Everything that is around us is beautiful! The birds are singing and spring is coming, so it’s nice to remind ourselves how beautiful it is, how grateful you are and how we should always be thankful. It is very important to understand that everything that is happening in our lives is somehow connected with God. This is very important. It’s not just a theory, it is our faith statement. Everything that is going around in us is connected with God. It is a perspective, to see what is happening in our lives. You can say, and a lot of people think that whatever is happening in our lives is random events. It just happens. Nothing to do with anything else, just random events.
The Faith of the Israelites
You can see it that way, but Israelites, somehow they didn’t see it that way. Very special people from a long time ago, they never saw it that way. They never saw whatever that was happening in their lives as just random events. It is a built-in somehow in their nation. It is built-in their consciousness in their existence, in their soul! Everything that happened in their lives was connected with God. That’s what they believed. They had a particular perspective on their history. There were like this since Abraham. Somehow God started something with Abraham, but ever has ever since Abraham, the whole nation somehow had this consciousness that everything that is happening in their lives is connected with God. The consciousness that their history and God’s promise were intricately related, intimately intertwined! So they didn’t see it as “There is God’s promise and there is history!”. No, they didn’t see it that way! Somehow God’s promise and their history are intricately intertwined, connected! You cannot separate it! Somehow. I don’t know how they had this kind of consciousness, so I am almost envious. Is he ingrained in them? They don’t even have to try. It’s just there, in them. You can see that clearly into today’s scripture passage. As they reflected on their history, they saw that God was very much part of it. They recognize that they were just wandering Arameans, nomads! Nobody is significant. They were just wandering from one place to another place. A very small group of people, riding horses or whatever, there was just wandering Arameans! But somehow, they believe that God made them a great nation! This is what they say: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.” (Deuteronomy 26:5 NRSV). Somehow, these wandering Aramaeans, insignificant people, God made into a great nation. It’s like how we’re just Korean immigrants, but somehow God blessed them.
God is Still With Us
And when they suffered oppression from the Egyptians, they also believed that it was God who brought them out of that bondage and let them enter into the land flowing with milk and honey. Everything that is happening in their lives, somehow God was there! Let’s read: “When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 26:6-9). It is not they who decided. “Life is too hard here. Let’s go to another land!”. That’s not what he did. God brought them out of Egypt, they didn’t even know where they were going! But somehow God brought them out of Egypt and then let them enter into the land flowing with milk and honey. They don’t see it as their decision, they don’t see it as something that they did! It was God who did it. Very particular view about history. God is right there, very much in their history and they regurgitated that history over and over and over again! They created festivals, sacrifices, and worship and every worship, every festival, they remembered and they reminded themselves of what God did for their ancestors. Why would they regurgitate their history and their past so much? Because somehow they turn their memory into their confession!
Turning Memories into Confession
Memory was not just a memory, but memory into their confession. When they said that God liberated their ancestors from the bondage, they also implied that the same God would liberate them from their own bondage. So the memory of their ancestors is turned into their confession that God will also bring them out of bondage. Very smart people. Even when they were in Babylonian exile when they lost their land, their lot, they lost their nationality, their temple, they lost everything! They were in Babylonian exile and even there, they continuously celebrated Passover. What is Passover? Passover is celebrating God who brought them out of Egypt. Even during the Babylonian exile, they celebrated Passover, the memory of their ancestor’s liberation! But they didn’t just remember, that memory was a dangerous memory! That memory was that God will bring us out of this Babylonian exile too! The same God will do that. That’s what they confessed. So memory became confession. Memory became faith! It is all to do with faith ingrained within them. They effectively remembered their past, the history of salvation and liberation, so for them, history was not in the past. History was right there. History is not just gone. History is living alive right now, right here
In their celebration, the gap between the past and the present has become nullified. There’s no more gap between the past and the present. It is just an event. Is that event in the past? It is just an event. To God, temporality is not that important. When it happened is not that important. They understood that kind of God, whether it happened 2000 years ago, 4,000 years ago, it doesn’t matter! It’s just an event. That’s what’s important. Not when it happened. The gap has gone. In their celebration, past, present, and future, all come together as one event. The event of salvation. Salvation in the past becomes salvation now. Through the eyes of faith, they saw God who was in their history. Through the eyes of faith, they saw that the same God was working in their lives now. That’s what faith is. Faith is not about your emotion or your action. Their faith was built-in their existence. Everything in their lives, they saw it in that way. Their faith was based on their historical evidence. God was good, and God is good, and God will be good! They just firmly believe that even now they still believe that. Through the eyes of faith, you can see that our lives tonight depend on random happenings.
We are not Victims of Random Events
We are not the victims of random events that are happening in our lives. Yes, lots of random things happen in our lives, but underneath there is one thing that is constant, that is God’s constant care. God takes care of us. God will never leave us alone to be victims of our random circumstances, and believing in that is faith. Faith is not how you feel about God. Faith is not about how spiritual you are. Faith is about God who will ultimately deliver us from our bondage. Today’s the first Sunday in Lent. During the Lent period, we remember, as I said, we remember the dangerous memory. We remember the cross. The cross was imposed upon Jesus. Death was imposed upon Jesus, but even the cross could not kill Jesus. Even death cannot kill Jesus, because God was there. God brought Jesus from the bondage of death and when we remember that, we also believe that the same God is working in us right now.
No matter how difficult life may be, we are not just victims of random happenings in our lives. The same God who worked in Jesus is working right now in me and in you. This is what Saint Paul said: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead…” (referring to the past) “dwells in you…” (referring to the present), “he who raised Christ from the dead will…” (referring to the future), “give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11 NRSV). In this short passage, past, present, and future are all together one event: resurrection. That’s what we are celebrating during Lent.
Having A Built-In Faith
Believing that gives us tremendous power and confidence. We are not scared of our sufferings anymore. We do not let our present sufferings define our lives. We always have hope because God is with us. In the same chapter. Saint Paul said: ” I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” (Romans 11:18). That is faith! Present suffering is not compared to the glory that will be revealed in the future. The same God who worked in history is working right now with you and will work with you until the end.
Believing all that is faith. Faith that is ingrained within us. God has been good, God is good, and God will be good! I hope that we have this built-in face. This built-in faith is God’s gift to those whom God has chosen. It is not something that you can cultivate. It is not something that you can decide! It is not something that you can learn. It is just a gift from God. As God gave that gift to these Israelites ever since Abraham, God gave us that same gift, the gift of faith. For those who have this faith, you don’t make life. Life who will be open to you. Life will open up for you. You don’t have to create life. Life’s door will be wide open for those who have this faith. I hope that your life becomes open rather having to struggle to make life. I hope that your life just opens up for you. For those who believe, life will open up. Have that faith, have that trust.