Hopeful Preaching in the midst of suffering…
We’ve had our fair share of pain the last few months at The Well. It does not take too much to look around the world to realize that the world isn’t working like God intended in Genesis 1-2.
With reality of pain swirling around recently in our community in addition to the world’s phlight, I have been challenged in my preaching to acknowledge the reality of pain while at the same time affirming the hope that we find in the scriptures.
In my sermon prep last week I came across the following quote from Jurgen Moltmann in his book, The Source of Life…
“People who ask for the Holy Spirit to come to us – into our hearts, into the community we live in, and to our earth – don’t want to flee into heaven or to be snatched away into the next world. They have hope in their hearts, their community and this earth. We don’t pray “let us come into you kingdom” either. We pray “your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” The petition for the coming of the divine Spirit to us frail earthly people implies a great, unbroken affirmation of life.”
It would be easy for us to say, “with all this pain I just want to get out of here.” But, that is not the biblical response to this world. We have hope in our hearts for this world because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and in his resurrection with the promise of a new heavens and new earth. We live in the tension of things not being “alright” while at the same time we know that Jesus came to give life to mankind. He came healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and caring for the oppressed. We are called to be individuals and communities that embody that same realiy and show the world that this place is not inherenitly evil. God has not abandoned us or this world, neither should we.
I’ll end with this quote from Jurgen Moltmann as well,
We need nothing so much as the mission of life so that we can affirm and love life so much that we protest against death and all the powers that disseminate death. What we need is not a new religion, or new peace between religions. What we need is life – whole, full, and undivided life. Isn’t this the essence of the gospel? God, the eternal, infinite God, is so close to you that He loves you, and in His love accepts you just as you are? People who feel the faintest spark of this love become conscious of their own dignity, get up and walk upright and live with their heads held high. Even when we are loved by another person, our energy for living awakens, and we trust ourselves to do more than we would have ever dared before. How much more is this the case when God looks at us with the “shining eyes” of his love and his pleasure is in our lives! That is why part of this message of life is the comforting of the sad, the healing of the sick – the healing, too of memories-, the welcoming of strangers and the forgiving of sins. That is to say, the message of life means saving threatened and impaired life form the powers of annihilation.