Where were you on September 11, 2001? I’m sure most of you can remember exactly where we were, and how you felt as you watched the horrific events of September 11 unfold. Time seemed to stand still, as we gathered around our television sets and watched in shock, the vivid images of devastation. For me I remember the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.
In our Gospel reading today, we can only imagine the sense of hopelessness Jesus’ disciples were feeling after the events of that first Good Friday, and the death of their beloved teacher.
When Jesus appeared before them , they were terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost, I can’t say I blame them, after all they had witnesses Jesus’ death and burial. But Jesus reassured them, he convinces them that he is indeed their teacher and friend, and they were full of Joy and wonder.
And he reminds them “these are the very things I told you about while I was still with you: and he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. They had lost all hope, but once they came in the presence of the Risen Lord, their hearts were filled with the truth--------------Jesus’ resurrection--- became their restoring hope. A hope they would share with all nations.
Hope can be such a powerful thing, and it is absolutely necessary, like the air we breathe, we cannot live without hope, hope is what gets us through the tough times. Hope is what motivates us; hope is why we refuse to give up.
Consider this for a moment; the greatest gift we can give to another person is the gift of hope.
God calls us to be his hands and feet here on earth, Just as Jesus himself came to earth to bring hope, he calls us to share his hope with others, Often for someone suffering, a kind act or encouraging word is all they need to see hope. When we share God’s compassion and mercy with others we share his love and give hope to those who need it.
Recently I was in Las Vegas walking down the crowded strip, taking in all the sights and sounds of the busy city, when I noticed a young man sitting on the side of the street holding a small can with the words “help me” written across it. I wouldn’t even have noticed him if I hadn’t looked down at just the right moment, it was a sad site, people were rushing by and often mistakenly kicking him he didn’t even raise his head, he looked hopeless, I wanted to stop and give him a hug, to tell him he is loved, that there is hope. I didn’t---- but it got me thinking about how important hope is, without hope you give up. I read a story recently, about a community, that’s future was unsure, the government was building a large dam, and the people of that community were warned it was only a matter of time before there would be a large flood. In the months and years during the dam construction, all improvements and repairs in the town were stopped. Why paint your house if it is to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village is to be wiped out? Week by week, the town fell apart as if it was abandoned. “Where there is no hope for the future, there is no power in the present.”
Do you have hope for the future? Do you live your life everyday expecting good things to happen - Or - are you afraid to hope, afraid to hope for much and receive nothing to be disappointed. No hope we have for our future is too big or too small for our God. Sports can be a good example of the importance of hope, you cannot enter any game without the hope to win, and expect to win. When I was competitively curling our team was very aware of how important our attitude and thoughts were, in the final outcome of a game. The best teams in the world believed there is always hope to win any game no matter the challenge. “Believe it, conceive it and you will achieve it” however this is not always as easy as it sounds, I can remember there were those games that no matter how hard I tried to stay positive, to not give up hope, I would just get overwhelmed with a sense of no matter what we do were going to lose. It is so important not to allow the smaller setbacks during a game, to deflate your hope, but to keep your focus on the bigger picture. As long as you’re still in the game there is still hope!
On the other hand, there are those games we played that I thought there was no way we could lose, we had full control of the game, a great sense of hope we were going to win and then! One such game sticks out in my mind, it was 1989 we were playing in the final game of the round robin of the Canadian championships against Alberta, a team already out of the playoffs; they had nothing to win or lose. For us quite the opposite was true, if we win this game we get first place and a bye to the finals, or if we lose this game ---- were in a three way tie for the last playoff spot. We were very confident going into the game, and we controlled the game right from the first end, always ahead, in fact going into the ninth end we were four up a great spot to be in, and that’s where it fell apart, Alberta ended up scoring five points in two ends to beat us. (We hadn’t given 5 pts in two ends, all year) We didn’t see this coming, we were speechless, and how quickly we went from hopeful to hopelessness. Kind of like a hot air balloon rupturing and plunging to the ground. But once we had a chance to regroup we realized there was still hope, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, odds were not in our favor, history had never had a team come out of a two tie breakers and win the championship. But we beat the odds that year and won! The point I am trying to make with this story is that, we had lost hope in winning because things didn’t play out the way we thought they should, it isn’t always, our circumstances that stills our hope it’s often our attitude towards our circumstances.
But as Christians the Hope we have is so much more, our hope is not merely Wishful thinking, or optimism, it’s not faith in our self, no our Christian hope is based on A Solid certainty, it rests on God’s sure promises.
We get our real hope from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, nothing is more hopeful than the victory he won on the cross.
Well known and respected Pastor Rick Warren loss his son in 2013, after a long battle with depression. For 27 years Pastor Rick prayed every day that God would heal his son’s mental illness, he never gave up hope. It didn’t make any sense why God did not answer his prayer. When asked Warren said there were three biblical truths that gave him stability during their grief, First life doesn’t make sense, but people can have peace because “ God is with us and loves us. “Secondly, everything on earth is broken, but we can have joy because we know God has a greater plan” and Third we know that life is a battle, but we can have hope because we know there is more to the story.
One of my favourite Easter stories is the story of the two criminals that were crucified on either side of Jesus. The first criminal joined with the crowd hurling insults and mocking him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! But the second criminal, rebuking the first, said “Do you not fear God, We indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds: but this man has done nothing wrong.” And Jesus’ response to him was “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
While Jesus was experiencing the physical, emotional and spiritual agony on the cross, he still expressed the divine nature of his love for man. I can only image the hopelessness that criminal must have been feeling, as he hung on the cross, but Jesus offered him Hope, the kind of hope only he can offer, hope in something beyond our human understanding, - hope in forgiveness, mercy, and a life in paradise, with him.
I don’t profess to stand up here and say it is always easy to always have hope. I know it is not, this world is full of struggles, sadness, disappointments, tragedy and pain.
That is why it is so important for us to be anchored in our faith when the storms of this life hit us, pray every day, and immerse yourself in his word, the bible is full of hope, read and be encouraged by all the things God has done: the victories he has won, the enemies he has vanquished, the mountains he has moved, the miracles he has performed. The mercy he has shown, and the promises he makes us. The God of then is the same God today, a God of hope.
Thank you for the gift of the cross, and the hope of the resurrection.
As we move through every sorrow and trail of this life, uphold us in the knowledge of your promises, and help us to see your hope in every new day.