Sermon: Got Hope? All Saints’ Sunday November 3, 2019

And this news is everywhere: I was listening to the Saturday sports show on NPR called “It’s Only a Game”, thinking what could be the harm in that, when they tell me this: “England’s 6-nil soccer victory in Sofia earlier this month was marred by racist chants and Nazi salutes” from a section of Bulgarian fans” attacking the Black English players.

The game was halted twice during the first half, but England players opted to complete the match instead of walking off the pitch.”

Because these are difficult and troubling times, we can more easily relate to  apocalyptic biblical writing that usually  seem bizarre and opaque to us: Daniel has always been such a book to me:

Today we hear: “Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.”

The passage goes on, though our reading skips it, to tell us about these beasts:  

The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings….Another beast appeared…that looked like a bear and …had three tusks in its mouth among its teeth and was told, “Arise, devour many bodies!”

After this …another appeared, like a leopard. The beast had four wings of a bird on its back and four heads; and dominion was given to it.

After this I saw in the visions by night a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth and was devouring, breaking in pieces, and stamping what was left with its feet.”

As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. 16 I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: 17 “As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth.”

The Jews have been then and throughout history suffering mightily under the power of these Kings that trample them.

In these writings the author is acknowledging the hardship of the present time.

We are living in apocalyptic times, for the foundations we thought were stable are shaking and we are filled with fear.

And we can feel fear overcoming faith.

I was listening this week to an interview with Brian McLaren, who is a wise leader in transforming faith, and he said there were three kinds of hope people are holding:

Cheap Hope: these are the folks who think everything’s going to be ok, things will return to how they’ve always been. Therefore, there’s nothing new we need to do. We can just sit back and be passive and everything will be okay, but everything definitely won’t be Okay.

The climate disruptions with rising sea levels and more frequent and fierce wildfires in California, political unrest in the US, Britain, and many other countries, all these things will calm down like a hyperactive child, who finally runs out of energy and falls asleep. Cheap Hope.

Then on the other side of the spectrum there is what he calls, Dead Hope: these folks believe everything is hopeless: everything is going to keep getting worse: our country will devolve from a republic where leaders honor their commitment to the Constitution into a place where the chief concern is getting reelected. It’s too late to fix things, so there is no need to try: Dead Hope.

So Dead Hope and Cheap Hope while having very different visions of the future, both say there is nothing we can do about it, so we become passive.

But then Maclaren says there is a third alternative he sees and he calls it Deep Hope. Deep Hope sees and acknowledges the severity of our political, international and cosmic situation and doesn’t know if everything will be okay. But those with Deep Hope live the wisest and right way. Even if I can’t see the results, I’m doing the right thing because it is the right thing.

The future is open and we get to participate in its formation. Nomad Podcast September 25, 2019

Daniel fills us with Deep Hope when in the face of the ruthless empires we hear the angel say: “But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.”

Jesus fills us with Deep Hope when he says:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.

“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”

Jesus gets his deep hope from his oneness with the Father. And how can he share it to us in our own apocalyptic time?

IN our Wednesday morning book group led by Amy Hunter, I was struck by a quote in a novel by George MacDonald, a hero of C. S. Lewis. A priest says that it has been his desire during his ministry to “believe what Jesus believed.”

This startled me because I was expecting to hear: “I believe in Jesus”, or “I believe in what Jesus taught.”

But, no, he says, he believed what Jesus believed: he wants to hold in his heart and mind the same worldview that Jesus holds: the same view of God and humanity. In short, he wants to have the mind of Christ that believes he and the Father are One. 

And this is what Christ wants for us: Remember John 15: “I am the vine you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…”

In the south, this would read: “I am the vine, y’all are the branches.”

Not only are we organically connected to Christ, but we are also organically connected to each other. With Christ our lives flow into one another, so the “Communion of Saints” is at the heart of our life in Christ.

And it gives us deep hope when we remember the apocalyptic events our ancestors in Christ endured and overcame. Recently, we can remember such events: the Nazi Beast and the Holocaust, the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the use of atomic weapons and the Cold War’s threat of annihilation, Racial hatred, sexual discrimination, the demonizing of immigrants, and of course, 911 and the endless warfare ever since.  All are apocalyptic events that disorient us and make us afraid.

We join today with the saints of God who have Deep Hope because our Hope is not in ourselves but the God who appears among us in Jesus our Lord and Christ;

+and who continues to work among us through the Spirit who gives us the gifts of Justice, Non-Violent resistance, and especially, in this time of chaos, the gift of COURAGE.