And Yet

Sunday, September 5, 2021
Pastor Arne Bergland

Hebrews 11:1, 12:1-2

Last week in worship Pastor Deb announced the Congregational theme for this coming year which is “And Yet.”  “And Yet” recognizes the tension that exists between the reality of our lives and God’s promises.  I am excited that together we have the opportunity for deep reflection on this theme.  In the midst of our lives how do we live into God’s promise?

Today I want to focus on the reality of those faithful people who have gone before us. We can consider how our vantage point is different than theirs and that vantage point makes a difference.  Where we stand and when we stand and who we follow shapes our reality. I want to do this  while reflecting on what faith is. What does it mean to live with hope in Gods’ promise?

I stand a full foot taller than my wife.  We have often joked that we planned it that way so I could clean high, and she could clean low.  Vantage point makes a difference.

My grandparents have all been gone since the early 1970’s.  From time to time, I have wondered what they would think if they were to suddenly reappear in 2021.  What would they think about the cars of today and the freeways  they drive on for example, or the programs on TV?  They lived with a radically different vantage point. Vantage point makes a difference

Today’s college freshmen have never known a world without cell phones. All of our great- grandparents grew up with latest technology of party lines and crank phones.  Vantage point makes a difference.

Let me share with you a poem by Joyce Johnston Rouse

“I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me I am stronger for their courage, I am wiser for their words
I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future
I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth

We are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us They are saints, and they are humans, they are angels, they are friends We can see beyond the struggles and the troubles and the challenge When we know that by our efforts things will be better in the end.”

If you go into the library here at Augustana you will find an array of pictures of all the clergy that have served here since the church was founded in 1907. The pictures are mostly old Swedish men many of whom look pretty darn serious. These pastors have led this congregation through the years. Their vantage point changed over time. There was the 1917 Flu epidemic, the great depression, two world wars, Korea as well as Vietnam.  One pastor might have known Roberts Street as a dirt road passing through farmland. From that vantage point they would never have imagined what Roberts Street has come to be today.  Another pastor might have known the suffragette movement and the move towards women’s right to vote never imagining a women vice president.

These pastors and the congregations they served had a particular vantage point, the reality they lived in has changed radically. AND YET  They had   an unfailing confidence in the promise of God.  Augustana is here today because those who have gone before us wanted the world to know about the love of God. Through all the realities that shaped their lives that faith was a constant that may have wavered from time to time but it never changed.

Pastor Huggenvik was my childhood pastor. When my father died, he became a second father to me.  He was a Norwegian pietist, pretty like the Swedish pietists who have led this congregation from time to time. Those old pietists were a conservative lot.  They were filled with the love of the Gospel, but they were conservative.  Pastor Huggenvik for example, did not allow girls to serve as acolytes.  When acolytes started to wear tennis shoes in worship, he put a stop to that as well.  He ended up living in Sun City West in Phoenix.  I visited him several years ago and went to his morning coffee group. These were a group of a half dozen retired Norwegian pietist pastors.  Their conversation that day consisted of a long list of complaints about the state of Lutheran Churches. When one of them said, “This certainly isn’t MY church anymore,” I had to respond.  “Well,” I said,” you are right, but it has never been YOUR church, it is Jesus’s church.”  That pretty much ended the conversation, they knew I was right. Realities may change but God’s promise does not. Your reality shapes who you are, it may change from time to time, AND YET it is God’s promise that abides.

We stand on the shoulders of those faithful people who lived into Gods promise because they knew that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Depending on who does the counting there are hundreds of God’s promises found in scripture. At the edge of the Red Sea Moses and the Israelites see pharaohs army pursing them. They are certain to be captured. And yet.  God makes a way. Childless in their old age Abraham and Sarah have no one to carry on their name.  And yet… along comes Isaac.  Little David, a poor shepherd boy faces off with the giant philistine warrior Goliath. Certain to lose this death match…and yet God brings him the victory.  A hemorrhaging woman, suffering for years, and yet touching the hem of his garment ,Jesus heals her and gives her life back to her. Facing the harsh realities of a broken world God’s promise is certain that we might live into the reality of God’ intentions.

It is Labor Day weekend.  We all know what is coming.  Students will be returning to classes.  The transition begins from baseball to football. Leaves begin to turn. Cooler nights  signal the approaching winter. For churches September marks the resumption of a host of activities replete with worship schedule changes, confirmation classes, choirs begin to practice again.

We don’t have any idea what tomorrow will bring in terms of the pandemic.  We pray for those impacted by this week’s hurricane. We hope and we dream that the wildfires in the west will subside. We pray for our soldiers and the people of Afghanistan This may be your first Sunday back at Augustana for a while.  You have discovered that it is Pastor Arne and not Pastor Aune who is in the pulpit.  That reality has changed. While I share your faith that God has a senior pastor in mind for you, we don’t know who or when.  AND YET, we may stand on the shoulders of our mothers and fathers in the faith. AND YET our reality, our vantage point, different as it may be gives us  confidence to live into Gods promise.

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