I was invited to preach at an all-campus service at the beginning of the semester. It was amazing to see the big auditorium in the student union completely filled. It was wonderful. It was incredibly encouraging. As I mention at the beginning of the sermon, I believe a preacher should be bringing the message that the congregation needs to hear and that is difficult when you are not regularly in that communion. This was a gathering of all the evangelical student groups on campus, one of only two times each year that they get together for unified worship. I agree with my daughter who said, “I wish it was once a month instead.” So I am not sure if this message was for them or for me, but I would like to have heard this sermon when I was a student.
Finally, I have decided to post it here, a month later, because this morning I read Frederick Buechner’s sermon “Message in the Stars” from his collectionSecrets in the Dark. It is all about faith as well. He speculates about the sort of story he would write where one day God rearranges the stars to read “God Is.” He says, towards the end he would have a child look up at the stars, then say,
“I would have him turn to God himself, and the words that I would have him speak would be words to make the angels gasp. “So what if God exists?” he would say. “What difference does that make?” And in the twinkling of an eye the message would fade away for good and the celestial music would be heard no more, or maybe they would continue for centuries to come, but it would no longer make any difference.”
In many ways his sermon is much better than mine. He concludes, in part with this reflection on what we really need.
“It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but, whether we use religious language for it or not, the experience of God’s presence. ”
And that is where I will begin my sermon. That we have lost our faith because we have set it aside in the quest for “evidence that demands a verdict” the objective proof of God.
We Have Lost Our Faith
I am truly thankful and humbled to have been asked to be your preacher this morning because this is why I went into academia. When I started out in college, as some of you know, I was a chemistry major on my way to med school. Until I wasn’t, which took all of about 2 months to realize. I won’t bore you with the long and draw out version of the story, but I will jump to my last year in college. I knew by then that I loved history and literature, that I had found my niche in studying how people read and interpreted the Bible. But I wasn’t sure whether I was called to the ministry or the academy. I reflected upon the fact that I knew very few faculty in the humanities and social sciences who were faithful Christians (as it happened our InterVarsity advisor was a professor of Chemistry) and I wanted to be there for other students, there in the secular academic world, to help them through the challenges to their faith.
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