Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Now Thank We All Our God!

A friend on Facebook asked this question this week.
“What do you consider to be your core values? The guiding moral compass by which you navigate the murky waters of connection and communication with your fellow human beings?”
I thought it was a good question.
And here is my answer.
I believe that every human being is flawed, sinful, and selfish, including myself.
That is my core belief.
It is what I assume about the world around me.
You might say, “That is really a pessimistic view of the world.”
I don’t think so.
I think it is a realistic view of the world.
The world is what it is.
It is important because I am not caught off guard, I am not surprised, shocked, disappointed by what people do.
I assume it, because people are people.
I don’t really expect them to get better, or do something drastically different to improve life here on the earth.

On the other hand I have a core belief that God loves this world.
That God loves all of us who are flawed, sinful, and selfish.
God redeems us, reforms us, and reclaims us.
God makes right what we cannot.

I mention this because today our theme is hope.
And I am hopeful.
But you just said, “Everyone is flawed, sinful, and selfish and we can’t make the world better”.
I didn’t say was I was optimistic, I said I am hopeful.
There is a big difference in my view.

The Czech writer Vaclav Havel once wrote, “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.
It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
Hope carries with some element of trust.
Hope is the belief that together we can make things better.
Hope takes courage.
Hope is active.
But here is the thing what do we hope in.
We might hope for better outcomes in the world.
We might hope for a more just world, a more peaceful world.
And that is good.
But who is bringing in that world.
Certainly not us, we are too much concerned about our own selves, to make that happen.
Certainly not the Government we elect to represent us.
Certainly not anything I have come across in this world.

But I don’t hope for things.
As a person of faith, I hope in something.
My hope is always in God.

Today’s Gospel from Matthew is about this very thing.
Today’s Gospel is apocalyptic literature, part of a longer section in Matthew about the end of the world.
It is meant to lift back the curtain and show us what the end looks like.
It is to show us what the powers of the world really look like.
And it is not pretty.
The powers of the world are monstrous.
And the only thing that defeats them is God’s goodness.
Matthew wrote his Gospel to encourage Christians to remain hopeful during difficult times.
To remind us to be alert so we can see God at work.
“Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Matthew writes so his faith community can trust that God was working through all the things that they faced in the world.
Matthew believed that faith in God lead to an ethical life.
That because of faith we could and would serve our God and neighbor and live out justice and grace.
Yes, the world was flawed, sinful, and selfish, but God was working it all out.
Put our hope in God, to make us and the world better.
As it says in Psalm 39, “My hope is in God.”

We need that hope.
We need it at all times.
Many people will think that we live in the worst times ever, but I can assure you we do not.
We live in relative easy times compared to what others throughout history have faced.

Consider our hymn of the day today.
I choose this hymn so I could tell you the story that lay behind it.
It was written by Martin Rinkart, a Lutheran pastor in the little village of Eilenberg, in what is today Germany.
He was a pastor during the thirty years war, one the worst wars in all of European history.
Because of this war his little town was a place where refugees flooded into, and his walled town was surrounded by Swedes.
Not on only that but there was the plague going around.
He was the pastor of this little village and all around him people are dying.
It has been said that he once did as many as fifty funerals a day.
He buried his wife, and all of his pastor friends.
His little village was surrounded by Swedes and they wanted a huge ransom to stop fighting.
The good Rev. Martin went out and negotiated peace and the hostilities ended.
Things eventually returned to normal.
Martin wrote this song for all those that survived war and the plague.
Think about that.
He wrote a song about giving thanks to people who were devastated by war, famine, and fear.
What could they possibly have to give thanks for?
They could give thanks to God, because it is in God that we put our lives.
It is in God that we trust and have hope.

It is true without God there would be no reason to be thankful.
And this morning I want us to think about how God gives us hope.
Without God things are very grim.
There is war, famine, death, and fear.
Without God there is only our flawed, sinful, and selfish self.
But with God we can believe in the power of the resurrection.
We can believe in redemption for us all.
With God we can have hope that the powers of this world will not rule forever, and that God will have the last word.

That is truly worth giving thanks for.
And we just gave thanks, on Thursday around Thanksgiving tables.
And maybe it was too easy.
To easy to sit around a dinner table filled with food, surrounded by loved ones, in relative safety and say all the things we are thankful for like family, food, friends.
But also we know that even today our lives are not as always easy as they look.
That we too are filled with fears about what is happening in the world.
What our children face.
We are filled with empty souls that turn too easily to material things to bring our lives satisfaction.
We are filled violence in our hearts.
And we too need to remember that even in our sinful, flawed, and selfish selves we are Thankful to God for giving us hope.
Hope that we can and will make a difference to others in this world.
Hope that we can be used to love others.
Hope that this world is worth fighting for and striving to make more just and loving.

“Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices…”
Thanks be to God for giving us hope that indeed Jesus will come into our hearts, and into the world to tear away fear, famine, and war, and make us and the world the place it should be.
During this season of advent we wait for that with eager anticipation and hope.

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