God is at work in your life. Anniversary Sunday, September 27 2020.
by Rev. James Murray at Trinity- St. Andrew’s United Church, Renfrew.
Anniversary Sundays are often a time for a congregation to look back at what was, and give thanks for what God has done in this community of faith over the years. Anniversary Sundays use this look back as a way of encouraging us to hang on to what is noble, good and true, so these ideals can inspire us going forward.
This year, instead of looking back to what has God has done in the past, we thought we might look instead at what God is doing right now in our community to help inspire us going forward. We need a sense of hope if we are to move forward. For our world is never going back to the way things were.
The only direction we can look right now is to the future. And that is the reason why the focus on this Anniversary is on Hope. I want to thank John and Ellen for sharing their stories of hope. We need to hear stories like this, because we live in a world that is in desperate need of hope.
We need hope when it feels like God is absent from our lives. We need it when we experience a sense of loss because something precious has come to an end. We need it when we experience the pain
that conflict can inflict on our body, mind and soul. Over the past six months we all have had to face overwhelming feelings of anxiety that can happen when we are faced with nonstop change
which creates a crippling amount of uncertainty. We all know the despair that can set in when you are surrounded by insurmountable challenges. We know these challenges all to well because we live in difficult times. Given all these challenges, it is no wonder that we live in a world which is filled with anxiety and depression, isolation and despair. And when the world seems so dark, we wonder where we can turn to find a bit of light. We all want to be able to journey towards something that is better than what we are facing right now. The truth is we all need a sense of hope in order to survive.
One voice of hope that I have often turned to is Jim Wallis. Jim Wallis is the founder of the Sojourners community. It is the mission of Sojourners to work as people of faith for the common good of all people. The Sojourners community has worked for justice and fairness for all people. Jim Wallis says “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change.”
Hope is not a passive wishing that things might be better. Hope believes that change is possible. By the act of hoping, and by the act of living into that hope, hope changes what is possible. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. Optimism is the belief that things will turn out well. Hope is trusting that God is at work in all of this. Hope is possible when we see God is at work in all of this. Because we do not face our challenges alone. Jesus is a person who knows how to face difficulties with a sense of hope.
Jesus even tells us as his disciples about how we should react when we see troubles coming. In one of the most apocalyptic passages in the gospels, he tells us to not be afraid. As the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says, “Don’t panic”. Jesus tells us , ‘Yes there will be troubles in this world. There are going to be wars and revolts. There are going to be huge hurricanes and earthquakes. But don’t panic.
Because God is going to be at work, even in such terrible moments as these. If you look, you will see God coming to you in the middle of that disaster.” (Matthew 24:4-8, paraphrased)
God is working even now to set things right. In every moment God is at work, seeking to heal that which is hurting. God is seeking to mend that which is broken. God is seeking to restore that which is lost. God is seeking to liberate that which has been imprisoned. Hope is believing in spite of that evidence and by your act of hoping, that evidence will change.
Saint Paul wrote his words of hope to us because he believes God is at work in your life. When you have this belief, you will be filled with such a strong hope that no circumstance will be able to defeat you. When you trust in Jesus to be with you, no storm will be able to knock you down. No matter what the outcome us, you will know the Holy Spirit has been guiding you every step of the way. When you are filled with hope, the world will never look the same to you. For you will see the world as God sees it.
When we are filled with hope in God, a better future is possible for us all.