Jun 15 2016

Hope Trumps Despair

_DSC6423Recent events in the news have a lot of people upset and wondering “what is this world coming to?” The massacre in Orlando, in particular, causes one to question the sanity of humankind. How could anyone do such a horrible thing? Of course, the Orlando tragedy is just one of many mass killings we’ve witnessed and the madness of the world can be seen in so many other places. It can be seen in the genocide taking place in Africa, the Syrian refugee crisis, our mistreatment of God’s good earth, terrorist attacks all around the globe, and ongoing racism–just to name a few.  It’s almost enough to want to shout, “Stop the world; I want to get off!”

_DSC7438I will admit that what we see on the news and all around us is enough to lead one to despair. I do not think, however, that is the path we ought to take. In all the dark places I mentioned above there is light to be found. In aftermath of the Orlando shooting thousands upon thousands have responded in love by donating either money or blood.  There are lots of people fighting genocide wherever it can be found.  Although many countries have refused to take in the Syrian refugees lots of other countries have welcomed with open arms those in need of refuge.  Even though we have treated the earth harshly and ended up with lots of environmental woes, countless groups work daily to battle these woes and to improve the health of this planet.  Many people are hard at work each day battling terrorism and the root causes that contribute to it.  Likewise many recognize the injustice that comes with racism and fight diligently to establish “liberty and justice for all.”  The efforts of good people to overcome evil give me cause not to despair.  In fact, they give me hope that things can be better.

Of course, it is my faith in God more than anything else that sustains my hope and keeps me from succumbing to despair. There are many Bible verses that speak of the hope we must cling to.  Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Isaiah 40:31 says “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  In Hebrews 10:23 we are challenged, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  First and foremost, it is the love and faithfulness of God that give me hope.

In the Chalice Hymnal there is a hymn by Georgia Harkness called Hope of the World. In the first couple of verses Harkness offers a prayer we all might pray at this particular time: “Hope of the world, O Christ of great compassion: speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent; save us, your people, from consuming passion, who by our own false hopes and aims are spent. Hope of the world, God’s gift from highest heaven, bringing to hungry souls the bread of life: still let your Spirit unto us be given to heal earth’s wounds and end its bitter strife.”

_DSC6569For eons the rainbow has been viewed as a sign of hope. I saw one a couple of evenings ago and found its appearance timely.  When I arrived at my office today our church flower garden was full of Easter lilies. They were planted after the Easter service in March and are blooming again.  I saw this also as a sign from nature indicating that there is always hope. Christians are an Easter people and the message of Easter is predominantly that of hope. So whether you are despairing over the world, our country, your church, your family, or your own life, let it be known that there is and always will be hope. My prayer for you is the same as that the apostle Paul offered in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

–Chuck

                                                                                                  


Jun 19 2013

Easter in June

_CES4649There’s a small flower garden on the property of the church where I serve.  As I passed it in my car this morning I felt like it was Easter in June.  There for all to see were several beautiful Easter lilies in bloom.  When I noticed them I couldn’t help but recall Jesus’ charge to “consider the lilies.”  He spoke those words in Matthew 6:28 as he encouraged his listeners not to worry.  Jesus indicated that the lilies were provided for by God.  He intimated that if God takes care of them we can rest assured that He will take care of us as well.  That is a truth I need reminded of on a regular basis.

_CES4664The fact that it was Easter lilies I was looking at led my thoughts elsewhere.   Easter lilies are trumpet shaped and might be said to herald the good news that Christ is risen from the dead.  The resurrection of Jesus, of course, stands at the heart of the Christian faith.  It was this event that caused the church to begin to worship on Sundays rather than on the Sabbath.  Everything hinged on the resurrection of Christ.  The apostle Paul went so far as to say “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)  Even though it is now the end of June the flowers I saw this morning served as a reminder that the celebration of Easter is always appropriate.

Before the morning was over I found my mind somehow connecting Jesus’ call to consider the lilies with the message of Easter.  Certainly one of the greatest truths we find in the Easter story is that God is so mighty that not even death can stand in His way.  We may see death as the ultimate enemy but death itself has been defeated in Christ.  When you remember that God is that powerful it makes even more sense why we should not give in to the temptation to worry or become anxious.  The One who raised Christ from the grave is more than able to meet our every need.  Why should we worry when the God of Easter is there beside us each step of the way?  There is no need at all.  Some lilies told me so just this morning…

–Chuck