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Sunday, December 31, 2017
Scripture: Romans 8:18-29
Rev. Jill VanderWal
I hope for you in this New Year- by Joyce Rupp
That the single, most significant dimension of life is your relationship with the Source of Goodness who never ceases to sing love songs to your soul
That you find meaning, purpose, and vitality in what you do daily
That you treasure your loved ones and let them know how dear they are to you
That you make choices and decisions that reflect your truest self
That you look in the mirror at least once a day and smile in happy amazement
That you remember relationships are what count above all else –more than work or money,
or all the material things we spend so much time tending
That you live in an uncluttered manner, enjoying the freedom to be content
That you keep your sense of humor when things don’t go the way you want
That you find adventure in each new day and marvel at the wonders of creation
which constantly present themselves to you
That you never give up on yourself when others turn away or do not understand
That you are attentive to the health of your body, mind and spirit
That you take risks and accept the growth-full challenges that come to you
That you draw on your inner strength and resiliency when you are in need
That you carry peace within yourself, allowing it to slip into the hearts of others
so our planet becomes a place where violence, division, and war are no more.
(Read as part of the benediction)
How do you feel as we say goodbye to 2017 and head into 2018? After the snow this last week you may just feel stir crazy with cabin fever. This is by far the most consecutive days of snow I’ve seen since we moved here. Since Scott was in Colorado this week I think I shoveled the driveway twice a day for 7 days and YES we are still those crazy people from Colorado who actually use a snow shovel.
I find new years to be a sort of scenic overlook on a hiking trail of life. A place where I can get a view of the journey of the past year and then re-group for what is to come. This is why I chose the passage from Romans 8 today. I find Paul’s words to be timely, sage, and helpful. In this nation this year it has felt like we can’t go a week without a new difficult story of tragedy, loss, and stories that overwhelm me.
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Two things stand out to me in Paul’s words. First he acknowledges that we wait, sometimes groaning for what God is doing or bringing forth. Second, we are saved, rescued, we cling to life in hope. An invitation to live in hope because we can’t even imagine the glory that will be revealed to us. So Paul continues…
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
The assurance is that the Spirit of God is with us in weakness and even when we have no words. The Spirit of God connects us with God and even takes the prayers of our heart to the presence of God. Power when the Spirit meets us in weakness.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. Promise…future HOPE…lean into it, live out of it.
This is what Advent is all about, waiting for the hope of the world, the one light who is not overcome by darkness. So we celebrate hope incarnate, and we realize while we have God with us, waiting in hope is still part of our faith life.
As I sit at this overlook- there is an invitation to choose what I focus on. Isn’t this always true? In our lives, in the media, at work and in our families, there are good things and difficult things. My brain’s tendency is to focus on what is broken or difficult. Maybe you can relate to me in this way.
So what do we focus on? There is an invitation again to look for the good, the light, in the spirit of hope. I find this to be a spiritual and mental discipline. There are three ways God has reinforced this concept to me. First, Appreciative Inquiry (focus on and build upon good) which I was initially very skeptical of. Second, StrengthsFinder, which focuses on a person’s unique strengths. Finally, Nurtured Heart Parenting which seeks to focus on the goodness in a child to help call out their greatness. This is SO difficult to simply focus and call out the good.
In the new year….I want to continue to be a follower of Christ who looks for the signs and people of hope (the goodness) and I want to be person who is living HOPE!
One of my favorite things each year is to read or listen to CNN’s top 10 Hero’s, 10 people from around the world who see the brokenness, hurt or injustice in their place and they chose to do something. Look for the good, those living and extending hope. Normal people, with a commitment to a context:
Each of these people are normal, but their stories make me cry because they saw something that was broken, or they saw injustice or a need and were willing to do something. This is what it is to live out, to create and to extend HOPE. This is where God invites us to continue to grow individually and corporately.
A Few Local Heroes: