Finding Hope in Changing Times
Where do we find hope when our world is turned upside down? What do we hold on to when we are worried about our health, our families, our jobs? What can we count on in the face of uncertainty, isolation, fear and even death? For the next several weeks we will explore HOPE as found in the Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Epistles, and the Book of Revelation.
God has given us work to do. God has called each of us before we were even born. It was God who named us. It is God who claims us. The light of God’s love shines in us. Let us shine God’s love into all the world!
A Reading from Scripture Psalm 40:1-3 NIV
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.
At the End of Your Rope
I am certain that all of you would agree that we are living in unchartered times. The world as we knew it is changing and has changed so much that we doubt that we will ever go back to the “old ways.” Sometimes, in the middle of these moments of radical change in shifting, it can feel like everything is moving under our feet and it’s hard to get our footing. Our anxiety goes through the roof and there is a sense of fear that can overwhelm us. Over the past few months, I have heard several people talk about being at the end of their rope, a phrase we often use when life feels overwhelming. Jennifer sometimes says that the home schooling of Sarah and Ashley brings her to the end of her rope. Frustration and anxiety abound.
Today we are going to talk about bringing hope even when we are at the end of our rope. I hear from many that they are looking for hope right now. The truth is that we are all looking for hope. We need hope. Hope is what keeps us going. Hope is what gets us up in the morning. Hope is what helps us to show up and dress up. We cannot survive without hope. Hope is what keeps us from giving up. Every human needs
hope to survive.
Sometimes we use hope in a more casual way, like when we say, “I hope it rains tomorrow because we need the water.” Or we hope for something for dinner which is our favorite food. I would say that’s more like wishful thinking.
When we talk about bringing hope, we are talking about something much deeper.
As I watched Adam Hamilton of the Church of the Resurrection talk about Hope, he said:
Hope is the conviction that despite one’s presence circumstances, that the future will, in some meaningful sense, be better than the present. He also said that Hope is choosing to believe and act as if the future will be better than the present. 
The Psalms speak often about hope. The word Psalm means song and the book of Psalms was the prayer and worship book of the Jewish people and the early church. It was the hymnbook and the prayer book all wrapped into one. The Psalms are beautiful because they encourage us to not just think about hope but to act it out and be hope to others. We find that in the Psalm 40 1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.
The Psalms are beautiful because they reflect both our sense of despair and how we turn to hope. I think of Psalm 13 which begins with these words of agony. How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How does someone who is complaining and lamenting, finally get to this place in life? They are trusting in the deliverance they cannot see, and they are holding on to hope in choosing that in the midst of challenging moments. Based upon their past experience of God’s faithfulness, they hold onto hope that God will be faithful again and the worst thing will never be the last thing. This is faith in the midst of the darkness. Let us remember what hope is again. Hope is choosing to believe and act as if the future will be better than the present. The ancient Israelites did not have evidence that everything would get better, much like us, we do not have the evidence of that today. What they remembered was that God had delivered their people in the past and God will be faithful again. God is capable and faithful to deliver us if we will put our trust in God. Eventually, that deliverance did come. Sometimes deliverance took weeks, sometimes months, and sometimes years and even generations. The Israelites were changed, and they were different because of walking through the challenges of life. They would come back to God and get serious with God about repenting and bringing good things to be a part of what God was doing in the world.
In my twenty-six years of ordained ministry, I think of all the people I have worked with who have gone through abandonment, divorce, job loss, the loss of a loved one, health crisis and trauma that is seemed overwhelming. I see a common theme in all the ones who make it through that time and that is they live out this phrase and put all their hope in God and not in human things which can be so unreliable.
When we look at different translations of the Bible, we find that Hope in Hebrew includes the idea of waiting – such as “watchful waiting” – being patient or hopefully watching for God to act. To put our hope in the Lord and to wait patiently for the Lord are the same thing. If we believe that the future will be better than the present, then that is waiting and that is being hopeful. We wait expectantly because we believe God will act in the future and it will be different and better than the present. Hope is born in seasons of despair and discouragement and we must wait and that is frustrating.
What we believe is that God redeems even moments like this when we feel like hope is elusive. We choose to bring hope because this is what Jesus did and what God does when he sets our feet on solid ground. Hope is a choice and when we choose to believe it, hope will well up inside of us and we can bring it as part of being Jesus Christ the world.
For Christians, this is not just wishful thinking, but it’s rooted and grounded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Christ brought hope to people through healing and teaching and prayer and encouragement, and when hope seems lost in his death, he brought us resurrection and the life everlasting. In walking out of the tomb, Jesus tells us there is always hope. God redeemed Christ suffering and used it for our salvation, bringing us hope in the good news that the worst thing is never the last thing.
In 1958, there were two parents in Italy expecting their first child. They were told before he was born there was a high likelihood, he would be born with severe birth defects and he might not survive childbirth. They still held onto hope that this baby would survive so they continue the pregnancy praying and believing that God would work through their child. Five months after he was born, they received devastating news that he had Congenital Glaucoma and he would never see like most children. He could see shapes,
but he would never be able to see the world and focus like most people. His parents still held out hope and pray for their child, that God would guide him even though he was nearly blind. Despite his limited vision, when he was 12 years old, he was playing soccer. The ball hit him in the head and cause a brain hemorrhage and he lost what little sight he had left. He and his family still chose hope that somehow God could do something with this blindness at the age of 12. He went on to finish high school, graduated college with honors and went to law school, receiving his law degree. But, what he really loved to do was sing. He left behind his career in law and began to sing, with some of his favorite songs being spiritual and hymns and Psalms because he is a follower of Jesus. He will tell you that he is not perfect, and he is made lots of mistakes, but it’s his faith in the resurrected Christ that gives him the hope to say that regardless of his present circumstances, he believes the future can be meaningfully better than the present. He has sold over 100 million records and is known as one of the greatest tenors of our time.
Adam Hamilton reminded me of the life of Andrea Bocelli. He sang this song which is one of the cornerstones of our Christian faith in an empty Cathedral in Milan just after Easter. I invite you close your eyes and to hear this song the way he hears it, by feeling the words and the music. Look this up on Youtube!
I found Andrea’s story and him singing this song powerful and moving because he trusted his life and even his blindness to the Lord, choosing to hope regardless of the
circumstances. Because of that, Andrea Bocelli was able to bring hope to many and Italy on Easter weekend at the height of the pandemic for millions of people. Here is a blind man singing in an empty Cathedral, “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.” Having been through times of hopelessness and despair and disappointment and heartache in his life, Andrea saw all the ways in life that God had delivered him. God did amazing things with all that pain and brought this amazing beauty. I think what he
saw is what the psalmist said in Psalm 40- 1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.
I began the message by talking about being at the end of our rope. We recognize that all of us can feel like we are at the end of our rope at times in life. Maybe you have felt that way in your life recently. When one explores the origin of the word hope, we will find that the Latin word for Hope is rope! How did rope become connected to waiting patiently upon God, hoping expectantly that God would do something to bring about relief? I think this word is meant to paint a picture of a lifeline that God is handing to us. God is reaching out towards us with that rope and we take hold of it and it gives us hope. As we take hold of that rope, there is an expectation that God is going to deliver and there is something on the other end that we will find which will redeem and restore and bring life.
 The Church of the Resurrection April 19, 2020
 More of Adam Hamilton April 2020