September 9, 2018 THREE KINDS OF FAITH

September 9,18 BLVD relocated to the church

THREE KINDS OF FAITH

James 14-26

I was looking through a concordance about the word ‘faith’ and found many pages devoted to ‘faith, faithful, faithfully, faithlessness, and faithless.” So many examples are found in Scripture for each of them. There are faithful servants. There are faithless people. There are some who faithfully kept on the journey that are recorded in Scripture.

Faith is a word that Christians have in their vocabulary because it sets us apart from others. It guides our lives, it strengthens us, it gives us courage, and when we seem down and out, our faith keeps us going. We sing about the faith of our fathers that have touched our hearts and souls. We may not talk about faith very much, but if it wasn’t for faith, we would be lost. Our faith in God reminds us that there is a God, that his son did come to this earth as a man, and suffered on the cross, died, and on the third day rose again. It is by faith that we believe that. We weren’t around when all this happened, but by faith believed it did. Our faith helps us believe the stories we read in the Bible. Our faith helps us believe that there is a God who cares for us. Our faith helps us understand that though we don’t understand it all, we believe and trust in what God’s word says. I use some of those signs that I have at home and in my office to remind me what faith is. When I see them, well, they just brighten my mind and soul. One says, “Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.” It’s like okay, I don’t know what heaven is like because I have not experienced it yet, but I believe it’s there. I may not know what hell is like, but I believe that it is a place I certainly don’t want to experience for the rest of my life. I haven’t seen either one, but I know which one I would want to spend eternity, and I know which one I am on a journey to finish the course. 

Another thing about faith. Faith teaches us to trust, to believe, to dream, to accept, to dare to go the next step. God calls us to step out in faith in many things, and in many ways. There are great examples of faith in the Bible. Hebrews 11 is filled with a variety of characters whose faith got them in that chapter. They weren’t all giants. They weren’t all named. But because of their faith they are referred to, not to fill up space, but to let the readers of Hebrews understand there are those who went before them and hung on to their faith in tough times. By faith they did great things for God, or withstood the suffering, or died for the cause of Christianity. By faith they kept the faith.

Sure, we have the biggies, like Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the list goes on right down to modern day people of faith we know and have read about. Their faith helps our faith to become strong. We also have the little people who did small things, and that’s what the Book of Judges is all about. Sampson and Gideon are a few names you might recognize, but there are others who became judges for God to do what he called them to do. People God raised up and called for a task he needed to have done. We see sometimes they fail, sometimes they win, but in the end, they are in the Bible as examples for we who try our best to walk the walk by faith.

This sermon today was to be uptown as the closing for the Williamsville Festival. But the rains came, and the people didn’t. And ever since they have had the Williamsville Festival it comes at a time that we remember two things. It reminds us of the 911 attack that happened 17 years ago. The second is the tornado that hit Williamsville and did some damage in this town. Our country survived. This community survived. By faith, one could say, we came together as a country and a community. By faith the Christian church rebuilt, and so did those who lost their homes. By faith our country continued not letting our enemy get the best of us. 

So, every time we come to this celebration that is what I am reminded. It isn’t just the same time to worship. It’s a special time. Those things are long gone but the effects of both still are around us. The towers gone in New York, but there is a light in remembrance. The town is back, so is the Christian church. It isn’t just a time to bring people to Williamsville for just a festival. It’s really a time to bring people to Williamsville in celebration of a town who had faith to keep on keeping on, and a country that still is strong. We might say by faith our country rose from the ashes of 911 to become stronger. By faith people pulled together to be rejuvenated and get on with their lives. Our country didn’t collapse, nor did this town. Like many who have suffered through storms, fires, losing homes, losing lively-hoods this year, we all have much in common. They shed tears for what is, but by faith many of them have picked up the pieces and moved on with hope. 

Faith. That’s a strange word at times. It can be used differently at times. Faith is something that you can’t see, but you believe in. You get on an airplane and by faith you believe you will get to your destination. Faith is that part of you that says yes, I can with God’s help when things happen in your lives. I have some signs on my office walls that say that ‘Faith makes things possible, not easy.’ That ‘Faith is not believing that God can—it is knowing He will.’ Reminders I need to see daily. You see, faith, Christian faith is believing in a person who is mightier than we are. It is not looking at our situation but turning toward the end results as we walk by faith.

Faith is the backbone of our lives. By faith, we receive Jesus in our lives. By Faith, we take Jesus’ hand on the journey of faith. By faith, we look to the future knowing he is guiding us. We step out by faith to go where Jesus leads us. By faith, we believe, we trust, we walk. By faith, Moses lead God’s people to the Promised Land. By faith, Noah spent years building an ark so that when the rains fell, and floods came he, his family, the animals etc. could be saved. By faith, Abraham took his family and headed for new lands God was giving them. By faith, the disciples left their fishing business, their other employment, their families to follow Jesus. 

It’s easy to say one is a Christian. But here is the kicker. It takes more than words to live the Christian faith, to walk where God wants you to walk, to do what God wants you to do, to speak when God asks you to do so, to stand-up for Christian principles when confronted by the worldly things we see and hear. It takes faith to go through the trials and testing that God might lead you into. It takes faith to believe when you can’t see around the next bend.

Today the Book of James says to us these words about faith:

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 

21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

By faith we have gathered in remembrance and in celebration, remembering the stories, and as God’s children connecting ourselves to others with the same faith that continues to guide us. We hold our heads high because we have a higher power that knows all, sees all, directs all, and in whom we trust. Even our currency tells us about faith in God because engraved on it is the words, “In God We Trust.”

With that in mind this morning, there are different kinds of faith. There is DEAD FAITH, DYNAMIC FAITH, but most of all, there is one faith that keeps them all together, and that is called SALVATION FAITH.

First James talks about DEAD FAITH. He says, “What good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds…. If faith is not accomplished by action it is dead.”

It’s easy to say you believe in something. Or as the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” The proof is when you do something about it. It’s easy to say the words, but as we know, it’s much harder to live by those words. 

 The faith that James wants us to have is the faith that doesn’t just say we have faith, but it is a faith that goes into action.

The other day in our Conference paper our Bishop issued a challenge to churches to walk by faith by doing as our founder lived by. He reminds us that as those called Methodists we are called to ‘do all the good you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can, and love God with all your heart, mind and soul.’ In other words, putting your faith into action. We just don’t believe. We act to make this world a better place, even if it is in our own little corner of the world.  Because of his salvation, John Wesley formed a group of people called Methodist who changed the world, that stopped a war, that reached out to the lost, the lonely, the heartbroken, those who were destitute and others as well. Faith, for John Wesley was bringing Christ to others through word and deed. It’s like that saying that goes, “Don’t just tell me you love me, show me you do.”

Faith means we are Jesus’ hands, his feet, his voice wherever we are. So as James asks, is our faith a dead faith, where we say we believe, yet we sit on the sidelines while others are hurting, or are in need?

Second, there is a DYNAMIC FAITH, a faith that is strong, a faith that truly puts into action what one believes. That is, you keep going. You live the life of a Christian and aren’t wishy-washy about what you believe. It is a faith that springs forth because you have that salvation faith, you see that need and you take action.

Ok, who could be our example? One could be Abraham and Sarah who by faith in God they picked up their things and traveled where God led them. By faith, they also trusted God that one day he would give them a child and eventually it happened. It took years before at age 90 for Sarah, and 100 for Abraham, that the promised child was born. And the disciples? How dynamic was there faith following Pentecost….?

James mentions some of the people with that dynamic faith, a faith that stands out. James mentions Rahab as such a person. She was a prostitute in the city of Jericho when the spies went to check it out before Joshua and his troops began their invasion. When the spies were found out they went to hide and ended up in Rahab’s place seeking shelter. She hid those spies, and by faith, she tied a scarlet strand outside her window so that when they attacked they would see that strand and remember their promise not to harm her or her family.

 They often did little things, or stood their ground, or died for their faith, or weren’t afraid to speak out to others about their faith. Stephen is one who was arrested after Pentecost for being a believer. He was a servant of the people, of the disciples. By faith when he was arrested and stood trial he stood before the big wig religious leaders and told them what they did not want to hear, that they were the ones who rejected the one that had come to save them. They put to death the one that had come to offer forgiveness to them and the whole world. By the time he got to the end of his message, why, they shouted him down, beat him, and took him outside to stone him. But even in that, he kept telling his story of salvation, and looking to heaven he could see God, and he took the blows of each rock hurled at him and it was if the pain was gone as he prayed, ‘Lord forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.’ And with a smile on his face. With a joy in his heart. He last words on this earth were used to seek forgiveness for those who just didn’t get it. One of whom was Saul, who later became Paul, the great missionary to the world. A hymn comes to mind that goes like this: “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross. Lift high the royal banner it must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory his army shall he lead, till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.

The church universal needs people like that. It doesn’t need believers who rise and sink with each wave. God looks for those who are available, who are trainable, who take their faith seriously. People who don’t just say they are Christians, but who live the Christian live. They not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk, their lives show it.  

When 911 happened, many songs were written about this country. They were songs that reminded us to be strong, that we would get through it, because we are Americans, from a country that is free, who band together to face the opposition. Our hymnal is full of such songs of those who came through various trials and tribulation, who stayed the course, and who wrote songs for us to sing in victory with them. 

That brings us full circle, because we can’t leave out SALVATION FAITH, the one that makes us followers of Jesus. This is the commitment faith where one believes with their whole heart and soul that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, redeemer of the world, who lived, who died, who rose again, and lives today. And because he changes lives, we can  take the message of the cross, the message of salvation, the message of hope to others. We believe, not by sight, but by faith that one day all this will come to and end and God will bring all his children to live with him in a place where the streets are made of gold, and there is no darkness, nor sin, nor illness, nor death any more. We Christians call that heaven, a place where God dwells, and all the people who have found salvation faith and persevere to the end shall live. We will join the ranks of those in Hebrew 11, the unknown heroes of the faith who took the journey, upheld the faith, and followed Jesus right into eternity.

So yes, we have three kinds of faith, if we don’t put it to work, it’s a dead faith. If we keep strong and believe even though we can’t see, that’s dynamic faith, and it is all held together by the greatest faith, and that is salvation faith believing and receiving Jesus, and that Jesus has set us free. 

God’s words for us this morning as we prepare to go about our journey to wherever God leads us. Like remembering 911, remembering the tornado and rebuilding of this community, we remember the one who gave us life that we shall life in hope by faith.

So, shall it be!

Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor
About Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor

Reverend Richard Piscatelli, (Pastor Dick) has been serving this church since 2006 and has begun his 13th year at Williamsville. Dick is a graduate of Asbury College, 1980, now Asbury University, and Asbury Theological Seminary, 1983, in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, he and his wife, Carole, have enjoyed living in the Midwest and have made many friends here. Dick’s first appointment was to Buffalo/Dawson UMCs, a two-point charge, which he served for almost 8 years when he was appointed to Paris Trinity UMC. He served at Paris for 6 years and was then appointed to First UMC at St. Elmo in southern Illinois. Dick’s final full-time appointment was to Roanoke/Secor UMCs, a two-point charge. These churches brought much satisfaction and lasting relationships in each. Williamsville UMC has been a joy to serve as he actually began his first church in “retirement,” and is very much involved in all areas of ministry, as the Lord leads. Pastor Dick has a special gift for doing Celebrations of Life and comforting the family. He prepares uplifting, inspiring sermons in a more casual and relaxed style, using humor when appropriate, yet ever-mindful of the importance of bringing the Gospel message for the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to all.