Tag Archives: hope

From doubting to waiting — Advent 3A (15 December 2013)

Readings
Isaiah 35.1–10
Matthew 11.2–1

 

Poor John the Baptist. He’s been on an amazing ride for a few years, baptising crowds of people by the Jordan River and witnessing a religious revival. It gave him the confidence to confront King Herod about his adultery—and got him thrown into jail.

One of the highlights of John’s mission was seeing Jesus of Nazareth come into his own. It seemed that Jesus may be the one they had come to hope for, the deliverer, the Messiah, the coming one. But now he was in jail.

There, he has time. Lots of time. Time to think, to reflect, to ponder. Time to wonder if he is on the right track or not.

It must be hard to stay confident when you’re imprisoned, your future uncertain, and there’s nothing much happening on the outside.

John wants to hear that things are happening on the outside. He has begun to doubt what he had proclaimed, which was:

the kingdom of heaven has come near.

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“Children of the Resurrection” (32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Readings
Haggai 1.15b — 2.9
Luke 20.27–38

 

In his argument with the Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says:

Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

What does it mean to be a ‘child of the resurrection’? Let me mention two things:

  • It means to be a person who even in grief or disappointment lives in hope of the living God.
  • It means to be someone whose way of life reflects the new life of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.

A child of the resurrection is someone whose way of living is marked by the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A child of the resurrection is not determined by the past, by its hurts and slights or even by its abuses. A child of the resurrection lives out of the future, God’s future, God’s new world.

A friend of mine, a child of the resurrection, recently wrote:

…we have the power to change the voices and rewrite the patterns and not make ourselves wrong or soiled or not good enough.…we have to have the courage and believe we are worthy.

A child of the resurrection receives the strength to have this courage and belief through the presence of the living Jesus within.

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Vehicles of Hope

A sermon preached at the induction of Rev Henry Swindon as a chaplain at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital on 15 July.

 

Readings
Romans 8.12-25
Matthew 8.5-13

 

I remember once going on a routine visit to the Renal Dialysis Unit while I was a chaplain at The Wesley Hospital. If there’s anywhere that could show the truth of what today’s reading from Romans says about creation, it’s a hospital; and in particular, chronic units like renal dialysis. St Paul writes of a creation ‘in bondage to decay’ and ‘subjected to futility’. What more futile existence could there be than sitting in renal dialysis several times a week, depending on machines to stay alive, hoping against hope month after month for a transplant to come up?

I never quite knew what I was going to encounter entering any ward, especially this one. I often felt out of my depth in the renal unit.

On this occasion in I walked, and I went up to the first bed. I’d never met this patient before. He was an Asian man, and he positively beamed a welcome at me. Before I could sit down, he announced with the same infectious smile, ‘Life is suffering!’

I thought to myself, I know where you’re coming from. ‘Life is suffering’ is how the ‘First Noble Truth’ of Buddhism is often expressed. And I had a lovely time with this Buddhist gentle man, allowing him to share the joy in his soul with me. I really hope I helped him, because by the time I left his side, I was certainly feeling really great!

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Third Sunday of Easter (Year A, 8 May 2011)

The risen life: walking in hope

Readings
1 Peter 1.17-23
Luke 24.13-35

 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

Cleopas and his friend had hoped…but their hopes died with Jesus.

People can live through any loss, except the loss of hope. Hope is essential to a human life. Without hope, we are diminished.

How do we sustain hope when things go wrong? How do we keep ourselves out of the pit of despair?

To answer those questions, let’s join Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus. (There are those who believe this was no friend with Cleopas, but his wife—and I think they make a good case. So I’m going to call them Mr and Mrs Cleopas.)

As we join them on the road, we notice something straight away. This isn’t an amble, a ramble or a stroll. Neither is it a quick march, and there’s no spring in their step.

These despairing disciples are trudging, they’re plodding, barely able to drag one foot after another.

The stranger can’t help but notice the way they’re walking. It looks a lot like the walk of a condemned man to the scaffold.

Yet even in their deep despair, they allow this third man to join them. They extend hospitality to him.

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First Sunday in Advent (Year A, 28 November 2010)

Hope in all things


Readings
Isaiah 2.1-5
Matthew 24.36-44

It’s Advent. I’ve already heard Christmas carols while shopping—just next door in Coles, of all places.

‘Advent’ simply means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. The Season of Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation for the ‘arrival’ of Jesus. But it’s not just preparation and anticipation for celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

We are also directed by the Lectionary readings to prepare for and anticipate what the arrival of Jesus meant—that is, the coming of a King who would bring God’s justice and peace to the people.

So we’re also being reminded to get ready for the arrival of Jesus on that day when the prayer of Jesus (and our prayer) is finally realised—‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’. We are reminded today to hope for a day when the future that God dreams of, the future of God’s shalom, of peace and wellbeing for all people, when that future is finally here. Do you, do I, trust that it will come?

The music we heard before the service is called Spem in Alium, which is Latin for Hope in all Things. It was written by Thomas Tallis around 1570 for Elizabeth I. I love it—I want it at my funeral. But do I still hope now, wile I’m still drawing breath, for that day when God’s justice will come?

What are you hoping for? It seems to me that we often limit ourselves to small hopes. Little, safe hopes that won’t rock our world too much if they come true, and won’t change our world that much if they don’t. As Christmas nears, we might hope for an iPad, a special DVD, or someone else to cook the turkey this time. We might hope for Uncle Joe not to snore all Christmas afternoon like he did last year.

These are manageable hopes, reasonable hopes, safe hopes. These are hopes that delight us if they happen, but if they don’t we’ll cope.

Christian hope is of a very different order. It is a big hope. It’s even bigger than the Barmy Army’s hope that England might retain the Ashes. Christian hope is our hope that God is good, that God comes good on his promises. It’s hope that the world isn’t here for no purpose, it’s hope that our lives have a purpose. And it’s hope that God will finally reveal that purpose, that the kingdom of God will be fully here. It’s already here—we catch glimpses of it when people are fed, clothed, or set free. Can we hope seriously ‘big’—can we hope that God’s kingdom will be fully here one day?

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Hopeful new year

A happy new year to both my readers… I rang Erin just after midnight to wish her a happy new year—of course, where she is it was still 2007; in fact, at 6.10 am here, it’s still 2007 there! The world seems big, just at the moment… 

I have an ambivalence towards the new year. On the one hand, I do get more energy when the year is young; on the other, after countless broken new year resolutions, it’s also a time to be reminded of my own weaknesses. It’s like the difference between hope and optimism: optimism depends on favourable circumstances, while hope depends on the God in whose hands we are held.

I may not be optimistic for 2008, but I am hopeful.

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