November 28, 2021
Who would have imagined I’d be preaching from my messy office in Ocean Park and you’d be tuning in via Zoom!? When last we were together at Union Church, did we even know what Zoom was let alone know how to connect to it!!! Every time I do Zoom or live stream…I hope and I pray I do it right.
So grateful most of my kids are in town these days. I call on them constantly! Well, at least we can be mask free this morning! Hope you are enjoying some coffee or tea as you listen.
It’s the first Sunday of Advent when we light the candle of Hope. Difficult to preach about Hope during this challenging, dark time. It seems we are always hoping for something.
A charitable man decided to visit a sick ward at a hospital to cheer up the patients. He took along a keyboard and played humorous songs and told jokes at many a bedside. After finishing his final performance for an old man he said, “I hope you get better.” The old man smiled vaguely at the performer and replied, “I hope you do too.”
( I hope you laughed!)
We sure do hope for many things every day…
I hope my Covid test is negative. I hope the Pats win today. I Hope the sun will come out! I hope the surgery is successful. I hope peace and kindness will prevail in the Universe……and in DC. Much of what we hope for we have little control over….like the Pats…or the weather.
There is much that may seem hopeless as we go through our days. Like an end to this challenging virus!
Ed and I were watching a documentary the other night about Crete. It showed the grave site of Nikos Kazantzakis….Author of the controversial book The Last Temptation of Christ. On his gravestone are the words: “ I have nothing to hope for…. Nothing to fear…. I am Free!”
I haven’t stopped thinking about that! Is having nothing to Hope for a good thing!? As nothing to fear is?
The Ancient Greek Philosopher and sage Epicurus sheds more light on that : “ don’t spoil what you have by hoping for what you don’t have.”
A young woman named Jen that I know and love teaches me every day about facing hopeless head on. I first met her as a bright, talented teenager in the church youth group. She went off to college, became a special education teacher, got married and had a son who is severely autistic. A devastating prognosis for any parent to learn. He would never be able to live independly….a “ normal” life. Hopeless? Not for this family. Mom learned never to say “ he can’t do it”, She assumed he could ….developed his wonderful sense of color and shapes and his passion for music. Now, at 18, he and his Mom have a greeting card business and are now creating tee shirts. The shirts say:
Set no limits. Include. They sell his cards. He sings in the church choir. He has lots of fans, including me.
There is no hope that he will be cured, but his family focuses what he can do and HOPE for something new everyday, and we all learn to have hope.
During these challenging times, Fr. Richard Rohr wrote:
“We are living through a period of global disorder. People around the world are experiencing tremendous suffering, uncertainty, and disruption to their lives. Reality is being unveiled— systems of evil and injustice are being seen in greater clarity, and our collective “normal” has been radically upended. Walking through this chaos and despair can be difficult; but, ultimately, it is when everything seems adrift that the spiritual journey becomes both an anchor and a sail. God uses tragedy, suffering, pain—and even death to guide us into greater Love.”
This dreadful pandemic has been and continues to be devastating for millions of people around the world. It’s frightening, isolating, frustrating and a host of other negative words! It’s been a very dark time…..and it has also inspired a great deal of change and creativity…perhaps even growth.
The passage from Romans 8 which Anne read this morning provides us with a revealing vision of creation straining forward on tip toe, eagerly waiting for deliverance from the darkness and evil that defines and confines us. We wait with expectant hearts for deliverance….for the Light of God to show the way to relief and wholeness. Our vision is limited and we are encouraged to HOPE more completely…to believe in the fulfillment of God’s promise to the children of God…not only in eternal rest and glory…..but now …walking in the glorious light of God’s love.
And this is the important insight I take from what I believe is the most practical of Paul’s letters to the church. WE MUST EXPAND OUR VISION. WE MUST PARTICIPATE IN THE HOPE. …. As we reach out and serve our neighbors …..being conduits of God’ s love God’s promises will be fulfilled,
Romans 8: 18 – 25 gives us the beautiful vision of creation straining forward, on tiptoe, eagerly waiting for deliverance, for birth, to be embraced by God’s spirit and brought to wholeness. …. We don’t know what magic or miracle awaits us at any given moment.
Do we awaken each day and hope for a terrific day….for some miracle to happen….or do we assume it will be the same ole, same ole…..or worse…..that a catastrophe might happen!?
If we look back at some of our hopes and dreams…….. we might consider how many of them have been fulfilled and how many have been shattered or forgotten…..put aside as life happened to us. As God’s people, we are still waiting ….for God’s kingdom to come….for God’s sacred spirit to be the operative force in the universe….for peace on Earth. Even as the Hebrew people awaited a Messiah…..we await the Messiah’s message being born in the hearts of us all….blessing Earth and filling it with love and peace. What are the ways we can participate in the fulfillment of hope….to live as a people of hope NOW,… not in some long distant future?
Chapter 8 in Romans attributed to the Apostle Paul is really one of the most hopeful passages in the Bible. It blows into Paul’s letter to the church at Rome like a gust of fresh air….defining the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the early Christians. The Spirit works in partnership with us, as we walk with God…. strengthening us and providing us with nourishment and guidance. The Spirit will teach us the benefits of being a child of God…..of living our lives with an awareness of our connectedness with God and each other ….. always on the look out for the special holy moments that bless our lives and give us hope.
A miracle is defined by a sixth grader as “ something extraordinary that happens without any strings attached”. God’s love comes to us with no strings attached….and once again this Advent season, we will journey expectantly to the manger to rediscover the hope, peace, joy and love that is ours as children of God.
The coming of dawn…..the rise of the morning star has been rhetoric of hope…an image of comfort since the beginning of time. Coming into the light is viewed as a positive step…..revealing new understanding, a lightening of spirit, a victory over the darkness that has held us captive. Since ancient times, the Divine Presence, the Holy Spirit, Jesus….. have all been represented by Light.
And so we light candles and string lights…and serve those in need….to create pathways of light and hope in the darkness.
Michelle is going to sing one of my favorite songs which I learned when she and I were doing a funeral service together for a 22 year old woman who had succumbed to Cystic Fibrosis after a courageous battle. I Hope You Dance…her wish for all her loved ones.
Rev. Jan Hryniewicz