Need A Word Of Hope?

Pentecost 26
traditional sermon

The sky is falling! We’ve had a pretty dramatic year in the life of our country, haven’t we? I’m sure the last few weeks and months you have been regaled with the soap opera that has been our election cycle, to the point that this past Tuesday has been more of a “I want this to be over” rather than “I want this to be a beginning.” And regardless of red or blue, right or left, I think most of us feel a bit shell-shocked from the anger. Anger from speeches, anger from media, and if we’re honest…our own anger.

The other week I was needing to get away from some of the emotions out there and I visited my local coffee shop hoping to tune out a bit and I heard one barista say to another “Oh man, I feel awful making this nut and honey latte now that the bees are going extinct.”

The bees are going extinct?! What?! I ordered that honey nut latte? Did I just make the sky fall? (Note friends: the bees are not going extinct. One type of bee that resides of Hawaii is on the endangered list, but the bees that make the honey that you put in lattes, or on your toast or just make your life a little sweeter are okay.)

But that barista got their information from some internet source that wasn’t accurate and all the sudden the sky is falling. And I was so drawn in because…well in my own world the sky was falling too. I was feeling down about the election cycle, I was feeling down about discourse and conversation within my own family, and I was grieving the death of my father-in-law. And the news (the false news) about the bees pushed me over the edge. I was ready to run from that coffee shop screaming about the end of the world as we knew it.

And if you’re like me, you just want to come to church and hear the good news. Some good news. And what do you hear this morning. In Jesus’ words, “the sky is falling.” Oh man.

Can’t we just have a word of hope? I don’t know about you, but I need a word of hope!

Okay, first things first…maybe there’s some folks out there who are taking this scripture passage from Luke 21:5-19 and saying that the end times are a comin’. That’s the allure of apocalyptic language…it always is appropriate for the time that you’re in, whether the time is the year 80 and the words of Luke’s Gospel are first heard in the midst of the rubble and ash of a wasted Jerusalem, or 1546 and Lutherans and Catholics are warring and killing thousands and the black plague taking thousands more, or 1863 with a nation splitting apart and boys being killed by the tens of thousands on the fields of Gettysburg, or 1956 where children are trained to hide under desks in preparation for nuclear attack or 2016 where every violent act and word of hate seems to be telescoped into our homes and lives.

Whether we are talking about the end times of the universe or in your own life something has ended and you feel like the world is crashing in upon itself–we are still called to be disciples of Jesus.

Discipleship hasn’t changed much in the last 2000 years. Following Jesus still means testifying to our trust in God in the midst of circumstances that test our confidence and our hope. So we keep going on, with endurance as a hallmark of what it means to be a believer. We will keep witnessing to the marvelous things that the Lord has done and will continue to do regardless of the ways in which it looks otherwise. We just have to.

So need a word of hope? I do too. Let’s sing the first verse of our hymn of the day…

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

Acts 16 tells us a story of the Apostle Paul and his fellow apostle Silas being arrested for their faith and locked away. The scripture tells us “About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. At once all the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” Acts 16:25

There’s something about our music and words and witness to God’s work in our lives. Perhaps not as dramatic as the story of Acts, but in our world history there have been times where our songs and witness to God’s work overpower the very acts of war.

Maybe you’ve heard the story about how for one night, one very special night in the midst of World War I shooting and horrors of war were laid to rest. The cold night sky of Christmas Eve 1914 was filled with music– “Silent Night” filling the desolate fields of war with promise of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. It was song that brought fighting soldiers together as they joined in the words “O Come All Ye Faithful” sung by both sides, brought together in a moment of song of what could be…and is today–that England and Germany are at peace. A ridiculous dream in 1914, but reality today…a dream that through song could be seen even though at the time their very worlds seemed to be on the brink of the end. These soldiers witnessed to God’s action in their lives.And with our our own tumults and fear of war we are called to continue to sing and witness to the Lord’s work. So let’s sing verse 2…

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it’s music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

There’s something about song in our own hearts.

This past week we rostered leaders were discussing our various visitation ministries, and we were talking about the best ways to be present for those who have lost precious things–like their memory. And our own vicar brought up the fact that song speaks to us in a deep mysterious way and when our brain has let go of names and memories…somehow we are still able to hold onto the songs that speak to our soul. Perhaps you have known a loved one who has lost the ability to know what day it is, where they or who you are, but they can sing sweet songs with you. Songs that witness to their God and to their faith as you may witness their night closing in.

My father-in-law, Tom Teichmann died a few weeks ago. His death was sudden and swift and there was no time to say good bye. The news spread to members of Messiah Lutheran, the church where he served, and there was an immediate need for them to gather. Spontaneously, they found themselves gathered at the church where their pastor had shepherded them for 10 years, and they offered up prayers for their leader and the family he left behind. And then they began to sing. They sang hymns that spoke to them, they sang Tom’s favorite ones that he loved to play on the guitar, they sang the song–the endless song– that was in their hearts. Because how could they keep from singing?

So let us sing verse 3 of our song.

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

There’s a prophetic song in the book of Isaiah. The people of God are in the midst of exile–their own world seems to be falling apart. They believed that they were left for dead with no hope or future. And yet in the midst of heartbreak and fear there’s a lavish invitation to celebrate and see what God is up to. The Word of the Lord offered through the song of Isaiah says “my Word, (my song) I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” A song that goes out and does not return empty or null in void.

And it is our privilege and joy and tremendous responsibility to not only hear the word and song that doesn’t end, but to point to it.

It is awfully hard to testify to what others can’t see. Especially when the days come where the sky seems to fall in on itself. We are called to have a vision that can pierce through what seems to be beyond hope, to testify to the hope we have in God. We are called to have a vision that can perceive the activity of God when it looks as if that which is against God has the upper hand. We are called to have a vision that is intent on seeing what God sees and who God sees — no matter what.

That’s our mission here at St. Peter’s. To be part of the song. The song that began before history itself and moved over time and water, that swept through desert and sand and moved a people to follow. The song rose from the lips of a babe swaddled in cloth in a manger and once again the song rose from the lips of our crucified Lord singing of forgiveness. That sweet song emerged from an empty tomb rushing on wind and fire to a band of scared disciples and passed on from women and men to the young and old. And we are part of that song today. Your discipleship, your mercy, your compassion is part of that song. Our annual meeting is part of that song…that whether we speak about dollars and cents or speak about vision and mission it’s all part of the song.

So may we keep on singing…
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart
A fountain every springing
All things are mine since I am his!
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Pastor of Christian Formation

I love working in a staff where we are able to use each other’s strengths for the glory of God. I am energized by the lay leaders of the church and the creative ways they can extend the mission of Jesus to congregational members and our community.

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