my family, and my internship at Augustana. These are gifts from God and answers to my prayers.  Stewardship provides for the Ripple Effect of Faith. My family participates in our stewardship planning and what we decide to give has a cumulative effect, like another pebble that creates a ripple, joining other ripples, and  forming a wave of generosity.

Every year my wife and I sit down to go over our finances.  While they are not complicated, we look at our budget deciding how much we will need; food, clothing, energy, including how much money we will give to the church.  I typically give 5 percent of our yearly income, off the top. Over the past five years we have gone to giving less due to University tuition for two of my children, seminary tuition, and expensive unexpected repairs to our home and cars. Our giving plan is one of our important obligations that involves our relationship to God and God’s church.  To quote our Stewardship brochure,  “Guided by Faith, Trust that God will provide in all circumstances so we can be generous in all circumstances.”

Giving back to God feels good.  Giving together as a family creates our relationship to all that Augustana does.

I am now part of Augustana, participating and learning through our generous and effective programs that benefit this congregation, its neighbors, and the world.

Think about what you love here at Augustana, and how much that means to you.  God is with us here.  I trust that my money, like yours, is creating the possibilities to share God’s love for one another, creating that Ripple Effect of Faith. I put my faith in God who has led me here, to Augustana.  Thank you for answering my prayers. Your generous giving is needed and appreciated both near and far. Thank you for taking the time to plan and give generously.

I pray that you are guided by your faith in God.

God will guide us forever.


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