Christian Characteristics: “Hope”

Christian Characteristics: “Hope”
A Message on Romans 8:18-25
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Jan. 14, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

Romans 8:18-25 (NRSV)

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

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I recently read a book titled Yellow Star, a short book based on the life of Sylvia Perlmutter. Sylvia lived in Lodz, Poland and was four-and-a-half years old when World War II started. Sylvia and her family were Jewish, and when Germany invaded Poland in 1939 their family, along with 270,000 other Jews, were rounded up and forced to live in a ghetto. It was an area of the city that was sealed off with gates and barbed wire fences, guarded at all times by Nazi soldiers.
It was a brutal existence. Sylvia witnessed the soldiers shooting people on the streets. The families in the ghetto had no heat in the winter, very little food (the soldiers shot little children who would sneak under the fence and smuggle food back in to their families), and sometimes had running water, and sometimes did not.
When food became extremely scarce, Sylvia’s mom would give her portion of watery soup to Sylvia. When Sylvia asked why she did this, her father said, ““From pain your mother gave you life, through pain she continues to give.”
And regularly families would be herded out of the ghetto and forced into box cars on train where they were told they were being taken to a place where they would have a better life. In truth, they were taken to the concentration camps and killed.
Sylvia survived. Her dad came up with excuses and ways to stay off the trains. She was 10 years old when those in the ghetto were finally liberated by Russian soldiers. Here’s what she said in an interview years later:
“In 1945, the war ended. The Germans surrendered, and the ghetto was liberated. Out of more than a quarter of a million people, only about 800 walked out of the ghetto. Of those who survived, only twelve were children. I was one of the twelve.”
Even in the midst of all this horror Sylvia and her parents hold on to hope, the hope that things will change, that they will get better.
“Life goes on in the ghetto. Spring breezes blow through the wire fence. The mood becomes brighter with the sun. Life goes on in the ghetto. There are weddings and dances and songs. Mothers take their new babies outside to show them off to the neighborhood. Pink faces swaddled in blankets stitched with yellow stars. Life goes on in the ghetto.”
If you read stories of survival like this one, whether it’s of floating in the ocean for weeks in a life raft or simply not having enough to eat, you’ll see on common thread among those who survive: hope.
Hope is a powerful force. A very powerful force, especially in the Christian faith.
It’s kinda hard to define hope. The dictionary says it is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” That’s pretty succinct and I think pretty accurate.
Here are what other people have said about hope:
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” — Desmond Tutu
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words — And never stops at all.” — Emily Dickinson
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” ― Tom Bodett
“Our world today so desperately hungers for hope, yet uncounted people have almost given up. There is despair and hopelessness on every hand. Let us be faithful in proclaiming the hope that is in Jesus.” — Billy Graham
The Bible has a lot to say about hope, too. More specifically, the word “hope” is used 202 times in the NRSV of the Bible.
Here are just a few of those scriptures.
“For 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
“And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7
“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20 (I preached on this a couple of weeks ago, remember?)
“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

“The hope of the righteous ends in gladness, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.” Proverbs 10:28
And of course, the scripture we read today from the 8th chapter of Romans.
“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25

What Paul says in these three short sentences really gets my mind to thinking. What is it about hope that so fascinates me? I think it is the belief in the “not yet.” It deals with the future. We don’t hope for what is in the past, do we? No. Hope is about the future and yet it affects the present.
Think about something you have hoped for, really hoped for, and that actually came to be. Once it happens, you no longer hope for it, do you?
In hope we are saved. As Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have hope. We have hope that when we repent of our sins God forgives us.
Hope is the fuel that gets us through the tough times in life, and we all will have tough times. (“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus said.)
Hope is what we cling to in order to keep from being overwhelmed by death. Hope tells us that the love of God is stronger than death, and that our salvation, and the salvation of all believers, takes the victory and sting away from death. Death is conquered by the love of God expressed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And here’s one of the great things about hope: like joy, it’s contagious!
Early in the year 1736 John Wesley was on a ship bound for America, specifically Georgia. He was traveling to the “new world” to evangelize the Native Americans. While out on the ocean, however, the ship encountered a really bad storm. The main sail was split and waves washed over the boat.
Most of the passengers, and even some of the sailors, were freaking out and screaming. A group of German passengers, known as Moravians, were calmly singing hymns in the ship in the midst of the storm.
This made a huge impression on John Wesley, one which years later would have a significant religious experience and felt his heart “strangely warmed” at a Moravian worship service at Aldersgate Street in London.
It was the Moravians’ hope in the face of disaster that impressed Wesley. He saw how they had hope in a life-threatening situation, and it stuck with him. For years. He remembered that, and it ended up shaping his theology.
Do you have the kind of hope that inspires others? Is your faith so firmly grounded that when you have difficult times you don’t despair because you have hope? If not, it’s time to start working on that.
So my challenge to you today is to have hope. Work daily on your relationship with Jesus Christ so that it produces hope, not only hope in your life, but hope that will inspire others.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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