Hi! It’s Tuesday 6th October and the theme for today’s podcast is “In challenging times Jesus is our Hope.” Our Bible reading is Matthew Chapter 12 vs1-21.
I’d like to start with a question……..What are you hoping for right now?
As I sit writing this, it has been less than 24 hours since we left our eldest son at university for the first time.
19 years ago, he was a tiny baby, with a fuzz of ginger hair, and as I looked down at him, there were so many hopes and dreams that raced through my heart and mind:
I hoped he would be happy and healthy
I hoped he would sleep through the night
I hoped that we would create lots of fun memories together
I hoped I would be a good mum
I hoped people would stop asking me where the ginger hair came from…
Now he is nearly 6ft 5, and he still has all that ginger hair, but my hopes and dreams are a little different:
I hope his flat mates are not into wild parties, drinking and drugs
I hope that he learns how to use a washing machine
I hope he finds a great church and Christian friends to journey with
I hope that he isn’t put into lockdown and we get to see him before 2021
I hope that his flatmates enjoy his tendency to sing Michael Buble Christmas classics at the drop of a hat
I hoped that I could hold it together and not cry until we got in the car to drive away…….but my husband will tell you that was a crazy thing to hope for in the first place!
I don’t know what you are hoping for right now; but whatever it is, the belief or the feeling of hope is powerful.
Psychology journals are full of articles and research papers explaining the importance of hope.
Hope can manage stress and anxiety.
Hope can help us cope with adversity.
Hope is future looking.
People who have hope in their lives are found to be happier, healthier, and even live longer.
But in the face of a global pandemic, in a nation experiencing a mental health crisis, in a country that has become increasingly divided and polarised politically, against a back drop of issues such as climate change and racism……is it little wonder that so many people feel so hopeless? That hope has been lost.
And yet, it is exactly this situation that the Christian faith speaks into.
In verse 21 of Matthew Chapter 12, we read:
“In his name the nations will put their hope.”
In challenging times Jesus is our hope. He is the hope for our nation. He is the hope for all nations.
Hope means, “to expect with confidence,” “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”
In the Bible, hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised, and the strength of that hope is in God’s faithfulness. He always keeps his word.
In Revelation 21, God makes us this promise,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
This is what God has promised. We can confidently expect that this will happen. We can cherish the desire to see this with eager anticipation. Our hope in this promise should be so strong, so secure, so unshakeable, because it is based on the truth that God is always faithful to his word.
Right now,this may seem like a distant dream; so far removed from the challenging times that we are facing. But hope is future looking. And so, we put our hope in the name of Jesus – that he has already won the battle and that we will get to experience this new heaven and new earth for ourselves.
However, coming closer to home, more into the present, God reminded me this week of how often our hopes and dreams are based upon what we can do in our own strength or achieve through our own abilities.
In Isaiah 40 we read:
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Like I said earlier, I hoped I would be a good mum, I hoped I would create a happy, loving family environment, I hoped my new born would sleep through the night……but if I had tried to do this in my own strength, then very quickly I would be found lacking. I would have grown tired and weary, I would have stumbled and fallen – and very often I did, and I do.
And now our son is not living at home, neither can I rest my hopes for him on the strengths and abilities of others. His flat mates aren’t always going to make wise decisions, and neither is he. I can’t place my hopes in the university to protect him from Covid, and I’m sure the church he chooses won’t always get things right (just like we don’t at St Thomas’) – I can’t rest the hopes I have for his relationship with God on their shoulders.
Parenting is a particular challenge, but this could equally apply to situations we encounter in the workplace, or in our communities – we need to place the hopes we have for ourselves, and for those we care about, not on our own strengths, or in the abilities of others to fix or solve things, but in the name of Jesus. He is our hope, and he is the one who will ensure that we are able to walk, to run and to soar in the things that we do.
When it comes to the situation in our nation, we could choose to put our hopes in government policy changes, or in medical breakthroughs, or in technology that tracks and traces our contacts;but now, perhaps more than ever, we need to know that it is God who plans our futures, and his plan has always been to give us hope.
I don’t know what you are hoping for right now, but my prayer is that these words from Matthew Chapter 12 would be the truth that we all stand upon in these challenging times.
“In his name the nations will put their hope.”
Heavenly Father, today we surrender to you our hopes and our dreams – for ourselves, for our families, and for our communities. Lord, in these challenging times, we declare that Jesus is our hope and the hope for the nations. Help us to live out that truth today. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 12:1-21
At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some ears of corn and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.’
He answered, ‘Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread – which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’
Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’
He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’
Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
‘Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.’