November 15, 2019

Love Letter from God: Giving Hope Hebrews 10:21-25, John 3:16

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

 

Hebrews 10:21-25 from the Message:

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

 

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

Giving Hope: creatively do good together. That is the way we have distilled these 4 verses to a t-shirt slogan. But it really means something deeper and it defines us not only as members and attendees of this church, but as Christians who are necessarily called to do three things: Living a life that holds on to hope (full of belief, confident that we’re presentable…keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going), creatively doing good (let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out), and being together (not avoiding worshiping together), as the author of the book of Hebrews says.

Hebrews is a fun book. It ties together in a way that no other New Testament book does the entire picture of Old Testament sacrifice as a foreshadow of the work of God in Christ on behalf of the world. The book has no identifiable author, but there are many theories: Paul, Apollos, Clement, Barnabas, Timothy, Priscilla, or Junia. In the end it is somewhat irrelevant who wrote the book, but who ever it was had some great insights and gave us some great passages of scripture.

The faith chapter, for example, is found in Hebrews 11, where we read a minor synopsis of the Old Testament Hall of Famers – those who held on to the hope they had, who gave it away, and who did God’s work in the face of adversity, not even having seen what God’s final plan might look like.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, the author writes, and this phrasing helps us see faith for what it is: something we know about and trust to happen, but haven’t yet experienced.

But faith isn’t the only thing in Hebrews: it is also a chapter full of hope. In it we learn that our redemption has been purchased, so that we can move into the very presence of God. We no longer live with the guilt of past sin, we no longer have to stand trembling and ashamed, instead we lean in and receive the beautiful grace that was bought for us with the shed blood of our redeemer, Jesus.

Our hope, then is multi-faceted: it is the hope of Christ’s work in us now and the hope of an eternity in God’s presence. It is the hope of the resurrection from the dead, the hope of bodies transformed and spirits renewed. It is the hope of abundant lives now, full of the grace and mercy we have been given, being given to others. It is the hope that we cling to, by faith, and that in this place we have resolved to give away. It is the hope that defines us as Christians, as those who know who God is and what God has promised and the hope that allows us to believe that the faithfulness of God is foundational to who we are now and who we will be as God continues the transforming work in each of us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Even Job, as we read in our scriptures from the lectionary today, had a grasp on this hope, although he had no view of Christ in his life. Listen again to Job’s words from Job 19:25-27:

I know that my redeemer[b] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[c]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[d] in[e] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

This is a man who has lost absolutely everything. We tend to revere him for patience, as though his losses somehow gave him the ability to withstand longer. But I submit that what we should remember Job for is his willingness to question and his willingness to believe despite the circumstances: for the hope that he stubbornly held onto even when everything was terrible. He clung to hope when all else was lost, when even his wife would have him curse God and die. Job’s hope is pre-Jesus, but Jesus helps us know that Job’s hope was not in vain, that Job’s hope was right, and that our hope then is right and not in vain.

Our hope is also something that others can see and know that God is faithful. We have the opportunity to give our hope away by living into the hope that we have. We can serve those around us, which is what the author of Hebrews reminds us to do: Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, as Eugene Peterson tells us in the Message version of the book. We give hope away by encouraging others, by helping others to see who Jesus is, to see the hope we have fulfilled in the life we live for others.

The last part of that scripture reminds us that our hope is bigger and more real to us when we celebrate it and work it through together. In the NIV, this verse says “and do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” because the author knows that the Church as a collective is needed for the fulfillment of our hope, too. We cannot hold onto the hope we have unless we do it together, unless we work through it collectively. We need one another. We need to see God at work in each other, we need to hear how God is doing things, we need to know where there are hurt people because we know hurt people need healing and sometimes we are the means for that healing and help. Our gatherings are about worship, too, worshiping God collectively is important. And all of the different aspects of worship draw us closer not only to each other, but to the God we love and serve.

So God’s love for us is visible to us in the hope we have and in the beauty of our collective worship and mission. We are together to love and to serve and to give our hope to those both in this space with us and in the world around us. Our vision is not just a t-shirt slogan, then; instead it is the wonder of a Christian life lived for those around us so that they to might know the hope of a God who loves. Giving Hope – Creatively Do Good Together.

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As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

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