Hope Does Not Disappoint UsPosted: March 23, 2014
Hope Does Not Disappoint Us
THAT MAKES ME THE SMARTEST PERSON IN THE WORLD
Suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope. But that reminds me of the Peanuts cartoon, where Charlie is lamenting another baseball game lost. Lucy trying to cheer Charlie up says, “Look at it this way, we learn more by losing than we do by winning.”
Charlie screams, “Well then that makes me the smartest person in the world!”
DOESN’T SEEM LIKE THERE IS ANY HOPE
You ever feel like that? Like when will the suffering ever end? Will I always make the same mistakes over and over again? Sometimes life really beats up on us. Like when our feet or our head or our arthritis or something else just won’t stop hurting, when we find ourselves growing older every day, and all we seem to do is make doctor’s appointments. Life sucks and then we die! Sometimes it just seems like there isn’t any hope. Rejoice in our sufferings hell! We want to scream at life, take this suffering and shove it!
LONG ENOUGH LORD!
Like Psalm 13 we want to cry out:
131-2 Long enough, God — you’ve ignored me long enough. I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough.. I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain — Long enough Lord, long enough. The scriptures are not all sweetness and light. The Bible contains the very real anguish and pain and hopelessness of people in the past.
JUST DO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
I’m reminded of the story about a habitual offender with a long record of transgressions, who was on trial for his latest crime. The jury found him guilty on 33 different counts and the judge sentenced him consecutive terms adding up to 189 years. Realizing that even with time off for good behavior he would be over one hundred when he was released, the prisoner burst into tears.
Noting this display of remorse, the judge reconsidered. He said, “I didn’t mean to be so severe. Thinking it over, I can see that I’ve imposed an extremely harsh sentence. So you don’t have to serve the whole time.” The prisoner beamed with new found hope until the judge leaned toward him and said, “Just do as much as you can.”
So where is our hope? Why doesn’t God answer our prayers? God doesn’t compel us, God lures us toward the good. We were born with free will. It is a blessing and a curse. It means we have the freedom to choose the path of our days and our lives – but it comes at a cost. The cost is that we sometimes (often) choose things that cause suffering to others or ourselves. But when we quiet our wants, and desire God’s will instead, we experience grace – peace, alignment, attunement, oneness, flow. It has many names, but we know what it feels like. It feels good. It feels like freedom.
PERHAPS GOD IS STILL RESTING
God spent six days making the earth and all that is in it, and on the seventh day, God rested. The word for “day” in Hebrew means “an unspecified length of time.” Consider this: if there were, in earth-years, 15 billion years from the Big Bang till the dawn of human civilization, by that math, perhaps it is still the seventh day of Creation. Perhaps God is still resting.
GENTLY ORDERING THE UNIVERSE
And if God is still resting, how are our prayers getting answered? Well, just because God is resting, doesn’t mean God is dead. God is alive. God is Lure, the tremendous energy at the heart of all Creation, with Her own internal energy – like an electromagnet, drawing the matter and anti-matter, energy and dark energy drawing it all unto Herself. Like a mother suckling her child or a hen ordering her chicks. Gently ordering the universe, in Her patient, unhurried way.
THE MIRACLE OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS THE WONDER OF CONSCIOUSNESS
God is not dead, she does not sleep, God is present and active all around us in the air we breathe, the sunshine that bathes the earth in warmth and energy, the miracle of photo synthesis and the wonder of consciousness. So what is our hope – where is our hope – when is our hope?
HOPE IS NOT WISHING
Hope is not wishing. Hope is not the power of positive thinking. Hope is half optimism. The other half is our belief in our power that we can make it so. There is a profound difference between hoping and wishing. Wishing encourages passivity, whereas hope represents an active attitude. Wishing is the fantasy that everything is going to turn out OK. Hope is actually showing up for the hard work, even when we have no guarantee that our efforts will actually accomplish anything. But we trust in God’s providence that our efforts will somehow become part of God’s larger purpose, to bring shalom – peace.
What do we mean by the expression God’s providence? We don’t mean that everything always works out for the best, or that everyone will be happy, happy all the time. There is a hymn we don’t use any more. It didn’t make it into the New Century Hymnal, because some of the language couldn’t be updated. But I think the words express a mature understanding of providence:
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
STANDETH GOD WITHIN THE SHADOW KEEPING WATCH ABOVE HIS OWN.
By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
RESURRECTION OUR FAITH AND OUR HOPE
The assurance that God stands in the shadow of time keeping watch upon us is our faith and our hope. The season of Lent prepares us for the joy of Easter. But we cannot find the joy of Easter without traveling through the valley of the shadow of Good Friday. I believe many people are disappointed with Easter, because they skip the messiness and horror of Good Friday. It is sort of like there is no resurrection unless we die first. There is no joy without sadness. We have to die to self in order to receive new life. And the way to new life is through faith. To live by faith is to trust the way of Jesus. Trusting that if we follow the way of sharing there will be enough.
FEAR THERE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH
One of the historical issues in the life of this congregation is the fear that there will not be enough. After the moon shot, when the contractors laid-off engineers by the hundreds, this little congregation with a brand new mortgage almost went under. There were more bills to pay than there was money. And so this congregation lived hand to mouth for years. And the fear and anxiety around not having enough led to an ethos of doubt, rather than a culture of faith. Rather than becoming a permission-giving “can do” community of faith we became concerned about limitations and control.
CONGREGATION MADE A LEAP OF FAITH
Now to be fair we did manage to build this beautiful sanctuary. The congregation made a leap of faith. That was a job well done. And now as we approach re-visioning we need to make a new leap of faith. We need to re-discover the courage, the faith and the can do attitude that built this sanctuary and apply it to our mission and outreach.
WHAT IS GOD CALLING US TO DO AND BECOME
What is God calling us to do and become? What will it mean to be a progressive voice of faith in Huntsville? And how do we communicate our message? Do we dare to become a little edgy in the sharing of who we are in the community? Are we willing to publicly proclaim who we have become in welcoming everyone? Or will we settle for being a standard brand Protestant vanilla. There is no percentage in remaining the best kept secret in Huntsville.
COURAGE – HOPE WILL NOT DISAPPOINT US
Courage, my friends, courage. What would we do if we weren’t afraid? Believe me, if we have the courage to step out in faith, hope will not disappoint us.