Saturday, 30 May 2015

Hope in things not seen.

Reflections on Romans 8, Isaiah 6 & John 3


As you read that word ‘hope’ what image builds in your mind?

Say it out loud.

As you hear that word ‘hope’ what feelings well up inside you?

Just sit for a moment with that word ‘hope’: see and feel what it means for you.

Paul wrote to the people in Rome and he reassured them of their faith in the midst of their ambiguous experience of life.  Some had doubts, some experienced persecution, some disagreed about God and their faith, some just worried about how to get by every day, and some worried about their families and their futures.  In this they were not that much different to us.

Paul wanted them to have hope and through the inclusion of his letter to the Romans in the Scriptures we might also then say God wants us to have hope.

Paul wrote:

For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what is seen?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
We wait for it with patience.

Earlier in the service I challenged us all about how we perceive and understand the world.  

Do we see the glory of God in all things? Do we know and experience the fullness of God’s presence in our lives?  Can we see the promised salvation for which we long?

What is our perception of the world? Is it filled with hope?

Paul later wrote to the Corinthians that none of us see clearly: we all see God as through a dark glass or as in a dim mirror.

We do not fully comprehend or experience what God offers but we hope for it.

This is what faith is all about.  The realisation of the distance between life as we experience it and the life God longs for us – in Jesus language it was the coming kingdom.

Yet this coming kingdom of God has not arrived in all its fullness and as people of faith we should hold closely to this truth.

At the beginning of Paul’s letter he reminded the Romans that all people were sinners, all fall short of the glory of God. Like Isaiah and his vision any who come into God’s presence realise this.

None of us have a perfect faith.
None of us has a perfect understanding of life and of God.
None of us respond to the needs of each other perfectly.
None of us loves God or others as we should.

But the good news is that although we do not see or experience it in all its fullness God’s will for us is not judgement but new life. 

This is hope: hope not seen.

The story of Isaiah’s vision and the burning coal which represents his release from the power of sin pre-empts the fullness of what God’s intention for the creation and for each one of us is.  In John’s gospel we read “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

This is hope: hope not seen.

We long for the salvation of the world

We long for a perfect faith.
We long for a perfect understanding of life and of God.
We long for people to respond to each other’s needs perfectly.
We long for a time when all people would love God and others as we should.

In other words:
We long for the peace of God
We long for the coming kingdom

This is hope: hope not seen.

In Romans Paul wrote “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord”

For it is in Jesus our hope is found, it is in Jesus that the past, present and future collide and are made new.  It is he who lived and died and was raised again that transforms and remakes us.

This is such a difficult thing for us who live in this world of enlightened understanding to accept.  We are people who like to think that we are in control, that we know where we are headed and that we can make our destiny.

Yet just as Jesus challenged the lawyer Nicodemus so long ago so Jesus words hurtle through time and space and confront us.

The only way to glimpse God’s kingdom is to be born from above.  It is God alone who shows us what is in store for the creation and for each one of us.  It is God alone who remakes our lives.  It is God alone who came and lived and walked among us as Jesus, who died and yes who rose again, that saves you and I.

Christians, as people of faith tie themselves to hope that they, and that we, believe in but cannot see.   Jesus presence in world means salvation – God saves what God has made.

It is through the Holy Spirit, which works where it will, that we can be drawn into this hope as we receive the gift of faith.

Hope in what we do not see but can only glimpse as God reveals it to us: the kingdom is coming!

We live in a world beset by problems.  We are accustomed to hiding our problems and trials from each other.  We deceive and delude ourselves and each other with the idea that we are in control. Our perception is skewed.

Yet we hope in things not seen.

God made us, God loves us and God is saving us.

Close your eyes, take a moment, dwell on the hope that we have as Christians – a hope in things not seen.

What does this mean for you?

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