Eternal hope

For the last four weeks, we’ve been speaking of the hope we have for the future – hope that is not grounded in optimism or wishful thinking but in the steadfast love of God that has been most clearly revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

This is the last of our series of messages on hope. It’s not that we’ve run out of hope, but today we are speaking about the end of hope – that is, the purpose of hope. We’re talking about eternal hope, our hope for what happens after this life.

It’s especially appropriate that we should talk about this today. Today is Ascension Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus’ return to heaven. It’s also the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, when we remember those who have given their lives in service to our country, and when families often visit the graves of loved ones.

This is a time when we often think of what comes after death. This year our thinking is especially fraught with uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 90,000 Americans have died so far, and there’s no end in sight. We can’t live on the self-serving promises of those in power. We’ve got to live on real hope, and that comes only from God.

This morning I want to talk about several dimensions of our eternal hope and also dispel some common illusions, misconceptions and downright lies about that hope. Most of these distortions come from what I call pop religion. In times of uncertainty, these untruths are trumpeted especially loudly by fundamentalists and evangelicals.

You’ve probably heard a lot of speculation about whether we are living in “the last days.”

In one sense, we most certainly are. First-century Jews commonly spoke of two ages: this age and the age to come, the present evil age and the last days. (Galatians 1:4, Ephesians 1:21) The hinge between them is the coming of the Messiah.

God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, the book of Hebrews says, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). At Pentecost, which we’ll celebrate next Sunday, the Apostle Peter quotes the prophet Joel as saying: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:17 CEB).

So, yes, we’ve been living in the last days since the time of Jesus.

But those aren’t the last days that most people worry about. What they’re wondering is, are we living in the “last days” before the end of the world? The answer to that question is, no, not very likely. In the King James version of the Bible, Jesus and others do speak about “the end of the world.” But that is a serious mistranslation. In all cases, they’re not talking about the end of the world but the end of the age – the end of the present age and the beginning of the coming age.

God does not intend to destroy this world, but to renew it. That’s how the book of Revelation ends, with the renewal of heaven and earth and God bringing heaven down to earth. “Look!” God says. “I’m making all things new!” (Revelation 21:5 CEB)

Still others wonder, are these the last days before the Second Coming of Christ? About that we cannot know, nor are we meant to know. A lot of people have made a lot of money speculating about the timing of the Second Coming, and it’s nothing but speculation. In times of crisis such as we are living in today, some people may find comfort in such speculation. Some also find comfort in kooky conspiracy theories. I wouldn’t put much stock in any of it.

Next question: Is God using the coronavirus to punish us for our sins? No. That’s not the way God works. The Bible speaks frequently of the “wrath” of God, but it always comes down to God allowing us to suffer the consequences of our own stupidity. If God were to punish us for our sins, how could any of us survive?

(And, hey, incidentally, didn’t Jesus take care of that for us on the cross? Just asking.)

God is not in the punishing business, but a lot of people are, and they would like to think that their penchant for cruelty is a godly thing, except that it’s not. They dishonor God when they make God out to be the monster they see in the mirror every day.

Psalm 7 says, “God has deadly weapons in store for those who won’t change; he gets his flaming arrows ready!” But they turn out to be metaphorical arrows, not real ones. The Psalm goes on: “See how the wicked hatch evil… They make a pit, dig it all out, and then fall right into the hole they’ve made! The trouble they cause comes back on their own heads” (Psalm 7:13-16). In other words, as Galatians 6:7 says, they reap what they sow.

But let’s not ignore those flaming arrows. They may be metaphors, but we need to take them seriously. Notice who they are for. They are for those who won’t change, for those who won’t repent. Again, understand that the arrows are not punishment. They are warnings that you need to change your ways. They are encouragement to change. In other words, God uses “flaming arrows” to motivate us to turn our lives around and start living right.

Hold that thought as we turn back to the book of Revelation. Understand that the popular understanding of it is quite twisted. Revelation is not a blueprint for the end of time. It is not a pack of Tarot cards, or a Quija board, or a crystal ball that peers into the future. It is a testament of hope to seven churches in Asia Minor near the close of the first century.

Only one of the churches has faced persecution for their faith in Christ, but fear of persecution is beginning to gnaw at all of them. The message that John of Patmos brings to these churches is simple: Endure, he says. Tough times may be ahead. Stay faithful, and you will inherit the best that God has to offer.

Revelation is full of truly bizarre imagery and awful accounts of environmental catastrophe and millions of deaths. But imagery is all it is. These are symbols, not literal descriptions. Whenever you take a symbol literally, you always get it wrong. Revelation is not predicting catastrophe. But it is warning us that awful things will happen if we don’t change our ways.

Those Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are not predictions of the future. They’re descriptions of human history: war, slaughter, famine, death. As Jesus said: You’ll hear about wars and rumors or wars, but don’t be alarmed. These things happen all the time. They’re not signs of the end. (Mark 13:7 and parallels).

I invite you to carefully read three chapters of Revelation, chapters 8 and 9 and 16. These describe John’s visions of the seven trumpet calls and the seven bowls of the wrath of God. Read them, and then consider what you have heard will happen to us if we do not reverse the course of global warming. Now convince me that Revelation and scientists are not issuing a similar warning.

Now consider how the coronavirus outbreak fits into what you’ve just read. Revelation doesn’t “predict” this plague. It does suggest that plagues like it are the inevitable result of human irresponsibility.

Oh, we don’t have to worry, some say. We’ll be raptured away before all that happens. No, we won’t. Christians will not be secretly whisked away in the night so we won’t have to endure “the great tribulation.” Believers as well as unbelievers will endure it, because “the great tribulation” is human history itself.

As for the so-called Rapture, it’s a cruel hoax, an escapist fantasy, a monstrous misrepresentation of truth. Try to find the Rapture in Revelation. Keep looking. Take all the time you need. People have been looking for it since John Nelson Darby invented it in 1830, and they still haven’t found it in there. Because it’s not there.

When Jesus returns to earth, his arrival will not be a secret. There won’t be anybody “left behind” wondering what just happened. Jesus says his return will be like a flash of lightning that lights up the sky (Luke 17:14). It will be a day so bright that it will be remembered forever.

Some people call the Rapture our “blessed hope,” and that is a breathlessly ridiculous claim. The notion of a “blessed hope” comes from the letter to Titus. It says, “we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

It doesn’t say that we wait for the secret arrival of our great God and Savior. We wait for his glorious appearance. We wait for his glorious epiphany. That’s the word that’s used in Titus: epiphany.

That’s what the book of Revelation points to – the glorious epiphany of Christ. But there’s more. What is the end of our hope – that is, what is the purpose of our hope? What, ultimately, are we waiting for?

Sure, we all want to go to heaven when we die. Heaven is where God is. And wherever that is now, Revelation tells us that God intends to bring heaven down to earth. So heaven is not our final destination. Our final destination, the Apostle Paul assures us, is bodily resurrection in a renewed earth.

We could spend a long time working out the implications of that. It’s a mind-boggling assertion. But finally we believe, as 1 Peter 1:3 assures us, that we “have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

It’s not about going to heaven. It’s not just about getting to be with loved ones again. It’s about living with God and loved ones – and maybe a few folks we never really got along with in this life – in a new life that is so wonderful and so much beyond the limits of our imagination that we might as well stop trying to imagine it and just trust God that it will be good.

That’s the end of our hope. That’s the blessed hope that gives spring to our steps and meaning to our lives. We have lived lives of significance. We have loved greatly. We have had successes and failures, but we’ve also had one great accomplishment, and that is that we have shared God’s grace with others. We have let God’s love shine through us. We have been beacons of hope to others. That accomplishment is truly something worth hoping for!


This message was delivered online on May 24, 2020, to Edgerton United Methodist Church in Edgerton, Kansas. It’s the 7th Sunday of Easter, and the text is Acts 1:6-9.

Weird times

We are living in weird times.

A lot of nonsense is getting thrown around, mostly for political purposes. When lives are at stake, you’d think the politicos would dial back the baloney, but no.

Trump is hot to get back to business, whatever the cost.

The Centers for Disease Control offered new guidelines for reopening, but the White House stopped release of the report because the rules were so strict. But no state has met the much looser guidelines set earlier by the White House.

So now we have states reopening, each under its own guidelines. This may please defenders of state’s rights, but I doubt that the virus cares about state lines. Oh, I’m not in Kansas anymore? Guess I’ll have to mutate.

*  *  *  *

Trump’s allies are pushing the narrative that more deaths are an economic necessity. That’s right, Grandma can die for her country. Helping the U.S. to “get back to business” makes her a patriot (and maybe helps get Trump re-elected, too).

*  *  *  *

It’s a false choice between public health and the economy, columnist Maureen Dowd says, because they are the same thing.

Unemployment nationwide is near Depression levels. Nearly one out of every four workers can’t work right now. Probably many of those jobs are gone forever. Recover will be slow and sporadic. There will not be a “new normal” for a long time.

I especially feel for those who are afraid for their safety if they go back to their jobs but face firing if they don’t. Take all the precautions you want, you still may bring it back to the house and infect your family.

*  *  *  *

A popular false comparison is with traffic deaths. We tolerate 39,000 traffic deaths a year, so what’s all the fuss about 70,000 or so deaths from the coronavirus? Use some elementary math. That’s 39,000 traffic deaths in a year compared with 70,000 deaths in two months. That works out to 234,000 deaths a year. There is no comparison. And who says 39,000 traffic deaths a year is OK?

And, oh yeah, some folks think we’ll reach that 234,000 figure long before a year is past.

*  *  *  *

Some fun stuff:

When it was obvious that Kansas Gov Laura Kelly had gotten a haircut, one state legislator demanded to know the license number of the hair stylist who had violated the state shutdown order. The stylist was unlicensed. Kelly’s husband cut her hair. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” she said.

*  *  *  *

A retired farmer from Troy, Kansas, made national news when he sent an N95 protective mask to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for use by a front-line worker in that state’s battle with the coronavirus. Turns out that Dennis Ruhnke was two credits shy of a degree from Kansas State University when he had to drop out in 1971 to run the family farm, so K-State gave him an honorary diploma. Nice.

*  *  *  *

Some observers note that media vibe has changed. At first, there were many stories about hoarding and ripoffs. That changed to stories about people helping one another. Don’t think the hoarding and ripoffs have stopped, though.

*  *  *  *

The Kansas City Star had a story the other day about why people do or don’t wear face masks. Some of it, inevitably, is political. Trump won’t wear one, why should I?

Prairie Village is considering making it mandatory to wear masks in public. “It is not enough to strongly encourage people to wear masks,” one city councilman says, “because, as we have already seen, there are too many people who either are not self-aware or not considerate of other people and other people’s concerns and needs, or who just outright will do anything if they’re told not to do it.”

My masks protects you from my germs, but it doesn’t do much to protect me from your germs. So if you don’t wear a mask, you’re exposing me to risk. It’s all about personal freedom, I’m told. I guess that explains why rapists don’t bother to wear condoms.

“My health, my choice,” says the protest sign. But what about my health? Apparently you have rights only if you carry a sign.

“Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.” That quote has been variously attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., John Stuart Mill and Abraham Lincoln. Whoever said it, or didn’t, has it right. Your right to spread germs ends where my nose begins.

*  *  *  *

What are the limits of personal freedom? Some people seem to think there are no limits, especially when it comes to guns. It is believed by some that the Constitution gives you the right to take a gun anywhere you want anytime and sling it around anyway you like.

About a dozen men with high-power weapons and flags marched through downtown Raleigh, N.C., the other day. (OK, one was not bearing a gun but a large pipe wrench.) I’m not sure whether the point was to intimidate people or just show off. Wow, that’s some pipe wrench you got there, dude.

When an armed mob invaded the Michigan capitol building recently, there was no doubt why they were there. They were there to intimidate. They were there to extort while armed. That is not legal in most places. They got away with it.

*  *  *  *

Many of the workers at meat-packing plans have come down with coronavirus, and some racists are blaming the home life of workers rather than unsafe working conditions at the meat factories. Many of the workers are immigrants, don’t you know. They must have carried the virus with them from China, via Mexico or wherever they came from.

There is a sickness here so deep that you wonder if it can ever be cured. I think the only vaccine for it is the love of Christ.

There is a sickness spreading across this land that has nothing to do with the coronavirus. God spare us this plague.

Making it real

In this series of messages, we continue to talk about hope. Two weeks ago, I urged you to choose hope as an attitude of life. Last Sunday I urged you to be a carrier of hope to others. Today, I want to look at your role in making hope a living reality.

Before we go there, I want to explain again that I have borrowed the theme and broad outline for these messages from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which kindly offered them to other churches right after Easter. I doubt that many of you have been comparing my messages with the ones Adam Hamilton has been delivering, but if you have, you may have noticed at least two things.

First, I’m a week behind Adam. That’s because I already had something else planned for the week Adam began the series. Second, our messages are very different. That’s because we are very different pastors addressing very different churches. At the same time, of course, our messages are quite similar, not only because we’re using the same rough outline, but more importantly because we’re preaching the same essential message: the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

I mention that primarily because I want to start off with something Adam said last Sunday that I found to be strikingly true.

He said that for his first message, he searched the Psalms for words of hope. For his second message, he searched the Old Testament prophets for words of hope. For his third message, he wanted to focus on the gospels, so he searched Matthew, Mark, Luke and John for words of hope.

Do you know how many passages he found? In the King James Version, he found one mention of the word “hope” in the gospels. One.

In other translations, he found two or three mentions, but none of these passages offered hope in themselves; they were simply passing references to hope.

You may wonder, how can that be? How can the gospels appear so little concerned with hope? When you think about it, you know why, of course. The gospels don’t have to talk about hope because they are focused on Jesus.

Jesus is hope. Jesus is the embodiment of hope. Jesus is the incarnation of hope. Jesus is hope brought to us up close and personal – nose to nose, if you will, despite our current concerns for social distancing.

Hope comes from God, and Jesus says that if you’ve seen him you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9), so hope comes from Jesus. Reading the gospels, you won’t hear Jesus talk about it, but he provides hope wherever he goes.

First, he announces the coming of God’s kingdom to change the world. “Here it comes!” he says (Matthew 4:17 CEB). Then, he shows what the coming of the kingdom means. People approach him seeking new lives, and he gives them hope. He cures them of diseases. He forgives their sins. He casts out demons that have misshapen them physically and mentally.

He gives all who come to him a renewed sense of worth. He treats everyone as a valuable human being. Whatever bad decision or bad break or adversity or calamity has befallen them, he assures them that God loves them, and he gives them a new confidence that things will go better for them. He gives them hope.

He does not solve all their problems, but he solves the main problem that is blocking them from receiving God’s hope. They have to take it from there. The hope he gives can be realized only if the person fully invests in it, as when he gives sight to someone who is blind or the ability to walk to someone whose legs just won’t work. What are they going to do with their sight? Where are they going to walk? It’s up to each of them how they realize their hope.

Hope frees us to believe that better days are ahead, but it also demands that we live into that hope, that we grasp the ramifications of it and seize the moment and live it out to the fullest.

Hope is empowering. It gives us energy and stamina. But it has to be engaged. It has to be used. You’ve got to grab onto the power that hope gives you and use that power to make things better.

I invite you to look again at the opening sentence of Psalm 40. Most translations of it say, “I waited patiently for the Lord.” But the Common English Bible says, “I put all my hope in the Lord.” There’s one key word in there that you can translate as hoping or waiting because hoping and waiting are related in Hebrew, and we know that hope always involves waiting.

But it has to be more than mere waiting. It has to be active waiting. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was disturbed by the trend he saw in his time toward quietism. Quietism is the thought that we should just sit patiently and wait for God to act and do nothing to help make our hope a reality. Let God do it all, quietists say.

One problem with quietism is that so often your hope dies with you without ever being realized. You waited and you waited, and it never happened. You kept hoping, but that’s all you ever did. You never got out of your rocker to help make it happen, and it died with you.

But true Christian hope is always proleptic. “Proleptic” is one of those five-dollar academic words I thought I’d never use in polite conversation, but here I am using it. To speak proleptically is to speak of the future as if it were already here. To hope is to live proleptically. To hope is to live so confidently it’s as if your hope has already come true. It’s acting as if the better future that you anticipate is already here, and living into that as much as you can, praising God for it, even though it’s not yet fully here.

Hope is an active verb. It’s not sitting in your rocker watching the cobwebs gather. It’s actively anticipating and working toward the better future you hope for. If you don’t live in anticipation of a better future, I can almost guarantee you that it will never happen.

To live hopefully is to seize hope and run with it. God gives us hope, so let’s run with it.

Well, that’s easy for me to say, isn’t it? Sheltering in place is darn inconvenient, but the biggest harm I’ve suffered in recent weeks is that I really need a haircut. But I haven’t lost income. I haven’t lost a loved one to the virus. I haven’t suffered.

Still, I know that the reality of hope isn’t just “pie in the sky” stuff. It is as real as we make it. Some people think that we’re not being faithful to God when we hope for material things that we need but lack. I don’t think that’s the case at all. When you hope for the things you need, what you’re doing is giving yourself to God’s keeping.

It’s understandable that you feel nervous when you don’t know how you’ll feed your family in the next week; and you don’t know how you can afford to repair the car you need to get to work; and you don’t know when you’ll be able to go back to work; if it’s safe to go back; if there’s still a job for you; if your employer doesn’t go broke; if so many other things that are out of your control, leaving you feeling powerless and, yes, on the verge of hopeless.

We all know what Jesus says. “Don’t worry,” he says. “Your heavenly father knows your needs. So seek first God’s kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6.31-33).

It’s not automatic. God is not a cosmic vending machine dispensing goodies to the faithful. When you’re at the end of your rope and there’s nothing more you can do, that’s when you most need to hope in the Lord. There’s no other place you can go, no one else you can turn to.

And that’s when you discover, as the Apostle Paul says, that God’s power is made perfect in your weakness, and Christ’s power comes to you most directly when you recognize and accept your own powerlessness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Whatever your financial situation at the moment, scripture advises us not to place hope in our finances, which are always uncertain. Instead, we should hope in God, who richly provides all we need for enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17 CEB).

Our ultimate hope is that the God who made the world has come into the world to set things right and to heal our brokenness. From that hope springs another hope – that not only does history have a direction set by God, but each of our lives has a direction set by God.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” We also believe that though the arc of our lives may be hard to see, especially in hard times, the trend of events does bend toward our good, and that God is with us even when we cannot sense God’s presence – maybe especially when we cannot sense God’s presence.

Or as Paul says, in his letter to the church at Rome: “God works in all things for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Even in this pandemic, which has turned so many lives upside down, God is working for our good so that we who are called according to his purpose will continue to live according to his purpose and by our lives and our love draw others to him.

So we continue to hope in the Lord, waiting for our hope to be realized, working to make it a reality, sharing our faith and our hope day by day.

Next Sunday we’ll talk more about how to give hope some feet. We’ll conclude this series the week after by talking about what hope we have for the end of things – not the “end” as in the termination of things but as in what end God is pursuing, God’s purpose for all things.


A message delivered online May 10, 2020, the  Fifth Sunday of Easter, for Edgerton United Methodist Church, Edgerton, Kansas.

Carriers of hope

We’re talking about “Hope” again. Last week, I urged you to choose hope as an attitude of life. Today I’m urging you to be a carrier of hope to others.

As we continue to fight the spread of a deadly virus, it seems odd for me to be urging you to be a “carrier” of anything. But our vocation as Christians is to be a carrier of the gospel, and to be a carrier of the gospel is to be a carrier of hope. We’ll return to that thought in a moment.

Some restrictions are being eased, but we are entering the seventh week of our anti-virus shutdown. Some people keep talking about it being a “new normal.” Others speak of a “new abnormal.”

Their point is that nothing about this crisis is normal, and neither is our response to it. It will take months, if not years, to neutralize the threat of this virus. In the meantime we will continue to improvise solutions to new problems as they arise. Chances are, we will need to solve some of the same problems repeatedly, as we are forced into new lockdowns and re-openings to match the ebb and flow of the virus.

Nothing about this is normal. There is no new normal. Everything is abnormal, and will be for a long time. That is not cheerful news, I know – especially when so many of us are yearning to “return to normal.”

But what “normal” would that be? As happy as we all will be to see this crisis over, we should remember that what was “normal” for many people was a life of misery and want.

For example, we have learned that you are especially vulnerable to this virus if you are 65 and older, live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, have an underlying medical condition – or are poor or black.

You’re especially vulnerable if you’re poor or black because of where you live and lack of medical care. That’s the “old normal.” How is it remotely moral for us as a society to accept that as our “new normal”?

Remember what else was “normal” only a few weeks ago? Ugly partisan rancor in politics; dysfunctional government at almost all levels; policies designed to fleece the poor and enrich the wealthy, while denying the ballot to those who might vote against such atrocities… None of these things is a sign of a healthy society. Do we really want to return to that “normal”?

I’ve heard it said that this coronavirus is the not a disease but a symptom. The disease is the thoroughly sinful way we humans treat one another and the earth we inhabit together. To survive, we have to treat the underling disease as well as any symptoms that may arise from it. To survive, we have to treat not only the coronavirus but also the disease called human nature.

We in the churches can offer a cure for the disease. So what’s our next step? Yes, we greatly desire to worship together in person. That always means expressing our love and care for each other through physical contact, and the days when we can safely do that cannot come soon enough.

But is it enough to return to where we were before? Rather than simply reopen the doors and do exactly what we did before exactly as we have always done it before, can’t we do something better? Can’t we do a rethink, reset, reboot, or relaunch so that our worship and our outreach and every other aspect of our communal lives are actually better than they were before?

Crisis always forces change. In a crisis, we have an opportunity to change for the better, or we can allow the experience to change us for the worse.

Biblically speaking, there are two kinds of time. First is chronos time, the kind of time you measure with a watch or a calendar. Second is kairos time, which is God’s time, when the time is right for significant change.

When Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is here,” he didn’t mean chronos time. He meant kairos time. Jesus came at the right time, which is God’s time.

Here’s the question we face: Is this chronos time for us? Or is it kairos time?

Our answer depends in large part on our sense of hope. If we feel the old clock just ticking away as it always has, chances are we aren’t feeling much real hope for the future. But if we feel the possibility of something good happening in God’s kairos time, we can live with renewed hope.

Knowing Christ offers us hope, the Apostle Paul says. Writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul reminds the folks in that church that they had no hope before they knew Christ. He says: “You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God” (Ephesians 2:12 CEB).

Coming to know Jesus gave them hope. “Now you are no longer strangers and aliens,” Paul says. Now “you belong to God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19 CEB).

Living under lockdown for more than six weeks, we’ve all begun to feel somewhat like strangers and aliens, haven’t we? We’ve begun to feel like exiles from the places we love. We also need to turn to God for hope.

Long ago, God gave this message to the prophet Jeremiah to convey to God’s people who were living in exile from their homeland. “Surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV).

It’s not that God has a blueprint for each of our lives that we have to live out to the letter. God does not micromanage our lives. God gives us freedom. That’s both exciting and scary. It’s exciting because so much is up to us. It’s scary because so much is up to us.

In exile, it’s natural to lose hope. We’ve lived in exile longer than the standard quarantine. That word – quarantine – is Italian for 40 days. It refers to a 40-day period of waiting that was imposed on arriving ships that were suspected of carrying disease.

In the Bible, 40 is represents a symbolic period of testing for such figures as Moses and Elijah and Jonah and Jesus himself. It’s a period of testing for us as well. As we wait for the quarantine to be lifted, where do we draw the strength to go on?

I have a favorite passage from the Prophet Isaiah that I share at every funeral or memorial service I do. Let me share it with you now, because we all need to hear its message of hope to lift us from the pit of grief and despair. Isaiah writes:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted. But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31 NRSV).

Remember what we said last week? In Hebrew, the words for “wait” and “hope” are similar. So we can hear Isaiah saying that “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” And also saying, “those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength.”

That’s a promise we all need to take to heart so we can get through this thing together and come out stronger on the other side. It’s good that each of us individually is encouraged by this promise. It’s better when we encourage one another with this promise.

I cannot say who it is, but I am sure that someone you know and love is hurting today.

Someone you know and love needs to hear a message of hope today.

Someone you know and love needs to hear a word of encouragement from you.

Someone you know and love needs you to call or text or email and write or stop by their house today, if only to honk and wave and shout, “Love you! We’ll get together soon!”

I’m inviting you to be a carrier of hope to someone, a deliverer of God’s message of love.

The Psalmist says: “Hope in the Lord! Be strong! Let your heart take courage! Hope in the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14 CEB). Can you convey that message to someone today, or tomorrow or sometime this week?

And can you also think – somewhere in the back of your head, where you do your best thinking – what can we do as a church to be a more effective carrier of hope to the world when this crisis is over? We’ll share more thoughts on that later.


This message was delivered via Facebook and YouTube for Edgerton United Methodist Church in Edgerton, Kansas, on May 3, 2020, the fourth Sunday of the Easter season.