Sermon in Text
God’s Gift of Hope
Jeremiah Chapter 29 verse 11-14 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you’ll find me. If you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I’ll bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile”. Dream never dies, just the dreamer. Hope never dies because hope belongs to God. Hope is not something that I can come up with. hope is not something that I can create. Hope is not my will, hope is not what I do. Hope is God’s gift, because hope belongs to God. You see, we have to understand who we are. We are temporal beings. Temporal beings meaning we are kind of guarded by our time. We have no choice but to live in this time. Sometimes we are in prison. I feel like we are in prison in our time. We are limited by our time boundary and God gave us hope so that we may overcome that boundary so that we may not have to live as prisoners of our time.
Past, Present or Future?
I was thinking about what is most important past, present, or future. What is most important to you? Some people may say, present. Only thing that exists is present, and then they say present is the most important. But for human beings, future is the most important. the present and past are our only means by which you get to the future. Ultimately, future is the most important. The future is the end. Woody Allen said “I have seen the future and it is very much like the present, only longer acute”, but I have two problems with this statement. First, our future is not just repetition of our present, or just continuation of our present. Then maybe the dream of those who have everything in the present, they want to just maintain the status quo. Their life is good as it is, so they don’t want any change. So their future is exactly what they want, exactly the same as the present. That’s what they want for their future before those who have not, who don’t have, who suffer, they want their future to be different from the present. It can’t be the same. So I do believe that future is different from the present, the heaven that I envisioned is very different from the life that I live here. Heaven is not just continuation of the life that I’m living right now. Heaven is radically different. Secondly, you cannot see the future. He said, I have seen the future and he’s the same as the present, just longer. You cannot see the future. Future is invisible. It is made that way. The future is invisible to us, no one sees the future. God created in such a way that future is blocked. We cannot see it, and that’s why God gave us hope, so that we may go to worse. The invisible future, with hope as the light and the guide to that invisible future. Listen to what Saint Paul says, “for in hope we were saved. Now, hope that is seen is not hope for a who hopes for what is seen, but if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for with patients”. That’s why Paul is so amazing. He just saw exactly what’s going on in our spiritual. In a world he knew exactly what hope does. What you see is not hope, but what when you cannot see through the hope, you can enter into that unknown, the uncertain. That’s what hope does. God gave us hope so that we don’t become prisoners of the future. We do not see. You know what I meafn? In this day and age, our life, our future is very uncertain. Many people say that, you know, I’m scared for my future because it’s very uncertain and unpredictable. That’s what future is like and if people are scared and that fear makes them prisoners of their future, they just simply don’t know what to do with their future. Lots of worries, anxieties and powerlessness. Whenever they think about future, they feel powerless. I can not do anything about it. I just receive and accept whatever comes to me. That’s what future is. They just hope that something good comes, but I cannot do anything about it. They feel powerless. The future’s not ours to see, whatever will be will be. That’s why people say whatever will be will be. I can’t do anything about it. That’s how people feel these days. It is their response to the life that is very unpredictable, uncertain and uncontrollable. But life has been that way from the beginning. Always. Not just now. It has been always like that from the beginning of time. You know, I saw a very interesting phenomena when Paris was attacked, these terrorists in the middle of the city started killing people. Interestingly, a day later or so, around the same time, same thing happened in Beirut, Lebanon and whatever happened in Paris, all media was focusing on that and had big media coverage. Everybody talked about it, everyone knew about it, but what happened in Lebanon? Nobody really knew. Media didn’t deal with it, and then I was wondering why, why does Paris gets so much attention while Lebanon doesn’t get any attention? And I realized, Oh, you know, unpredictability, uncertainty of future deals with it. They built a fortress very well. Oh, defended city. We built this in this city. This can never happen. Maybe in Lebanon, but not in the city. You can never have this. This kind of thing would not happen in this city that we built, whether it’s Toronto, New York, Paris, and when that happens, they feel so vulnerable. Even with their mighty fortress they cannot deal with it. They cannot protect themselves from the unknown and unpredictable future. So they feel vulnerable, nothing can save us from the tyranny of the unknown and the uncertain future. Nothing. You can never build a fortress that can protect you from that. When you face the future, all alone without hope, what does future look like? Future looks like enemy that threatens to destroy. That’s how future looks like, but when you see the future with eyes of hope, what does future look like? Future becomes a friend that guides you, that opens up the new possibility which we talked about last week. So when you see your future with the eyes of hope, you see friends who guide you and lead you into the unknown, the uncertainty. That’s why God gave us hope so that we may become friends with our future. Our future is not there to devour you nor destroy you, our future is there waiting to guide us and lead us into the better possibility
Hope Within Your Path
Jeremiah proclaimed to the Israel people who are in exile who lived with bleak hope for their future because they lost their country. They were all in exile in Babylon, and then Jeremiah proclaimed this message “for surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope to give you a future with hope”. He spoke this message to the people who are in exile who lived with no hope. He proclaimed to them, God will give you a future with hope. Jurgen Moltmann, famous German theologian in his book, theology of hope. He said, “it is through faith that we find the path of true life, but it is only hope that keeps him on that path. Through the eyes of faith, you’ll find your path, but what makes you keep on that path is hope. Without hope, you will go off that path as we see the future with the eyes of hope”. Not only does your future looks different, but your present comes alive. Your present becomes empowered, so empowered to be able to stay on that path that your eyes of faith sees your eyes of faith will see something, but what makes you strong enough to stay on that what you see is hope. Without hope, you can not stay on that path. We’ll have strength to persevere, we’ll have strength to be patient, and we talked about it two weeks ago patience. Patience gets possibility and hope. So during advent time we are reflecting on these themes. What do you think is the punishment for the sin of unbelief, what will be the result of the sin of unbelief? I think it is despair and hopelessness. The result of the sin of unbelief is hopelessness. Today is the third advent. Hope is very much a theme of advent. Someone said this, when I read books, I always have pen and a notebook usually fountain pen, so I always write, I like writing itself. Doesn’t matter what I write. I write it. I forgot who said it and which book he was from, but it’s pretty good. He says, “Hope moves between the illusions of our own presence, stability and the reality of things that are not yet to come” what does that mean? It means wanting to stay where we are is temptation and our illusion. You can never stay the same, that’s illusion. We can only move forward and what moves us forward is hope. Only when we have hope. We can move forward.
How did the early christians survive through prosecutions, tortures, killings, and murdering the hardships and of the unknown future? How could early Christians survive? because they saw something different for the future with the eyes of hope. That’s how they survived. What did they see? They saw the sanctified future, they didn’t see the future as we see it, they had their eyes open and they saw the sanctIfied future. That’s why they could persevere. That’s severe persecution. Do you see the sanctified future? When hope works in you, you see something different, Paul said “Suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us”. He saw the glory that was about to be revealed. In other words, he saw the sanctified future. The present suffering is not comparable. it’s nothing. You can handle it. When you see the sanctified future, you can handle the present and you can overcome your challenges, hardships and difficulties and move on and move forward to what your eyes of faith sees. That is a message of the advent that is the message of hope and that’s how hope works in us.