7/16/2000, P5, Year B
Up Your Heads
"Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in." Who is the King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." (Psalm 24: 7 & 8, NRSV).
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us... So that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory." (Eph.1: 7,8,12, NRSV).
You and I have learned along the way that it is hope that heals the hurts of the heart! It is hope in Christ that enables us to keep our heads high when heartbreakers roar! Because of His hope at work within us we can lift up our heads.
However, when we are in the middle of facing suffering, failure or discouragement, it is sometimes hard to find hope because of the pain and the all consuming nature of major problems. A pastor shared the story of how in the midst of having a heart attack he was so terrified that he never prayed once. He forgot to pray. It was two days, after his recovery was insured by physicians, before he remembered to call on the Great Physician. Yet, when he finally did call upon God, he said that he did not feel a sense of judgment and guilt for it seemed as if God had experienced folks forgetting him before. He also said that when he did remember to pray he realized that God had been watching over him all along. It was as if God had an open invitation and never left him or forgot him in his hour of pain. Isn't that just like our Heavenly Father?
What kind of God would our loving Father be if He left us hopeless in the hard places? Do you recall the words of the Psalmist: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Ps. 30:5, KJV).
Those of us who walk with God do sometimes get knocked down, but we do not stay down! The whole idea about the gift of the Holy Spirit is that the Father wants to relate to us in a helpful manner so that even in seeming defeat we can find victory. As sharers in Christ's suffering we will never know ultimate defeat. The means of our ever enduring hope has been provided through the blood of Christ. Additionally, we have "...been marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit..." (Eph. 1:13, NRSV).
Sometimes this enduring hope catches us by surprise. At the beach last Monday I looked out our condo window at the big overcast sky covering the Atlantic Ocean. "No beautiful sunrise this morning!" I told Marilyn, but she got up anyway and opened wide the curtains and at 6:32 a giant orange fiery ball bounced up over the horizon and turned the sky beautifully golden, and the dark clouds were transformed into long lovely streaks that no human artist could completely capture. In a similar manner, it is God that brushes the clouds of doubt and despair away and restores our hope.
"...though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith... May result in praise and glory... Now you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." (see I Peter 1:6-8, from NASV).
The great benefit of survival is the spiritual assurance that the next time sorrow comes we will survive again through the powerful grace of Him who flung the stars into space. The "trial of our faith" brings an inner proof that all is well, no matter what serpents cross our paths.
Even princes reared on pillows and shielded from pain eventually must face trials and tribulations. Our advantage is that we have learned to deal with negative experiences, from our parents, teachers, coaches, etc., who taught us to walk the Christian walk. Then when we ourselves finally came to faith and hope in Christ by our own volition, we too began to learn how to keep our chins up amid inevitable problems.
The Biblical concept of hope is so much more than the contemporary secular notions about hoping that stuff turns out somehow OK. All of the jazzy television commercials attempting to lure us into purchasing lottery tickets are aimed at our prurient desires to get something for nothing. Our hope is in "Christ our hope of glory." (Col. 1:27), and is based upon the solid rock of God's promises that will come true. Thus, biblical promises become something of a "future reality" in the present. God has written a good check that we do not have to rush to the bank hoping that it will be covered. His promissory note can be cashed at any time. The Bible often speaks of hope as the fulfillment in the future of his promises made to our fathers, and to us; thus, the resurrection will be ours when we need it, but is assured to us in the present as a "future reality." This term, "future reality" sounds like a contradiction in terms; however, when a promise is made by the Almighty it becomes absolutely true, even when unrealized. In Romans 15:13, God is spoken of as "the God of hope." In other words, God is the author of our hope and not the subject of the book. Bathing in scripture, we come to see ourselves as actors in the never ending drama of God's dealings with all of his children. Since he promises us goodness and victory; they are ours already. Some checks we will need to cash now, and others we will hold onto for awhile. He is worthy of our trust. We can bank on him. His promises are good. We do not just want to be a millionaire, we possess a sure and certain hope that makes us far more wealthy that any amount of money. We are zillionaires of the soul!
"Lift up your heads... and the King of glory shall come in."
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor