Monday, February 23, 2015

A Living Hope

    There is a story about an old man who one morning got to his bus-stop to wait for the bus. Shortly after a little boy joined him, stopped at the bus-stop, and then walked past him and went and stood further down from the actual designated bus-stop. The old man called out to the boy 'Hello lad, you are standing in the wrong spot. The bus always stops right here so come back and wait here'. The boy said no, that he was fine and would be OK. The old man insisted saying that in all his 30 years of waiting for the bus, it had never stopped anywhere else but at the bus-stop and still the boy refused to budge. He politely told the old man that he was not moving and would remain where he was. So the old man gave up feeling sorry for the little boy. He was sure to miss the bus. Then along came the bus. It stopped briefly where the old man was and then slowly moved only to stop right in front of the little boy. The little boy smiled and as he got on the bus, he stopped to look back at the stunned old man saying 'Sir, one thing I forgot to tell you was that the bus driver is my father and he had told me to wait right here!'

    Ah to have such certainty and such hope!  Ah to be able to say unequivocally, “I know I can stand right here, and all will be well.  I know things will be taken care of, so I do not need to worry.  I do not need to fret.  I do not need to be stressed or anxious.  I know, beyond a doubt that things will work out.”

    Now, there might be a few of you who would say, “I see what you are saying, pastor, but if we knew the future, that would remove all the excitement of wondering what is going to happen next.  There wouldn’t be any surprises or anything like that.  Knowing the future wouldn’t be all that great.”

    I hear what you are saying.  Believe me, I do, but I also know this: what you believe will happen in the future directly impacts how you live today.  Let me say that again: what you believe about the future directly impacts how you live today.

    Case in point: if you knew that you would win the lottery six months from now, would you change the way you looked at life and the things you did?  Of course you would.  If you knew you would die in a month, would it change the way you looked at life and the things that you did?  Of course it would.  Let me bring this home in another way; a way that is plausible for us around here.  If you knew that four days from now a squirrel would walk across the high lines and blow a transformer and that it would take three days to make repairs, would you keep doing the same stuff or would you prepare for what was happening?  Of course you would prepare.  What we believe about the future directly impacts how we live today.

    But there are a couple of problems here.  First off, we simply cannot see the future.  Our sight is far too limited to be able to grasp what will happen far into the future, so in one way, we are kind of doomed.  Yet, I also know that there is something about the human spirit which longs for and demands future possibilities.  We call this hope.  The human spirit drastically needs to hope.  I mean, do you know what happens to a person when the lose hope?  Do you know what happens to someone when they do not believe there is a future for them?  Yes, they become depressed, and eventually they die.  In the worst cases, they take their own lives.  We need to hope.

    But it is hard to have such a hope.  It is difficult, to say the least, to grasp and hold such a thing.  Why?  Because we are consistently disappointed.  We consistently are bombarded by bad news.  We are consistently fed images and stories of pain and suffering and injustice which lead us to fear; to worry; to anxiety; and a longing to find something, anything which will stem the tide of such things.  What do I mean by that?

    Well, I remember many years ago shooting fireworks off at my grandparents’ farm.  We used to love to do this, and my Aunt Lucy would feed our excitement.  She’d go out and buy a whole lot of fireworks, and we’d laugh and watch this stuff fly into the sky and burst into all the radiant colors.  We’d ooh and aah most of the time, but every once in a while we’d get a dud–which was met with a chorus of boos or...well...let’s just say that I remember my Aunt Lucy bringing a rather large bottle rocket out once.  It looked really, really cool.  We set that sucker up, lit the fuse, and stepped back.  We figured there would be some sort of huge explosion, but all the thing did was make a loud noise as it just shot up into the air.  There was no explosion.  There were no fireballs.  There were no pretty colors.  “Aw, hell,” my aunt said, “That was a waste of five bucks!”  Disappointment reigned on that one.  Not because it was a dud but because it just didn’t measure up.

    And that’s the thing about our hope a great deal of the time.  We tend to misplace it, and when we do, we find only disappointment.  And the worst part of this is the default position of our hearts is to misplace our hope!  The default position of our hearts lead us to put our hope in the wrong things because we are born sinful.

    Now, you might think I am crazy in saying that.  You may say, “Pastor, how in the world can a child be born into sin?  Kids don’t know right from wrong.  They have no idea how to choose between good and bad.  They can’t do wrong things because they are too small.  They are just innocent beings.”

    Let me address this in this manner:     Today, Hunter Hewson is being baptized.  This is their second rodeo with baptism, so I didn’t meet with them this time, but I did meet with them, just like I meet with all the families who are baptizing their children.  When I have everyone together, I ask them, “Who is the most selfish person in this room?” 

    There usually is a moment or two of uncomfortable silence, but then, most of the time, realization dawns.  The parents point at their child.  They see suddenly how selfish a little baby is.  When that baby wants food, what does it do?  When that baby wants to be held, what does it do?  When that baby is uncomfortable and wants its diaper changed, what does it do?  When anything is happening that the little baby doesn’t like what does it do?  It screams bloody murder!  Why?  That child expects you to take care of it. Why?  Because in that child’s universe, the universe revolves around that child.  You can call it an evolutionary mechanism to help us survive if you like, but giving it a scientific function doesn’t change anything.  That child thinks he or she is god.  We are born that way.  We are natural born idolaters.  Our hearts are not immediately tuned to God.

    And because of this, there are two things that happen. #1. We learn that other people are there to take care of us and address all our needs.  We begin placing our hope in others.  However, when others don’t address our needs, what do we do?  We turn to ourselves.  In the case of an infant, they cry until they are taken care of, and if they aren’t taken care of, they double their efforts and cry harder!  They take the initiative to make sure someone listens!

    Such is the case with most of us in life.  We place our hope in others, and when we are disappointed, we then turn to ourselves  I mean, I am pretty sure this morning each and every one of us here have experienced such disappointment.  Each and every one of us here have experienced such frustration.

    Maybe you spent 20 years or more working for a company, giving them your all and expecting them to continue to employ you until you were ready to retire.  Yet, you were fired or forced to resign because someone younger and cheaper was hired.  And you were disappointed.

    Maybe you voted for a particular political candidate expecting them to change the nature of how politics worked on the local, state, or national level, and then nothing changed–or this person was caught in a scandal–or the person actually voted for something you were against.  And you were disappointed.

    Maybe you started attending church in the midst of a personal crisis or a time of grief and anxiety.  You thought that people would reach out to you and help you; greet you warmly; and help you through the rough times; but they didn’t.  You found out they were hurting as well and consumed with their own problems.  Or they never even greeted you or made you feel welcome.  You left vowing never to come back because you were disappointed.

    Some of us learn this lesson the hard way.  You can never place your hope in people without eventually finding disappointment.  And even if you find someone you can trust; even if you find someone who lifts you up and is always there for you; even if you find someone who loves you and cherishes you to no end–I hate to break this to you–that person will eventually die.  And if you don’t die before them, you will sink into a level of depression that will consume you. 

    Sorry to be such a downer on this, but it is my job to tell you the truth.  And, of course, I am not the only one.  There are more than a few people who will tell you not to put your hope in others.  Instead, they will tell you, put your hope in yourself!  (Like that’s going to solve anything...)

    I remember watching the movie “Bruce Almighty,” and one of the main points at the end of this movie is brought forth by Morgan Freeman who plays the character of God.  He says to the main character played by Jim Carrey, “If you want a miracle, son, be the miracle.”  Think about that.  The statement basically says, “It’s all up to you.  Take control.  Take charge.  Make things happen.  You can make a difference and change everything around you.”  Anyone ever felt like you could accomplish this?

    Maybe you did.  Maybe you felt deep in your heart you could change the world, but eventually, you will run into disappointment in yourself as well.  I mean, perhaps at first you won’t.  You will be able to accomplish a few things within your sphere of reference.  But then, you may get a notion to think larger.  You may become disturbed about violence around the world.  You may become disturbed about kids using drugs in the community.  You may become anxious about the public school system, and you decide to get involved and make changes.  You start working only to find, folks have different ideas than you.  Folks undermine your efforts and subvert you.  You find that no matter how hard you argue that ISIS should be peaceful, they continue to kill and maim and destroy.  You find out that you can’t make as big a difference as you once thought.  You can only affect a few things–even though you would like to do more.  You find your limitations and you become disappointed you can’t do more.  Hope then fades.

    So, if you can’t put your hope in other people and you can’t put your hope in yourself: where can you put it?  Is there a place you can put your hope that will not disappoint?  Will not fade?  Will not die?

    1 Peter 1:3-5 says, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

    I want to go through this step by step because there is a lot, and I mean a lot packed in here!  Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who by His great mercy has given us–given us, mind you, a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Why is this so significant?

    First off, we need to see that God gives us this hope.  It is not something we can achieve or accomplish on our own.  It is given to us through a new birth, and this is the hardest part of it.  How are we born anew?  To be born anew means that something has to die.  We have to die.  As Jesus said, “For if you want to save your life you will lose it, and if you lose your life for my sake and the sake of the Gospel, you will find it.”  We have to die.  That selfish nature we are born with has to die.  And how is it put to death?

    It is put to death when we hear the Gospel.  It is put to death when we hear we are saved by sheer grace and not by our own efforts.  When you realize you cannot live the life you should live and that you are deserving of death, you are brought to your knees.  Yet, when you understand that Jesus has lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserved, you know you have worth.  You know you have value, and you know you have hope?

    And where does that hope reside?  The resurrection.  For by living the life we should live and dying the death we deserved, Jesus opened the way for us to become children of God, and what do children get from their parents?  As Peter points out, we receive an inheritance that is  imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.  We have a living hope!  We know who we can trust.  We can trust Jesus!  We can hope in Jesus!  For in Him we have been reconciled unto God.  And in Him we see what the ending will be.  We see that our final destination will be resurrection to life eternal.  Not because of anything we have done but because we know the “bus driver” is our Father.  A Father who deeply loves us and was willing to die for us.

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all those who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world may be saved through Him!”  This is a hope that will never, ever disappoint, fade, or die!  May it capture our hearts!  Amen.

26 comments:

ACB70 said...

Amen

Unknown said...

OK Kevin, as a brother in Christ Jesus, might I, for purposes of clarification, play adversary for just a moment here. (well I will, and I do whether I have permission or not) might I suggest a way around your seemingly inescapable logical conclusion?
I hear you saying "When you realize you can not live the life you SHOULD live and that you are deserving of death, you are brought to your knees..." Well Hello Kevin, lets get real here, If I realize that I can Not live the life I "Should," is that not self deception to hold as a goal something which is unattainable?
Mightn't I be better advised to take account of what is realistically possible and set that as a t least a more attainable goal?

If you have a child who unlike his perfect in every way Father...is of weak constitution or has medical issues, or perhaps is prone to concussions, but for some darned reason your child gets it in his head that he wants to play professional football for his favorite team, mightn't that goal in his own mind constitute a SHOULD, and mightn't he, here again because the human mind has been known to be willful and determined, tend to start building his identity around a totally unattainable and unrealistic goal. Yet in his dreaming, and planning and his own mental "training" has an unattainable goal, mightn't you as a parent better serve his needs by suggesting that he shift his focus to a more Realistic and attainable goal? OR would you have him get on his knees and Pray to God for the name of a doctor who would sell him some performance enhancing drugs so that he might reach the Should" goals he has created in his own mind?

Kevin Haug said...

Carl,

If you are a baseball player, would you head to bat thinking, "I will strive to strike out because that is a more realistic expectation than striving to hit a home run every time." Or, if you were a running back on a football team, would you say, "I will strive simply to gain one yard instead of trying to score a touchdown because it is a more realistic goal given the circumstances of playing a game."?

That is point one.

The second is this: who set the goals in the first place? Did you? Did I? No. The goal and expectation was not set by me. It was set by God Himself. And God will not accept anything less than perfection.

This might make Him sound callous and uncaring in the face of the fact that we cannot measure up to His standard, but what would you expect from God? What would you expect from the one who created the heaven's and the earth? Mediocrity? A god who expects mediocrity is no god to worship.

Unknown said...

I am not so sure that your hypothesis holds true. I suspect that in some "primitive" cultures/tribes well like you know "pre contact" cultures they don't have the issues with identity and guilt that you suggest. Which suggests to me that your scenario is Specious. I question your Hypotenuse! :-) I am not arguing at this point that goals are an issue, or aspiration, but rather beating ones self up over a NEED TO Achieve the goal which is impossible. If I were playing football and were a running back I would likely do my best to work towards the goal of being the best running back that I could be, but It would not cause me to repent or fall on my knees or End my life if on a particular day meet my personal goal of breaking every tackle, or gaining 200 yards in a game... I would suggest that such ideals and goals oughtn't even cause me to loose sleep. I think there might be a name for such a delusional, unrealistic thinking, you might check the DSM. But hey what do I know?

Carl

Kevin Haug said...

Okay, Carl, I think I get what you are driving at, but let me ask you a few quick questions:

C.S. Lewis showed unequivocally in his book The Abolition of Man that every culture had a form of the rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." EVERY culture.

1. Do people of every culture practice this rule?

2. Are people in every culture satisfied that they follow this rule well?

3. If they do not follow this rule, are they happy with their mediocre ability to follow it or implement it only at their convenience?

Kathy Suarez said...

I have a Bolivian friend who speaks fluent Quechua, and she tells me that the non-Christian natives of the mountains of Bolivia have a saying: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." So Pastor Kevin is right........

Unknown said...

I am not arguing about rules or "SHOULD's" in pre Contact cultures, but Rather with Impossible "should's" "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect, and "Sinless" Which only the self proclaimed "Son of God" who by virtue of his divinity MUST Be Perfect.
It just occurs to me that these demands are impossible. I am not arguing about whether there are SHOULDS or Rules in any given culture.

I do see a difference between Do unto others as you would have them do to you, vs the demand that we be Perfect/sinless, (by definition IMPOSSIBLE.)with the threat of Eternal Hellfire. My wonderment was whether this dichotomy/duality
existed in pre contact civilizations and how they would resolve it.

Guilt is of course is firmly entrenched amongst God's "Chosen"
People.


Did pre contact cultures have guilt tripping mothers?


Carl

Kevin Haug said...

Carl,

If you have arrived at the conclusion that the demands are impossible, congratulations. You are now on your way to understanding the reality of the Gospel and why Jesus had to die.

And you have only need to read the history of religion and whether or not pre-contact people felt the need to appease the gods. Read anything about the Aztecs, Mayans, Greeks, etc.? Ever hear about them making sacrifice to appease the gods?

Nearly every religion has some means of atonement--many of them practicing human sacrifice. But, let's not let history cloud our judgment. ;-)

Kathy Suarez said...

Carl -- I am sure you can see how absurd Pastor Kevin's argument is. Do you actually believe Jesus was just messing with us when he said "Be perfect"? No, Pastor Kevin's mistaken views come from Martin Luther and his erroneous belief that man does not have completely free will -- that our will is in "bondage." This has led to disaster for so many Christians. Sure, Lutherans believe they are "saved" -- but then what? There is no growth, no spiritual maturity. They just become more and more rigid in there John 3:16 mindset.

When Jesus said "Be perfect" he meant "Be complete -- be what you were created to be." (The Greek word means "complete.") Luther ditched the Sacraments and adopted his own interpretation of the Word, and now we have the mess that is the Lutheran Church today. btw -- have you heard about "Table and Font"? -- another "new" doctrine, like Gift and Trust. It's a doozie.

Unknown said...

Well, well, firstly pastor Kev' Having been raised as a preachers kid, I was aware of the impossibility of the demand from an early age, quite possibly before little Kevin was born!

You seem to have such a penchant for erroneous, specious assumptions and Assertions.

YOUNGSTER!

Kevin Haug said...

But what you do not understand, Carl, is the Gospel. For you believe, as I think you do from your posting (I do see a difference between Do unto others as you would have them do to you, vs the demand that we be Perfect/sinless, (by definition IMPOSSIBLE.)with the threat of Eternal Hellfire.), that if you do not maintain a level of perfection, you will be condemned to the fires of hell. Your answer: change the Law. Make it easier to accomplish.

If you could accomplish the Law, even after faith in Jesus, you would have no need of a savior. If you believe you have to maintain your salvation by works of the Law, you do not believe Jesus' righteousness has been imparted to you. In either case, you would be come a Pharisee who is full of self-righteousness thinking, "I accomplish the Law, so why can't others?" This is why Jesus railed against them time and again throughout the gospels.

I make no assumption about whether or not you know of the impossibility of accomplishing the Law. I make an assumption--well, not an assumption but an observation based upon the evidence--that you do not understand the Gospel.

Kathy: Once again, you prove yourself a "scholar" who likes to pull things out of context and make them applicable as you see fit instead of bowing to the trajectory of the text.

"Teleios" is the Greek equivalent of the word (tamim) used often in the OT to refer to perfection in the sense of ethical uprightness and animals without blemish. The word can also have the connotations of completeness. "Teleios" here may have the connotation of "whole" or "total" as it does elsewhere, but it should be emphasized that in the sphere of ethics [in which it occurs in this section of the Sermon on the Mount] this entails perfection. --Donald A. Hagner Word Biblical Commentary

Kathy Suarez said...

Kevin: I have no idea who Hagner is, but that is his opinion. Jesus was speaking neither Hebrew nor Greek, so we can only surmise the word he used. I am sure there was a saying in his hometown that went something like "Nobody's perfect!" That is universal.

The reason I am so adamant about this point is that ignoring spiritual growth has done great harm. Clint Schnekloth just wrote about this -- it is starting to dawn on him that many Lutherans never reach any sort of spiritual maturity. This is the fault of the sect.

Unknown said...

Oh dear, Kevin
Please do not tell me what I believe an what I do not. You know what They say about Ass-umptions. You remind me of Gilda Radner's Rosanne Roseanadanna

Adieu!

Kevin Haug said...

Carl,

I can understand what you believe by what you write--particularly in regards to your understanding about salvation and the person of Jesus. It hasn't been that hard to figure out. There is no assumption. It's there in pixels.

Kathy,

I know you have no idea who Hagner is. Let's just say that he is a scholar par excellance of whom many have bought his commentaries and relied upon for very scholarly, insightful understanding of the Greek text. Your flippant dismissal tells us much more about you and your unwillingness to engage any sort of Truth outside your religious view. Ignorance is bliss apparently.

Kathy Suarez said...

A quick Google search tells me that Donald A. Hagnar is associated with Wheaton College -- an ultra-conservative, fundamentalist school in Illinois. They had a reputation in the '50s. I hope you are not going in that direction!!!

Kathy Suarez said...

A quick Google search tells me that Donald A. Hagnar is associated with Wheaton College -- an ultra-conservative, fundamentalist school in Illinois. They had a reputation in the '50s. I hope you are not going in that direction!!!

Unknown said...

Oh Kevin, such an ASS umption, putting words in my mouth. and PRESUMING to know my heart and mind. Playing god, again?

That tactic isn't very conducive to DIALOG, now is it?


Carl

Kevin Haug said...

Carl,

As I said, I have your words and postings on this blog and from LOL. There is no mystery.

For instance, I do recall and can pull up the place where you claimed we should follow the adage, "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel. One cannot live a historical event accomplished by Jesus. One can only proclaim it. If you believe the Gospel can be lived, you do not understand the Gospel. This is no assumption. This is based upon your own argument and testimony, unless you wish to take back what you have said or deny that you have said this.

Kevin Haug said...

And unless I am mistaken, dialogue involves interacting with what someone has said or revealed to another. I am engaging your words and comments here and in previous posts. Who is the one really making assumptions here?

Kevin Haug said...

Kathy,

I am going down the road of biblical interpretation which trusts that the four Gospels are accurate and honest recollections of who Jesus was and what He said. I have no time to waste with those who distrust the authority of Scripture and believe that "we can only surmise the word he used."

You have placed yourself squarely with the Marcus Borg's, John Dominic Crossan's and others with this comment. "Great" folks, these scholars who deny the historicity of the biblical text, believe we need to dig through what "is" and "isn't" Jesus, and then reconstruct Jesus. Funny how Jesus always ends up confirming our own particular biases when we do such things. Kind of like how you argue.

Kathy Suarez said...

Your comment is ridiculous. I am the one defending Jesus' use of the word "Perfection"! You say he was just trying to show us in a back-handed way that we can't be perfect. That is based on Luther's false theology and on his false understanding of Free Will. Jesus does not act in this backwards way!

St. Teresa of Avila wrote a book called "The Way of Perfection." She shows us how to strive for perfection as Jesus taught. This book helped correct Luther's heresy during the Counter Reformation.

Jesus said that Peter was the Rock on which he would found his Church. Luther said: "Oh no, Jesus didn't really mean that. Here is my new explanation." Who is not following Scripture and the words of Jesus here? And more to the point I am sorry to say, which church is collapsing now and which is standing on solid rock?

Follow Christ, not Luther!

Kevin Haug said...

How do we even know which word Jesus used for rock and whether or not He was referring to Peter? He wasn't speaking in Greek or Hebrew, so we can only surmise the word He used.

Hoisted on your own petard.

Thank you very much, Marcus, I mean Kathy.

Kathy Suarez said...

Oh for heaven's sake. What ever happened to common sense? Talk about twisting Scripture.... (You know very well I have no use for Marcus Borg. That is crazy talk.)

Unknown said...

Oh dear, the two of you argue so passionately. These arguments only go back a half a millennia or sew. I wonder whose side Jesus is on? I suspect That these argument and their Crusades will persist until the end of THYME.. (or at least till next Year) depending how you PARSLEY it. According to the sacred texts of ROSEMARY the SAGE.

Dinner anyone?

Kevin Haug said...

That was very, very good, Carl. Very, very good. :-)

Unknown said...

:-)

Muchas Garcias!