Anticipation and Hope

Transcribed from the sermon preached November 29, 2015

The Reverend Max Lynn, Pastor

Scripture Readings: I Thessalonians 3:9-13, Jeremiah 33:14-16

 

In its current literary context we see this morning’s passage set while Jeremiah is incarcerated by King Zedekiah. Jeremiah sees that the king’s policy is taking the nation down a troubled road, and the king is getting tired of hearing about it. Babylonians were about to mow over Israel. Jeremiah envisions a new legitimate king of Judah who will rule with righteousness and justice. He does not consider Zedekiah legitimate because he was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar

The destruction is inevitable now, but a remnant will rise up. Now scholars feel these verses were inserted into the text later. It is an update to Jeremiah 23:5, 6 because it is not contained in the Septuagint.

“A century or more after the prophet Jeremiah, a scribe updated the prophecy for his day.  Note that in 33:14 God promises to fulfill the promise he had made in Jeremiah 23:5-6.
The big shift comes in v 16.  Note that only Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety.  The geographical extent of the land had been shrunk to fit post-exilic realities.” http:/fontes.1stc.edu/rklein/Documents/advent.htm#Advent1

I wonder if you have ever looked back at prior troubles and thought, “Wow, it appears as if God had a plan after all.   I really grew through that and became a stronger, better person.” Living through the trial itself gave your strength and faith that you and others around you could live through future trials.

Maybe you have had a boss who was horrible and put you through hell. And you thought I’m doomed, this job is misery. And it was. But when you got a new job, you realized that while you were suffering under that horrible boss, you were learning how to be a good colleague by learning what not to do.

Maybe you have been in a difficult situation where you became anxious and panicky, where your thought and functioning was confused and jumping around, and someone or something told you to calm down and focus, because the situation demanded your best effort. So you calmed down and made it through.

Maybe you have been in a situation where you lost your temper and said things you regret. You threw grace and peace out the window and just blew up, and as usual it messed things up worse. And maybe things went from bad to worse but you learned from your mistake; maybe a prophet came into our lives and smacked us across the face with the truth, and now we are a better person. And now new sprouts of faith and grace are coming up out of you.

Sometimes we are so far down a road we can’t turn back and we have to live with the consequences of our actions and the actions of those around us, and it is going to hurt. But we begin to repent anyway, and we begin to see a new way even though we still get sucked down the old way for a bit. Our internal road gives us strength and peace before the external situation changes.

That is what the bible does. It looks back at the past to show us how to have strength, patience and faith as we confront the future. Paul writes in Romans, “For in hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Certainly a great moment of waiting was Jesus as he went to the cross. Rather than forcing us or ordering us to do what we ought, he just shows us the way and waits with positive expectation. “Come on, you can do it. You may have gone down the wrong road, but I love and forgive you. I will help and guide you. I will give you teammates, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to help you abound in love.”

Hang in there; keep the faith, stay strong, there will be a new day.

Henri Nouwen in a Meditation on Dying and Caring writes of meeting a trapeze artist:

One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan talking about flying. He said, “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think I am the greatest star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump”

“How does it work?” I asked.

“The secret,” Rodleigh said, “is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything: when I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.”

“You do nothing” I said, surprised.

“Nothing,” Rodleigh repeated. “A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.”

When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind:

“Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.” Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, “Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.”

Henri M. M Nouwen
A Roman Catholic Priest
Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring
Harper, 1994