How does God give us hope?
My daughter shared a tic tok video with me last week.
If you don’t know what tic tok is, ask your kid or grand kid.
Anyway, in this video, a young woman wanted to prank her boyfriend.
He was a big fan of condiments apparently, particularly ketchup.
Which he would be using that evening.
She had heard that baking soda and ketchup were an explosive mixture, much like the schoolroom volcanos we all made in science class.
She decided to put baking soda in the plastic ketchup bottle in her refrigerator.
Her hope was that when the boyfriend opened the bottle, the ketchup would explode out of the bottle and scare the heck out of him.
The problem was, she did not know how much baking soda to use.
So … she kept adding a little more and a little more to make sure there would be an explosion.
She hoped one thing, but something different happened.
It exploded right there in her hand.
The pop scared her so much that she fell over backward wide eyed and open mouthed.
I still chuckle.
There was ketchup all over her apartment.
Things had not turned out as she hoped.
But was that really hope?
What she had was a wish.
Something she wanted to happen but was uncertain it would.
And ultimately, it didn’t.
That is how we think of hope, right?
When we hope for something, we want it to happen.
But there is no certainty it will happen as we would like.
We aren’t sure it will happen at all.
That is not how God wants us to hope.
God wants us to hope in something that is certain.
That is the hope God gives us.
Which brings us to our scripture.
Luke 24: 36-49
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
You might be wondering what this passage has to do with hope.
Let’s give it some context.
The disciples have been with Jesus for three years.
He has taught them that he came to release the captives, bring good news to the poor, give sight to the blind and declare the year of God’s favor.
He healed and taught and challenged the powerful.
But now he was dead.
Crucified and buried.
Two of his followers on the road to Emmaus said this:
“[W] had hoped that he was going to be the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
That was the hope.
But as far as they knew, it had not happened.
Jesus was dead.
But they soon found out it was Jesus they were talking to.
We now join our text.
The disciples are talking about the women who went to the tomb and found Jesus to be alive.
The guys from the Emmaus road were back and saying the same thing.
The disciples were skeptical, to say the least.
Then, there he was!
Right there in the room with them.
This was not what they had hoped for.
This was not what they expected.
Jesus was dead and this … ghost? … was just terrifying.
But wait … this … man? … has flesh and body and has the scars of crucifixion.
And … he eats.
Ghosts don’t have flesh and don’t eat.
But still …
Then Jesus opened their minds.
It was Jesus.
And now, for the first time, they understand what the plan had been all along.
What they had hoped for in Jesus was the redemption of Israel.
A poor nation.
A captive nation.
A blind nation.
An unredeemed nation.
But Jesus didn’t come to do that, Jesus came to lift up the spiritually poor, to free the captives to sin, to enlighten the ungodly, to redeem humankind.
More than what they hoped for.
And this was not just wishful thinking.
Jesus himself was the proof.
He was dead and was alive again
He had the power to do the things he said he would do, not because they were good ideas, but because he said so.
And death was not going to stop him.
The disciples now had a new and different hope.
Sure and certain of something they couldn’t see.
Sure and certain because of something they could see.
Death was not the end.
And because of that hope, they would be witnesses to that hope.
But there was more to that hope than the reclamation of humankind.
There was a sense that God had the power to make all thinks new.
God had taken a broken, scarred and dead Jesus and made that same Jesus new.
God could do that for all creation, too.
That is a certain and sure understanding as well.
Hope that it will happen.
And they were to be witnesses to that as well.
But neither of those things had happened to them yet.
They were still looking to the future.
And had to live in the present.
That is us.
We are still living in a world that is cracked.
Our hope is that God will not just mend the cracks but to make the world new again.
Make us new again.
That is our hope.
That is the promise of resurrection.
So, what do we do?
We learn a couple of things from it.
First, we learn what the scriptures mean.
Jesus, the incarnate God, came to give us hope.
Hope that God loves us and cares for us.
That God can make the world new.
That God can make us new.
And that is what will happen.
Certainly and surely.
And Jesus gives us a way to live until that happens.
Kate Bowler is someone I have talked about many times.
She has a daily meditation on her website.
This week it is on hope.
She describes hope as God’s anchor.
While she does not say this, I think Jesus is the line between the anchor and our boats.
It’s not an anchor that holds us in place, like we have arrived at our destination.
She says God’s anchor is way out in front of us with a winch that is reeling us in.
Close and closer to the new creation.
It is a long journey.
She then likens it to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
There is this big goal that is overarching.
Destroy the ring.
But there is also the daily life inside it.
Joy and sadness.
Courage and fear.
War and peace.
Not to mention second breakfast and 11sies.
That is what our lives are like.
A journey toward the God’s new creation.
And we do what we can to invite people to come along.
We invite people to hope.
In this time of pandemic, I feel like we have lost hope.
We are stuck in our “sheltering” and can’t see beyond the daily recitation of medical and political news.
Will this ever end?
What will that look like.
We hope that it will be s it was before.
But what if it is better?
What if it is like these things?
As I sit in my son’s old bedroom looking out the window from the desk where I write this sermon, I see people walking about.
I actually saw a guy walking a cat.
Walking with their kids.
Walking with spouses.
I see them giving each other space, putting a mask on, yet saying hello with a smile.
“We are all on this journey together.”
I also see people trying to support local businesses.
Lots of take out from the restaurants.
I see people setting food out in front of their houses for pick up by JMPC and other food suppliers.
I see kids using chalk to write inspiring of just funny messages on sidewalks.
I have reconnected myself with old friends through the magic of Zoom.
My family has gathered.
Karen’s family has gathered.
Our church groups have gathered.
And what I have found is that even the smallest amount of connection to others lifts me up and gives me hope.
A sure, certain hope.
I think that is how the disciples understood Jesus’ resurrection.
It was a great thing, but it was not the last thing.
There was more to do.
There was the waiting on the Holy Spirit.
There was proclamation to be done.
The message of God’s hope needed witnesses.
And the disciples were the first ones.
Then they went.
The long journey.
The overarching goal.
With the daily life included.
A sure and certain hope that God was with them, even when the times were tough.
And that God love them and cared for them and would make them new in the end.
That was their hope.
That is our hope.
Thanks be to God.