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This weekend last year we had, I guess you would call it an art installation, of the word HOPE in large illuminated letters. They are doing the rounds of all the cathedrals but were with us at the start of this dreadful last 12 months when we have seen lives ruined and lost; families separated; social isolation on a scale I think very few will ever experience again.
And here in the beauty and expanse of York Minster were these four letters – HOPE – shining out of the darkness as we went into an unprecedented year where we probably, amongst all the other adjectives, felt HOPELESS.
I want to reflect a little bit this evening on this word HOPE as part of our Lenten Sermon Series, Living Christ’s Story, and how an understanding of Christian HOPE has been influential in my own journey of faith and discipleship.
The Indonesian word for HOPE means ‘looking through the horizon to what is beyond’. What might this mean and what might it look like?
For the Christian I think it means living God’s Kingdom now – to live God’s future today – to look beyond the horizon of this world and live in the hope of God’s Kingdom in the present.
A kingdom that believes in a new way of being:
A Kingdom where women can walk home alone at night;
A kingdom where black lives matter;
A kingdom where climate justice is a reality.
This isn’t wishful thinking, it is the prayer of every Christian ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….
And I see the reality of this in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. God breaks into our world through the birth of Jesus.
God wants to be in a relationship with us, a relational God in a world made up of relationships. Jesus living a life of relationship where the mighty are brought low and the lowly are lifted high, revealed throughout the Gospels in:
every act of healing,
every miracle of new life and new birth.
A life that says death does not have the final word but where God tugs us back to life, new life, which allows us to see beyond the present to what can be. And that for me is what it means to live Christ’s story and to live and work for the hope that is within us: a hope for a more just and equal world where we love our neighbours as ourselves and work for the flourishing of all humanity.
The first reading this evening speaks of the exodus, a foundational narrative in which God reminds the Israelites: ‘I will take you as my people, and I will be your God’. A pivotal story in which we are reminded of God’s love for God’s people and God’s will to be in relationship with humanity and to bring us out of all that enslaves us and establish a relationship based on promise and trust.
Writing at a time of great persecution, Paul in the second reading, is not trying to deny the reality of suffering but speaking words of hope to this fragile and fledgling Christian community. Paul, in essence, is reflecting on what it means to live out Christ’s story and we see the confidence and assurance he has in God in a future not yet realised. Or in other words, we hear Paul talking about hope – a hope founded on God wanting to be in relationship with humanity and reconciled, through Christ, with us, because God so loved the world…..
Living Christ’s story is living a life of love. And that is a life of choice. Choosing to love when it would be so easy at times to turn away; not get involved; not love our neighbours as ourselves. That’s not what Jesus did. His life, death, and resurrection are nothing less than the embodiment and enactment of love.
And we see this breaking into our world when…..
We watch someone running into a collapsing building in a war torn city and bring out a crying child;
When a teenager stands up to a president demanding that the leaders of the world do something for climate justice;
When we see a black man carrying an injured white supremacist away from danger;
When we see the daily visit of a husband to a care home to sit for a few hours by the side of his wife who no longer knows him;
When we see a nun kneeling in front of a man with a machine gun.
Living Christ’s Story is in short living a life of love and hope that the world can and will be a better place. A place we begin to occupy today when we live the love to which each of us is called. Freedom from all that diminishes human dignity; suffering that may come when we assert that dignity, and joy in a hope we know will never fail.
In Jesus name we pray ‘thy kingdom come’.
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