Tag Archives: Hope

Three Views of Our Hopes for Every Child!

A Sermon for 21 October 2018 – Children’s Sabbath

A reading from Isaiah 43:1-7.  Listen for God’s word to us.

I’ll be reading from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.  Listen.

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.  Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.  Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.’”

This is the word of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God!

 

I’m up first in today’s three-person tag-team sermon entitled:  Three Views of Our Hopes for Every Child.  In addition to my hopes for every child, we’ll hear from one of our teen members, then from the Community Involvement Specialist at our community partner H.G. Hill Middle School.  Each of us will give our perspective on our hopes for every child.  Because Children’s Sabbath 2018 is all about Hope for Every Child.  . . .  Hope can be difficult to describe.  One source defines hope as “deeper than simple optimism, and more mysterious, delicate, and elusive.”  The source states that:  “Hope is a feeling we must develop and cultivate, but like faith is also a state with which we are graced.  Hope can foster determination and grit”  (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/142028/poems-of-hope-and-resilience).  I think hope has something to do with the ability to bounce back.  Resilient.  Hope is that force in us that keeps us determined despite any setbacks.  No matter how seemingly impossible.  It’s been said that hope motivates us to change what we can control.

Children can’t control very much in their lives.  They’re born into families that will dramatically shape who they will become.  Being born into circumstances of poverty – as far too many children in this world still are – can rob a child of a healthy, well-adjusted, hope-full future.  Being born into complicated situations like to mothers and fathers who may never have wanted a baby due to their own immaturity or wounds or challenges can make life extra difficult for a child as they grow.  . . .  When I consider my hope for every child, the words of the prophet Isaiah come to me.  Words first spoken to an exiled people who weren’t so sure they mattered much to anyone – least of all the Sovereign God of the Universe.  Creator of it all.  The prophet’s words seek to re-strengthen the people.  To remind.  To deepen their hope.  As a mouthpiece for God, the prophet declares God’s message:  “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  . . .  you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you  . . .  Do not fear, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:1, 4, 5).

One thing you, me, and every child can seek to control each day is the message we allow to reside inside us.  Will it be a message from the circumstances of our lives or a message of our beloved worth taken from God’s word to us?  . . .  A recently released pop Christian song called “You Say” puts it this way:  “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough.  Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up.  Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?  Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know.”  An uplifting refrain swells as the singer belts full voice:  “You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing.  You say I am strong when I think I am weak.  You say I am held when I am falling short.  And when I don’t belong, you say I am yours” (“You Say,” sung by Lauren Daigle, Look Up Child, 2018).  . . .  My hope for every child is to know this truth.  To feel down deep in our insides that the great Maker of heaven and earth claims us all as beloved.  Gives us a Voice to trust above any lessor messages from peers or parents or culture.  My hope for every child – no matter our location or age – is to live out of the truth that we matter immensely to God.  We are precious in God’s sight.  Honored.  Loved.

 

(Two additional views from two other speakers – not included here.)

 

There you have it.  Three views of our hopes for every child!  Note the similarities and the varied perspectives we each bring.  Let these words, our hopes – all our hopes – motivate us to embody the love of God for every child!

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2018 (All rights reserved.)

 

Life from Death

It was so uplifting Saturday to be at a regional meeting of church folk (a.k.a. a Presbytery meeting).  I know!  If you’ve ever been to one, then it may not seem a credible statement.  But it was for me.

I’ve been doing a lot of research and reflection lately on the church, contemporary culture, and change.  In many ways, it’s been my passion for the past decade.  Inevitably, it leaves me wondering often about what of the church needs to die.  I dream too about what might be able to grow if in fact those within the church (like me) let go of what we’ve always known.  It’s scary.  It calls me to dig deeper into that vow to serve with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.

I used to care about needed changes in the church for reasons like job security, and to ease my frustration over things that drive me bonkers about the church, and to create ways that might be easier on all.  The deeper I go in it, the more I see that I care because my own life is full of all sorts of people who I love immensely and who want nothing to do with communities of faith in which I have lived my whole life.  Many of the folks in my life used to want to be a part; but for whatever reason, they no longer can be.  Some have been burned badly, or been raised with terrible theology that still haunts them, or find themselves totally bored in worship by things that seem absolutely irrelevant to daily life.  I even find active church folks who desperately want something different, something more; but don’t have the foggiest idea what that looks like or how to get there.  Of course, I know there always will be people who aren’t at all interested.  They never have been and they likely never will be.

My heart breaks for us all.

Just to be clear:  I think it’s wise to turn away from a people who label themselves with Jesus’ name but act like the antithesis.  I think it’s tragic to feel isolated or lonely or unloved or unlovable and have no community to turn t0 — especially because some expressions of church today are at their best and do offer the needed healing balm.  I think it’s deplorable to be seeking — or worse yet:  to already have connected deeply to the Life Force — only to be told that such things are NOT of God (which, in fact, they are!  The Divine is about the journey of awe and wonder; not certainty and fact).   I think it’s sense-less that the hearts of a people who claim the name Jesus aren’t breaking for the eclectic array of people Jesus went out of his way to welcome home.  It’s not ok to me for people to be unaware that they are beautiful, cherished treasures.  And it’s even worse to me for any to be deemed unacceptable by others who believe they know.

Recently I saw an amazing clip on The Work of the People in which Rachel Held Evans made a matter of fact statement that rocked me to the core:  “Empires worry about death.  Gardeners do not worry about death”  (To watch the clip go to http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/creating-something-new).  A few day later I watched a clip by John Philip Newell on “Dreaming Forward” (http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/dream-forward).  Newell quoted the Dalai Lama regarding hope for the future.  He said:  “‘Of course I believe there is hope for the future.  The future hasn’t happened yet.'”  My mind once again blown, I went off to the Presbytery meeting Saturday where we heard from three different young adult women (interestingly all were women) who spoke passionately about the meaning they have been finding for life through their involvement in Presbyterian Campus Ministries.  They have connected with others and that which is beyond, they have built relationships and learned from those much different from themselves, they have helped the hurting and shown love to those battered by life.  I left that meeting so excited that these young women are the church today:  the future hope in our midst.  The people who passionately and honestly seek to follow the Way of Love.  Ones who want to make a difference in others lives, not just seek to have their own needs met.

Maybe it’s just a handful and maybe as they get older the flame will fade.

Or maybe . . . just maybe, their lives (and the fruit of who they are) are the new growth.  And maybe, just maybe, all can learn a thing or two from them as we seek to breakdown in ourselves the walls of cynicism, self-focus, and indifference.

Then . . . maybe, just maybe, our own fresh growth will unfurl under the blazing sunshine in the grand garden of this world.

Here’s hoping . . . here’s to hoping!

 

Peace & Love prevail,

RevJule