Hope, it might be said, has been in short supply of late. It is much in our vocabulary—I hope the recession ends; I hope for the best; Hope springs eternal in the human breast; I hope that the Jets play well this weekend against the Patriots. People are hopeful; feel hopeless and there has even been a movie: Hope Floats; and in keeping with the season I hope that I get a Lexus with a big red bow on top of the roof.”
Yet, these kinds of uses of hope are not what Paul is writing about to the Christian church in Rome. What is the nature of this hope? It is the belief that something good will happen and that good is that we have all been reconciled to God through Christ. It is available to believers whether Jew or Gentile (essentially everyone else in the world). We can infer from our experience that having hope is good and it is. Where does this hope come from? It comes from God through the Holy Spirit
The Outline of Faith or Catechism in the back of the Prayer Book on page 863 defines Christian hope as being able to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life and to await the coming of Christ in glory and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.
Paul says that hope is found in steadfastness and in the encouragement of scripture. Steadfastness, staying the course, is experienced in being part of the community of faith, worshiping together, expressing love for one another and welcoming all. freely
Today Landon Broer Lucchesi is becoming a part of Christ’s body the Church and a member of this congregation. He has been worshiping regularly at the 10:45 service, participating in a way different from the adults around him but participating none the less.
Baptism is about becoming a new person in Christ and knowing that each new day is an opportunity to live with confidence and to experience the fullness of life.
We all know people who live tentatively, who cannot break with the bad stuff of the past, who won’t take a chance on a full life. Jesus invites us to a full life and has prepared us for it by dying for us and by welcoming us into fellowship with him in God.
In this new church year, in this season of Advent,, we all have the opportunity to accept God’s promise to be with us and to be working toward a hopeful future—one where all people can live full lives abounding in hope.
I ‘googled’ the phrase “God’s purpose” and found that a whole lot of people believe they know the answer usually in terms of God’s purpose for an individual’s life. But this is God’s purpose for the world, and I believe that purpose is that all creation can be restored to harmony.
Perhaps the images of the ‘Peaceable Kingdom’ that we heard today in Isaiah’s prophecy are an imaginative way of visioning what that harmony in the created order will be.
Baptism is all about God’s purpose for our lives. It is captured in the baptismal vows we all undertake each time someone is baptized. They speak of living reciprocating God’s love for us and loving those with whom we inhabit the earth.
God wants us to be reconciled with each other and has taken the first step by reconciling with us through Jesus Christ. The question is will we allow ourselves to be reconciled and reconciling.
As I was researching for this sermon, I came across a quote of Karl Barth the great 20th Century reform theologian: The hardest thing for people to do is accept the acceptance. God accepts us as we are and holds out a future of abounding hope, of growing in grace, but we need to accept the invitation of God.
Every time I read this recollection of John the Baptizer’s tirade against the Pharisees and Sadducees, ‘You brood of vipers,’ I am reminded of that staple of every textbook on American literature—Jonathan Edward’s sermon ‘Sinners in the hand of an angry God.’ God expects a change of heart in the believer—we call it metanoia—and fruit worthy of this new life that God holds out for us.
When I was stationed in Hawaii, there were many mango trees around the post. Under some trees there were numerous mangoes but under others there were no mangoes. Finally I asked an Islander. This is what he told me—when you see mangoes on the ground it means the fruit isn’t good and sweet—not even the birds will eat them but there are no mangoes under the good trees—we pick ‘em all up.
In Christ we’re like the good mangoes—we have value to God and to each other as fellow members of Christ’s body. We need to fulfill God’s promise of sweetness and goodness.
So be a good mango!