In the first letter of Peter he encourages followers of Jesus “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
This phrase had a particularly meaning in the context in which it was written to the burgeoning early Christians in the hostile environment in which the found themselves but it means something to us as well and raises some pretty significant questions.
In particular, what is the hope that is within you? And, when you can identify what that hope is how you share it in gentleness and reverence?
Take a moment to contemplate what you hoe for as a follower of Jesus.
Like last week when we discussed the idea of fear, as seen in the fear wheel, there would be a great diversity in how we understanding:
We hope in life after death.
We hope for life in all its fullness.
We hope in the forgiveness of sins.
We hope our loved ones who have died are with God.
We hope for meaning and purpose in life.
We hope to encounter God more fully.
We hope to find answers to our spiritual and life questions.
We hope for the best for our children.
We hope for justice for all peoples.
We hope for a shorter sermon...
And the list can go on.
Whatever our hopes might be finding a way to meaningfully convey them when we are asked about our faith is what Peter is asking us to do and to do it with gentleness and reverence.
One of the most powerful yet gentle ways we can share the hope within us is to learn to tell our stories as stories which encapsulate our walk with God.
Each of us has many stories and for each of us they are different but I thought I would share just one story from my life which helps explains the hope within me.
Growing up we moved around a lot. By the time I was 30 I had lived in over a dozen places and the longest I had been anywhere was 5 years. This had a big impact especially through my early teenage years. I can remember moving the year after a turned 12 and making the promise that I would not make friends anymore because it was too upsetting when I had to move.
In the mater teens at Uni I had a real sense of dislocation and homelessness. It was during these years I came to understand the relationship between aboriginal people and the land. They did not have any sense of land ownership but rather a sense that they belonged to the land. This further deepened my sense of being lost. In some ways I think I was a bit like the people of the Exodus, a nomad and homeless people.
It was in my mid 20s I made the decision to become a minister and one of the first things that was done after I put name forward was I was asked to preach. I still have strong memories of ascending the three steps into the pulpit at St Andrews in Bundaberg. 3 steps – in the name of the father & the Son and The Holy Spirit. As I preached on that day, despite preaching a sermon which I later thought of utterly heretical Pelagianism, I had an overwhelming sense of being home.
Home was not a place, home is the promised relationship with God. Whether we are dispossessed people or the dispossessors, whether we are transient or fixed in our location, our true home is with God. This understanding of our true home reconciled in God with one another has changed how I view people and myself and God. And most importantly it has helped me understand that I am not so much like the people of the Exodus in the Old Testament but I am part of a new creation yet to come in all its fullness.
The sense of dislocation is not such a negative in my life but has been converted to a sense of hopeful anticipation. This is just one story from my life but one I have certainly reflected on and theologised.
Telling stories of our lives which connect them to our faith is one thing, doing so with reverence is another. What kind of reverence and how is it for? Reverence for our listener and the value of their story, reverence for ourselves and the importance of our own lives and reverence for God and the story of God’s life shared with us in Jesus.
What is the hope that is within you? Can you find the stories from your life that help you explain that hope in terms of your relationship with God?