Sermon: March 29, 2008

30 03 2009

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

                                                Romans 15:13

 

 

 

There is an old story about a farmer whose mule fell into a dry well. The farmer heard the mule making noise and discovered the poor animal’s misfortune.  After assessing the situation, the farmer decided the mule wasn’t worth the time and expense it would take to save it.  Essentially, he lost hope in the old mule.  So he called his neighbors together and asked them to help him haul dirt to bury the animal and put it out of its misery.

 

When the first shovefuls of dirt came down, the mule became hysterical and began to kick.  But as the dirt continued to his back, it dawned on the creature that he should shake it off each time and step up on the growing mound of dirt beneath him.  Load after load of dirt hit him square in the back, but no matter how painful it was, he shook the dirt off and stepped on it.

 

Before long, the accumulation of dirt was such that the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of the well.  The dirt that had been meant to bury him had actually saved his life because of the manner in which he had responded to the situation.

 

When we possess the hope and belief that ultimately we’re going to be successful in our journeys, there’s not much of what comes our way on a daily basis that we can’t handle.  When we see negative events as stepping stones and have hope that our problems can actually propel us toward our goals rather than hinder us, then we are, of all people, truly blessed.  If I could pass along one virtue to all of our players – and to every reader of this version of the Winner’s Manual – it would be the virtue of hope.

 

            What is hope?  I will never forget a sermon that I heard a long time ago.  In that sermon the pastor said, “Hope is like being an Olympic Runner and as you stand at the starting line – as you are ready to get in position for the start of the race – one of the judges runs over to you and hands you the Olympic Gold Medal.  Before the race begins, you know that you have already won the race.”  That is the hope that we as Christians have.

            You know, last week I spoke about worry.  How we worry about everything in life.  We worry about how life will turn out for us.  Well, the wonderful thing about being a Christian is that we know that it will turn out just fine.  The promise of the cross tells us that life will turn out just fine.  The promise of the cross tells us that we have already won the race.

St. Paul is near the end of his life – or so he thinks – and he writes to his good friend Timothy to say goodbye.  He says in Second Timothy:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

 

Now listen to this.  Here comes the hope part:

 

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

 

So Paul had this hope.  The hope that he had already run the race and won it.  The hope that the Crown of everlasting life was already his.  Not something that he had to earn.  Not something that might happen.  Not something that was still out there.  Not something that he might achieve.  No, something that already was his.  And because St. Paul knew that he had already won the race that meant that he then could run his race of life with wild abandon.  It was already a done deal.  Heaven was his home.  So what was there to fear?  What could possibly go wrong?  And it was that hope that drove St. Paul.

What drives you?  I think that for far too many it is fear.  Fear of what lies behind us.  We had better keep running and running and running as fast as we can.  Faster.  Faster.  Always looking back to make sure that we are ahead of all of the things which frighten us.  Always afraid to slow down for fear that those things might overtake us.

And yet sometimes afraid to go forward.  Who knows what is just around the corner.  Who knows what evil lurks in the shadows.  And so we get frozen.  Afraid to stay where we are – afraid of those things that might catch up with us – but afraid to go forward – because of what might just be ahead of us.

Doesn’t that make you tired?  I mean really tired.  Afraid to slow down and yet afraid to go forward.  Always afraid.  Always looking back over your shoulder to see what might be catching up and yet afraid that if you do that you might run into something just ahead.   And yet if you keep your eyes looking ahead that you might miss the danger sneaking up from behind.  That makes me tired just thinking about it.  And yet I know many people who do just that.

And that is where Hope comes in.  Hope that all of those things that we say here in this place are real.  It is Hope that holds on to the words of our Lord.

Cast all your cares upon me for I really care for you.

 

Nothing ever separates us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

 

Hope is what remembers the words of Jeremiah:

 

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and hope.

 

Or as I said last week – FOCUS ON THE THINGS OVER WHICH YOU HAVE CONTROL.  GIVE EVERYTHING ELSE UP TO GOD.  And then have the hope that God will lift you up so that you can fly on eagle’s wings.

Amen!

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