Tag Archives: hope

God With Us: Endure with Hope – Sermon on Luke 21:25-36 Advent 1C

Video

Happy New Year!

That’s right. Today marks the beginning of the new church year. For you liturgy geeks, this is Year C in the Revised Common Lectionary cycle, which means we will be hearing a lot from the gospel according to Luke over the next 12 months.

But the gospel passage assigned for the first Sunday in Advent, this first Sunday in the new church year, does not come from the beginning of Luke. It comes from near the end, as Jesus is preparing his disciples for the time when he will no longer be with them in the flesh. Jesus has come to Jerusalem for one purpose only: to give his life for the redemption of us all. His earthly ministry is nearing its completion, and he knows it.

So see if this gospel reading sounds a little familiar, like something you’ve heard from Mark and John over the past couple of weeks:

Continue reading

Prisoners of Hope – Sermon on Zechariah 9:9-12

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 5, 2020
Watch on Vimeo.

It’s been good to visit with a few of you this week, to learn what is on your heart as we begin the work of interim ministry together. You may remember a video that appeared on the church website a few months ago, where I explained the developmental tasks this congregation will need to address during this season.

Over the next several weeks, I will be explaining each of these tasks in greater detail, so that we can begin this important and urgent work with full understanding. The first task is to come to terms with your past. This might be the most difficult task of all, but the other steps of the process depend on getting this one right, so it’s a good place to begin. Continue reading

Enduring in Faith – Sermon on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

November 10, 2019

There’s nothing quite like baptizing a baby to bring us hope. Thank you, Leah and Sean, for reminding us of the sure and certain hope we claim as followers of Jesus! But hope can be fleeting, and sometimes it seems like the tiniest challenge can shatter our hope.

The church in Thessolonica was facing a challenge like that. They had questions. When was Jesus going to come back? Had they missed it? Were they ‘left behind’ and putting their faith in something that wasn’t really true? Continue reading

Enduring in Hope – Sermon for All Saints on Ephesians 1:11-23

November 3, 2019

The year is winding down – before the Halloween candy was off the shelf, the Christmas décor was already out. The garden has been put to bed and the lawn mower has given up its place of honor in the garage to make room for the snow blower. Next Saturday is the Fall Bazaar, and today we will be packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. You have less than sixty days left to make good on those New Years resolutions from last January.

But the real sign that time is on the move happened at 2 o’clock this morning, when we switched back from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time. I don’t know about you, but I seem to be more aware of the swift passing of time in the Fall than any other season. It’s a bit of a paradox for me: I get all nostalgic, thinking back over fond memories, even as I begin to anticipate the coming of another year’s opportunity. Continue reading

Dangerous Hope – Sermon on Romans 5:1-5

 

May 22, 2016 Trinity C

We viewed this clip from The Hunger Games to introduce the sermon.

Just to be clear, even though he may look sweet snipping roses, President Snow of The Hunger Games is a bad guy. He is evil personified. And while his reasoning may be based on false assumptions about what hope actually is, he does make a good point when he says, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” And a lot of hope – that’s a dangerous thing. President Snow likes his hope in small doses. He uses hope to get people to do exactly what he wants them to do. But he doesn’t really understand what hope is.

At least a dozen times in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, we find him talking about a particular kind of hope, and today’s passage gives us one of them.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5

The thing about Romans is that you have to hold the entire thesis in your head in order to examine a small chunk of it so it makes sense.[1] This passage is a perfect example. Paul starts off with the word, “Therefore,” and that’s a sure sign we’d better go back and read chapter four, so we’ll know what he’s referring to. Continue reading

Kindling Hope: For Such a Time as This – Sermon on Esther 4:6-17

February 21, 2016 (Lent 2C)

The story reads like a melodrama. For hundreds of years, there was lots of argument about this story. Did it belong in the Bible or not? Some Jewish scholars loved it, but Martin Luther hated it and wished it didn’t exist. The story has some unique literary and theological features that suggest Luther might have had a point:

  • The details of the plot seem exaggerated and the main characters aren’t developed very well, from a literary standpoint.
  • Historical accuracy is questionable, at best.
  • There’s enough sex and violence to make the story into a movie, but we tend to fast forward through those parts when we are in church.
  • The actions of the characters do not reflect their faith so much as struggles about their ethnic identity.
  • Most problematic of all, the story never mentions God by name.
  • Neither is prayer or worship mentioned, though we can make some assumptions that prayer, at least, plays an important part in the climax of the story.

With all this going against it, we have to wonder how the story of Esther made it into the Bible at all. Yet, there it is. Accepted as the Word of the Lord, even though the Lord is never mentioned.

Some scholars insist that the story of Esther was made up to justify celebrating the Feast of Purim – or the feast of dice. It’s a major Jewish celebration, but it is not one of the feasts named in the Law of Moses. During Purim, people dress up in costumes, put on silly plays, and enjoy lots of food.

There is even a tradition that encourages drinking wine in excess, just as King Xerxes and his guests did at their feasts. But the humor and silliness of the celebration highlight an underlying seriousness. The story is about escaping death, after all.

Kathryn M. Schifferdecker writes, “Indeed, the joke goes that Jewish holidays can be summed up in this way: “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat!”[1]

So what does the story of Esther tell us about God and God’s plan to win his people back? The answer is found right in the middle of the story, in chapter four. Continue reading

Keep Awake – Sermon on Matthew 24:36-44 – Advent 1A

When my older brother, David, first moved out of the house and was living on his own, we looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, in the hope that he would come home for a day or two, and our family would be together for the holiday. To understand how much this meant to us, you need to have a little background. My brother was the eldest child in our family. He was my only brother. We four girls adored him. As a young, single adult, David enjoyed driving the latest, fanciest car he could afford. I remember well his first Corvette, a white 1959 model with a removable hard top. Then he moved up to a midnight blue 1963 Stingray with the fiberglass body and the headlamps that rotated out of sight when not in use. By 1972, he was driving a Porsche. So, whenever David came home to visit, part of the excitement was discovering what he was driving, and arguing over who would get the first ride in his new car.

But the real excitement came with trying to figure out just when David would arrive. Continue reading

And so it begins

The reality finally hit me yesterday, as we drove away from the moving company’s warehouse with a carload of boxes and packing materials.

We are leaving.

It seems like we just got here. I walk through this house that it took me years to like, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It has finally become “home” to me, and now I’m getting ready to pack up everything and move away. I mourn the kitchen redo I never redid, and the sewing projects waiting in bins down in my sewing corner, projects that will never be completed now. Won’t have time. (Never did, apparently.)

I check the buds on the rosebush out front, the one my music teaching colleagues gave me last summer to celebrate my MDiv, the one called “Music Box” (get it?). Will we see any blooms before we leave it behind?

And everyone wants to get together with me for coffee, or dinner, or time to connect before we leave. But there simply isn’t time to see everyone we’d like to see, and time for coffee seems like a luxury I cannot afford. The panic starts to rise, as I add three things to my list, and only cross off one. How will we get it all done?

There are those other deadlines, too. The ones that have nothing to do with moving, but everything to do with ongoing responsibilities, with plans that were set in motion a couple of years ago, before we knew we had five short weeks to sell one house, buy another, move to a new town, get acquainted with new people, and start this thing called full time vocational ministry.

We are arriving.

Whatever happens, I know that God put us here, in this particular place at this particular time, to serve him and the people he calls his own. Every step that has brought us to this point has been a miracle, and I have full confidence in the God who saves me that he will get us through the next few weeks of craziness.

But I wouldn’t mind a bit if you kept us in your prayers.

Seriously.

What Waiting Is Not

Waiting may look like a passive activity, but I have news for you: waiting takes every fiber of my being. Waiting is not sitting around, lazily doing nothing. Waiting is the hard work of self-restraint. I may look serene to the casual observer who sees me motionless, apparently fixed in space and time, but I am no such thing. I am waiting on hyper-alert, expecting who-knows-what. That low-frequency hum you hear is me, waiting.

Waiting is not giving up control – how can I explain this? – it is not the abdication of responsibility that I always find so annoying in a “let go and let God” approach to life. Waiting is a conscious decision to trust God to keep his promises, even when there is no evidence to support that belief.

Waiting is faith.

Waiting is deciding to stop doing and start being.

Start being more aware.

Start being more compassionate.

Start being more humble.

Start being less anxious.

Start being less self-absorbed.

Start being less indifferent.

Waiting is knowing with certainty that what I offer to God will not come back empty.

Waiting is trusting God to let me know when it’s time to get out of the chair.

How do you wait for God? What keeps you from trusting him to do what he promises?

A week of hope – Advent I

The waiting begins.

This first week of Advent might be focusing on “Hope” in your church. Different churches use different themes throughout the season of Advent. My first encounter with an Advent wreath labeled the four weekly candles as Prophets, Angels, Mary, Shepherds, so I thought these were The Official Advent Themes Which May Not Be Altered. Boy, was I wrong.

When some Protestant churches switched from three purple candles and one pink to four blue, I protested that this was just one more way to make churches invest in new paraments (those lovely tapestries that drape the sanctuary in symbols and colors of the liturgical year), spending money they didn’t have. Spending money on decorations instead of ministry. Boy, was I wrong.

But, let’s get back to hope. And to waiting. Have you ever considered how long the nation of Israel waited in hope for a Messiah? By the time angels started appearing to Mary and the shepherds, there had been no prophetic word in Israel for over 400 years. Yet, they waited, and they hoped.

They waited through the silence. They hoped in a promise that had been spoken centuries – centuries – before, a promise that had faded to a faint whisper by the time of its fulfillment, but a promise nonetheless. They waited. They hoped. And when the fulfillment of that promise appeared in their midst, many of them didn’t even recognize him. They thought Jesus couldn’t possibly be Messiah. Boy, were they wrong.

What are you waiting for, this Advent? What hopes whisper in your heart? What is keeping you from seeing God’s promise fulfilled in your life?