Readings: Psalm 25:1-6; Romans 5: 1-5; Matthew 12:9-21
Over the years I have often spent time with people who have been nearing the end of their lives. Thankfully there have not been too many children. It’s hard to explain to little children what we believe about time and eternity. I remember when teaching year 2s how one little boy asked me one day during the lesson: “Is David dead?” speaking of King David in the Bible. “O yes” I replied, “a long time ago!” Then the questions came: “When was he alive?” “Did he die as long ago as when I was small? How long is a thousand years?”
With adults – when you’ve lived a long life – dying seems easier to face, although it can still be a fearful thing. And HOPE is always factored in – the HOPE of life after death. For Christians, it’s the certainty.
Hope isn’t just a concept when we’re dying. It’s something we have when the stuff we are facing each day feels like death! Like a long lesson for young people at school – or a boring sermon in church (I recall seeing a whole book about things you can do during a boring sermon) – or a difficult task at work, or the prospect of the day being long and uninspiring, or lonely. The HOPE of Friday and the weekend seem to keep many people going. And also those who are hopeful as they look forward to Christmas and the holidays!
In the readings tonight – we read David’s words in Psalm 25: No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Hope here is closer to trust. His enemies were real and his war a real war. His faith in God’s presence with him extends to the hope that God would give him success.
For St Paul, there are troubles too. The Christian life is not a simple life – listen to the progression of ideas which include hope:
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Rom 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
Rom 5:4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Rom 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
It sounds like a challenging ride. Sufferings – Perseverance – Character are aspects of a life of faith and adventure. They produce HOPE – not just because we hope for things to get better (i.e. no more trials and tribulations) but, for Paul, this HOPE does not disappoint us! It’s not a vain hope. Why? Because we are not alone – because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us! God’s love keeps us through these trials!
Love is a powerful thing! Think of your grandchildren today – who seem to plod along. When teenagers fall in love – especially the boys – it’s amazing what can change in their lives!
God’s love is a different kind of love – not romantic, although the prophets complained that when people turned their backs on God that they were being unfaithful and adulterous– not physical, although the relationship between Jesus and the Church is described as that of a Bridegroom and a bride!
God’s love is POWERFUL and strengthening. His presence gives us confidence and courage – whether we are facing challenges in life or death at the end of life – we are full of hope which does not disappoint.
I love hopeful people!
* They are optimistic!
* They look for solutions.
* They are open minded and good listeners – because they see the best in people, even when they may have made mistakes.
And you can’t get a more hopeful person than Jesus. He chooses people for his leadership team who you would not have on your short list.
* He takes the rough and risky ones like Peter – knowing that the impulsiveness was not always a weakness, but a sign of strength in the long term. He knew that Peter – even though he would fail – would be strengthened in character to the extent that he could face anything.
* He models hope in his life and death as well. At Christmas, Easter is never far from our thoughts as this was God’s whole plan – and we are consistently reminded again – that the worst possible scenario – DEATH – was overcome by resurrection. That gives us hope.
And so as you face your week ahead, remember
– That Sunrise follows the darkness of the night
– That Spring brings new growth after the desperation of a bad winter
– That a new beginning follows every failure or disappointment.
As we close tonight there is a challenge for us to pray as we are reminded of a verse from the readings in Matthew 12:21: “In his name the nations will put their hope.”
It’s a great prophecy quoted by Matthew from Isaiah 42. While we don’t see countries putting their hope in Him, nations here is not necessarily governments. It more than likely refers to the variety of people on the earth. Ethnoi is the word, from which we get the word ethnic. Our city is very cosmopolitan – and the great news is that many nations are coming to find Jesus as their hope.
May you be encouraged in your prayers to continue to pray for all without hope, and especially for those who are desperate in this city – that they may be drawn to a Christian fellowship where they can meet this hope of nations, Jesus.