Series B                                                   Pentecost XIII            August 26, 2012

John 6: 56-69

A  QUESTION  OF  TRUST?

Who do you trust?  Who do you trust to tell you the truth?  Who do you trust that you know will be loyal and faithful to the trust you put in them?

We all hear promises that we just know we should not believe as soon as we are told them, like:

“The check is in the mail.”

“I’ll start my diet tomorrow.”

“Leave your resume and we’ll keep it on file.”

“This hurts me more than it hurts you.”

“This will only take a minute.”

“Go ahead and tell me, I promise I won’t get mad.”

“I can keep a secret.”

“Trust me, I’ll take care of everything.”

“Don’t worry, I can get another 40 miles when the gauge is on ’empty.’”

 “It’s not the money, it’s the principle.”

Maybe you’ve heard some of them?

And maybe you’ve heard said, or even said yourself: “Promises, promises!”  Which usually means we don’t trust the other to do what they say they will do …  “Promises, promises!”  Of course, these are cynical words.  Words that probably arise from the disappointment of promises previously broken.  Such cynicism is not unusual.  Just about everybody has suffered the sting of another’s broken promise, and maybe the same number have failed to fulfill all the promises they, themselves have made.

Who of us actually expects the weatherman to always be right?  And who really trusts advertisers to really live up to all the claims they make for their products on television?  And does anyone really believe all the campaign rhetoric they hear during an election?  So, we are not strangers to broken promises.

And yet, it’s certainly not fair to condemn everyone in a category because of the actions of a few.  Most people’s opinions of politicians are less than benevolent.  Yet not all politicians are untrustworthy.  John F. Kennedy tells the story of Senator Edmund G. Ross in his book, PROFILES IN COURAGE.  He’s an unknown hero who stuck to his principles and affected the course of our government.

Andrew Johnson had succeeded Abraham Lincoln as President after Lincoln was assassinated.  But unlike the warm and modest Lincoln, Johnson was less skilled in diplomacy and reconciliation.  He had many enemies.  And Johnson was a Democrat wrestling with an overwhelmingly Republican Senate.  The Republican Party Leadership decided to run him out of office by inventing false charges of crimes against him.  Based on these charges, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him, and the Senate only needed a two-thirds vote against him to finish the job.  But to everyone’s surprise, six Republican Senators decided to vote in Johnson’s favor.  They couldn’t, in good conscience, falsely convict the man, even if they did dislike him.  With these six voting against impeachment, only one more vote would make or break the two-thirds margin.  And that’s where Senator Ross comes in.

Ross, a Republican Senator from Kansas, would not announce his final decision on the vote.  The members of his party prodded him mercilessly to go along with them and announce his intention to vote for impeachment.  It was no secret that Ross didn’t like Johnson.  But he was concerned about the issues of truth and justice in the trial, and what it would mean if Congress gained this kind of power over the Presidency.  Senator Ross endured attempted bribes, threats, and ostracism.  On May 16, 1868, Edmund G. Ross added his vote to that of the other six Republicans and all the Democrats, preventing a two-thirds majority that would have impeached the President.  An innocent man was acquitted, and the balance of power was restored in our government.  But of the Republicans who voted their conscience, they lost their party support and not a single one was re-elected to the Senate.  They sacrificed their political careers for the sake of the truth.

Our country has had many men and women of conscience who have served us well in the halls of government.  But because of a few bad apples, used car salesmen and politicians do have a reputation for not always telling the truth.  But how many of us sometimes do the same thing?

Have you ever heard anyone say: “He’s riding for the Brand” and “I’d go to the well with him.”  They are cowboy terms.  “Riding for the Brand” meant that a cowboy was loyal to the owner or “brand” for which he rode.  “Going to the well with” grew out of custom.  When the early settlers expected an attack by Indians or outlaws, they would gather at one farm in order to pool their fire power.  Food and water were stored in the cabin or ranch house.  If the siege was prolonged they often would run short on water.  One man would be selected to go to the well for water.  In turn, he chose the man he trusted most to go along and guard him.  Hence the saying “I’d go to the well with him.”

Who are the people you would trust to go to the well with you?

Many of those who had followed Jesus were drifting away.  His message was too radical.  His demands too great.  Jesus turns to the twelve disciples and asked, “Do you also wish to go away?”

Simon Peter answered,

“Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Simon and the remaining disciples had come to know that they could trust Jesus.  They had come to see that there was no one else on earth who could give them what they really longed for.  He was the Messiah–the Holy One of God.

We all need someone we can trust.  But what happens when there is no trust?

One day the telephone rang in the office of Honeywell and Jones.  “May I speak to Mr. Jones?” the caller asked.  “I’m sorry, sir,” said the receptionist, “but Mr. Jones is out of town for the day.”  “Then, may I speak to Mr. Honeywell?” asked the caller.  “I’m afraid Mr. Honeywell is tied up for the day,” replied the receptionist, “and can’t come to the phone.”  The caller lost his temper.  “What kind of office is that?” he screamed.  “Mr. Jones is out of town and Mr. Honeywell is tied up all day.”  “Yes, sir,” replied the receptionist, unabashed.  “When Mr. Jones goes away he always ties Mr. Honeywell up.” 

What about you? Do you have someone you can really trust?  Your spouse.  The people you work with?  It is not a secure feeling to be around people you know you can’t trust.

Jesus said on one occasion, “The truth will set you free!”  (John 8:32)  And that’s true.  There is nothing in the world more freeing than to have a friend, a spouse, someone you are around a great deal, that you can have complete confidence in.  This is one person who will always tell you the truth.

The disciples discovered such a person in Jesus.  After so many others left, Jesus asked them if they would leave him and Simon Peter answered,

“Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

And that’s why you and I are here today.  We, too, have found that we can trust Jesus.  Though others may let us down, he never will.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

A fire occurred years ago in a hotel in Chicago.  Flames and smoke blocked the normal escape routes.  One report told of a group of people on the tenth floor who went out on a balcony to escape the smoke, but found they were trapped there.  It looked as if they were doomed.  However, one man in the group braved the smoke and went back into the building.  Fortunately, he found an exit to a fire escape.  He made his way back through the smoke and flames and led those who would follow him to safety.  Can you imagine believing one moment you were going to die and then having someone come to you and say, “I know the way, follow me to safety?”  This is what our gospel says to us: Here is One who knows the way to safety and life.  Here is One who can deliver you.  Here is One who can save you.  Follow him, and you will live.

Now, there is a sad footnote to that story about the Chicago hotel fire.  When the man came back to the group on that balcony, some refused to go with him.  They didn’t trust him, so they didn’t follow him.  They stayed on that balcony — and eventually they died.  Life was there for them, but they refused to accept it, and they perished.

To be desperate for help, have that help come, but end up refusing it out of a lack of trust, is tragic.  But that is what confronts every one of us through the Gospels.  Can we trust Jesus?  Jesus has the words of eternal life that can save us from sin, death, and the devil.  Words that can save every one of us: for no one is beyond Christ’s ability to save, from the most pious of saints, to the most wicked of sinners.  We only need to believe and know that Jesus is  “the Holy One of God”.

Hopefully in your life you have a lot of people you can rely on, you can trust.  But no matter what your experience has been with others and your ability to trust them … there is one who will never let your trust down —  that is Jesus — When you believe and know that he is the Holy One of God, your salvation is assured!                        AMEN