Sunday, November 14, 2021
Lectionary 33, Year B
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, your sovereign purpose brings salvation to birth. Give us faith to be steadfast amid the tumults of this world, trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Daniel 12:1-3 The deliverance of God’s people at the end
Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25 The way to God opened through Christ’s death
Mark 13:1-8 The end and the coming of the Son
Title: The Power of Hope
If you could have any superpower, what power would you want? Did you and your friends ever ask that question of one another when you were a kid? Maybe you are like me and you are still asking that question. I’ll ask it of you right now: what superpower would you want to possess? Maybe one of Marvel’s Avengers would be your inspiration. Or maybe your desired power is to be found in the DC universe? Or maybe you’re old school and the diverse powers of the Greek gods are attractive and enticing. Anybody brave enough to shout out your answer now?
My love of the ocean always drew me to wish for the powers possessed by Aquaman. His ability to stay underwater, swim to great depths, swim really fast. Of course, flying is always attractive to one who loves to travel. Or time travel could be fun. Dangerous, but fascinating.
Last weekend, I heard Bryan Stevenson interviewed on the radio. His memoir was the basis for the movie – JUST MERCY. In that interview he added a new option to the superpowers menu that I had not considered when making my choice – HOPE. That’s right. He sees HOPE as a superpower. And the more I think about, that more I think he is absolutely right. If a superpower is something that is beyond our human limitations, power beyond our normal expression of humanity, I’d say, yes, HOPE takes us beyond the limitations of our humanity, is a power that moves us beyond what is human, it is super human.
I also can’t help but see that the last three weeks have prepared us to hear this perspective of HOPE as a superpower. Three Sundays ago, our focus was on healing – admitting the brokenness of our humanity that fixates on power and self-interest and promotion, and futilely tries to be the supreme power. However, what we really are is ignorant to our limitations and left to cry out to God, have mercy on us. And God in Christ answers that prayer. Then two weeks ago, we heard and celebrated again the grace of God that is free and that frees us to be cherished children through baptism. A gift that is ours through the work of the Holy Spirit as we are joined in the church’s ministry of word and sacrament. Finally, last week, we basked in the glow of God’s saving mercy and love that is our identity as God’s saints. SO, the sum total? Reminded that, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, we are healed, freed, and saved, it is time, it is a perfect time, to take up the superpower that is ours in Christ: HOPE.
Now, HOPE, as an everyday word, is a bit problematic. It is a bit like love. We use it in so many different ways that it can get confusing and even lose its meaning. When I suggest that as people of God HOPE is our superpower, I do not mean to suggest that our superpower is in some way making wishes come true. I am certainly not suggesting that because we hope for things or outcomings, we have the superpower to make them come true for ourselves or for others like some wand waver out of a fairy tale. But when people hear the word HOPE, that is one way we use it. I hope I get that job. I hope my team wins. I hope I get what I want for Christmas (41 days away, I’m just saying). And that is certainly not what Bryan Stevenson is talking about, and it is definitely not how scripture is speaking of HOPE.
The author of Hebrews is seeking to build and direct the hope of the reader. We heard: 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for Jesus the Christ who has promised is faithful.
This assurance follows the proclamation that Christ was and is the perfect sacrifice, the complete sacrifice, the once and for all sacrifice given for our sake. And it is only in this sacrifice that we find the foundation of our hope. It is Christ’s death-defeating death and resurrection that turns hope int our superpower.
And Jesus assures his disciples of how crucial and necessary this hope is for life in this world. There they were. Finally in Jerusalem. The disciples were probably still on a high from the palm waving welcome that Jesus had received two days before. The shouts of Hosanna still echoing in their ears. They were the talk of the town. Their fame and glory and importance intensified with each person who came up and just had to greet Jesus, touch his tunic, maybe even shake his hand. “We’ve made the big time,” they were telling themselves. Afterall, look how big those buildings are. Jerusalem must be like New York, “if you can make it there…” well, you know the rest. But Jesus, ever the realist, says slow down. This is all fleeting, temporal, vulnerable. And won’t he live that reality over the next few days as Hosannas turn into shouts of crucify. And its not going to get any easier after the resurrection, he tells them. The list of hardships is long. And history has shown that he was spot on. And it continues.
And in the face of it all, the human nature tells us to be afraid, be very afraid. It tells us to flee or fight. It tells us to hoard resources, to suspect and alienate the other, to surrender to the circumstances, to despair, to just give up.
Hear it again: 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for Jesus the Christ who has promised is faithful.
Nothing takes away that hope that is ours in Christ Jesus. Sure, we wish we could just hope the hard times away. But we can’t. That is not our the hope of our superpower. The power that is ours through the work of the Holy Spirit is found in the reality that that we can hold fast to the hope that is ours in the promises fulfilled in Jesus the Christ.
How is your grip these days? Are you holding fast? It’s a challenge these days. Watching two high profile trials that are painfully reminding us just how racism continues to plague our nation’s systems and our minds. Seeing a less than successful global gathering in Glasgow, Scotland that was charged with dealing with the growing crisis of climate change. Closer to home, yesterday evening, this sanctuary hosted yet another memorial service for someone who died much too young. This time, 34 years of age. At last night’s Inspirational Gospel Showcase, in anticipation of Trans Day of Remembrance (Nov. 22), we gave space to the 45 trans people who have been killed violently this past year. The majority of them trans women of color. (That’s 45 we know of.) And as I read the names aloud last night, there were gasps from the congregation as the roll of victims just kept going on and on and painfully on. And as if that wasn’t enough, tonight we remember Kristallnacht and all the evil and terror that was unleashed against the Jews of Europe, full knowing the anti-Semitism is still showing its ugly face too often, too painfully.
How is your super power now? Still feeling super? Still having any semblance of a power?
One more time from Hebrews:
23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for Jesus the Christ who has promised is faithful.
And the writer continues, 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hope as a superpower is best cultivated, encouraged, and practiced in community. It is why we are told: you are the body of Christ, though made up of many parts, you are one body (1 Co. 12:12). The hope found in community is why we say: Gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, we pray…
One more thing about this superpower we call hope – we don’t just hold fast just for ourselves and our own wellbeing. As lights of the world that we are called to be, perhaps shining a light of hope in the darkness is one of the more important expressions of God-given light that we give to the world.
So beloved community of faith, live your superpower by holding fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for Jesus the Christ who has promised is faithful.
The Rev. Mark Erson,