7/16/06, Pentecost 6B
“In Him We Have Redemption”
"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." (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." (Ephesians 1: 7,8,12, NRSV).
e 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 imbedded hope at work within us we can lift up our heads. This gift of hope from our Heavenly Father to all of His dear children is best expressed in our Psalter reading for today. "Lift up your heads... that the King of Glory may come in."
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 one summer 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." (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.
Every prince or princes reared on pillows and shielded from pain eventually must face up to real and painful trials and tribulations. Our advantage is that we have learned to deal with negative experiences, from our parents, teachers, youth directors, pastors, coaches, etc., who taught us to walk the Christian walk. 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. We had Jesus in our hearts, as the camp song says, “Come into my heart, Come into my heart, Come into my heart Lord Jesus! Come in today, come in to stay, Come into my heart Lord Jesus!”
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, Eternal Life will be ours when we need it, and it is assured within 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 before it is realized. In Romans 15:13, God is spoken of as "the God of hope." In other words, God is the author of our inner experience of hope and not just the subject of the book, or the words of a poem. As we study Scripture, we come to see ourselves as participants in the never-ending drama of God's dealings with his dear children. Since he promises us eternal life it is ours already because God never backs out of a promise. Sometime people can default on an agreement. You may receive a bad check during your lifetime; but, Our Heavenly Father is worthy of our trust. We can bank on Him! His promises are good! We do not just want to be rich in transitory physical possessions that fire can destroy: We want to possess a sure and certain hope that will make us far wealthier that any amount of money. We are billionaires of the soul!
This wonderful word “Redemption” is just one of the synonyms that we use around the church to try to describe how God has been able to convince us that we are truly forgiven, and somehow made right with Him, through the death of Jesus the Christ. C. S. Lewis often said, “It is not so important that we understand Redemption and Salvation with our minds, but that we know it is somehow true in our souls.”
My parents wanted a Datsun puppy for their boy Bobby. Back then a hundred-dollars was a lot of money for a dog, but they paid the price, the transaction was made. My dad redeemed, paid the price for my new dog. I named him Adolph. He was my puppy!
When I was a child the grocery stores gave out “Redemption Stamps” with each purchase. They looked a lot like real postage stamps. The marketing strategy was that it would encourage shoppers to spend more real money. It sure worked on my mother who loved to pile up “S&H Green Stamps.” Whenever I went with her to “redeem” her stamps, I would encourage her to exchange her green stamps for a baseball glove; but she typically selected a lamp, or a set of dishes. However, I learned well the concept of Redemption, and the preachers made the analogy between redeeming green stamps and the Father redeeming us back with the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. It was somehow enough to help me understand the transaction through which we boys and girls could become Christians.
"Lift up your heads... and the King of glory shall come in!” "In Him we have redemption!”
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor