Scripture Passage – 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Description – Third in the initial 2011 Series
The second presentation of this sermon was prefaced by a skit that appears after this sermon.)
(Slide one) One of the most interesting photos of our planet is this one taken in November 2000 by NASA. It is picture of what the earth looks like at night. (Source: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap001127.html)
(Slide two) Here is North America taken in 2008. Notice the amount of night time light that covers our country. Notice Hawaii and Alaska on the lower and upper left of the picture as a very interesting contrast. Hawaii is well lit up like the lower 48 where as Alaska is mainly dark due, in part, to geography and distance.
(Slide three) Now here is another picture that I found even more interesting. This is a picture created from data put together just last month by an intern in the data engineering department at Facebook. It is a very clear picture of the connections from a sample of 10 million Facebook users.
Now I am not going to share how he mathematically came up with this graph as I would get lost in describing it! But what he saw, and what I think we all see, is the connectedness between people around the world.
It is a map that truly represents an even more closely connected world.
We live in a more intimately connected world. For some of us, that is a scary thought. We value our privacy and we value our space. And we don’t care to close to a larger number of people.
For others of us though, we see many possibilities about the Christian message of forgiveness and second chances through Christ. We get excited about the potential for sharing the message of hope in some new ways.
Let me also share some more word pictures with you as we continue this morning. Word pictures that I believe will help us remember this message of hope.
(Slide four) The first is the image of a GPS unit. I remember when I started seeing a compass on the windshield of a car (mine has an electronic one embedded in the mirror) and thought that it was cool. Now there are these wonderful units that, depending on the price tag, can give you very detailed information about where you are and that they do not have to be on the dash board either. The new generation of smart phones currently in existence has such capability!
I want us to think about a GPS unit as helping us find our hope in Christ. Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life. We must find and keep following Christ if our hope is to be strong and solid.
(Slide five) The second image is a bridge and more specifically the piers underneath the bridge.
(Slide six) On August 1, 2007 the westbound bridge of I-35W between St Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota that spanned the Mississippi River, collapsed. A report on the collapse by the National Transportation Safety Board released in January 2008 indicated that a metal plate “too thin to serve as a junction of several girders,” was to blame. While designed for a 40 year life cycle, the addition of extra weight, added over the years, to the bridge caused it to finally give way with tragic results.
I want us to think about the piers of a bridge as an image of establishing our hope in Christ. Jesus, in the parable of the wise man and the foolish man, reminds us in Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”
Other things that we build our hope on, families, friends, work, even the church, often give way and leave us grasping and gasping for hope while sitting in a pool of frustration, despair, and even anger. The Lord understands this and wants to help us get back up and moving forward with our hope established in Him.
Finding our hope in Christ is one thing but establishing it is another. I am reminded of what James says at the opening of his New Testament letter about the challenge of establishing one’s faith in Christ.
If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can’t make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do.
This is not just true of wisdom but of hope, joy, even love. The ability to hope in the face of fear, pain, even death, is not a normal human thing. Now while I think there are personalities who are naturally optimistic true optimism is rooted in the character of God.
How then do we establish our hope in Christ?
Let me again read our main text for this morning and then offer three suggestions on how we establish our hope.
But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God, for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, but that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.
But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again.
Believing that this resurrection has taken place is very important. But then how do we live on this great Christian truth? How do we live like resurrected and hopeful people?
(Slide seven) Pastoral colleague Larry Wilson in a blog post, “New Ways to Talk About Jesus,” offers three ways that I think can help us establish our hope in Christ and live like a resurrected person.
(Source: http://www.lawrencewilson.com/2011/01/new-ways-to-talk-about-jesus.html )
First, he says ‘testimonies of life change’ are one way that can create hope. He says “everyone loves a story of life transformation. When people see the good news at work in the lives of others, they will become interested in the source of that power. If our lives are different, our words will have greater authority.”
One of the biggest news stories so far is about the homeless man with the golden voice, Ted Williams. A video of him was placed on You Tube and job offers started coming in to him including an offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team! Now he does have a problem with alcohol and has decided to enter rehab. But what if someone would not have held out some hope to him on a Columbus Ohio freeway? Would he have gotten a chance at rehab or would he still be on the street? Here is a chance for a man, who has a problem, to turn around. He has been given hope.
What about us? Do others see a fresh work of God in you and me? Do they see a difference in us that creates an interest in what we are about? Does the way we live give others hope?
The establishment of our hope in Christ must lead to visible and honest evidence of life change in our current circumstances. Even in the midst of pain and failure. I think that one question we need ask ourselves is this, “Am I more pessimistic than I used to be or am I more hope-full?”
The second way we can establish our hope and live like resurrected people is through ‘acts of compassion.’ Notes Wilson, “from a human perspective, the remarkable thing about the life of Christ is that he sacrificed himself for others. Many people, even those of other religions, respect that about Jesus. When we follow his example, people notice. Feeding the hungry, caring for at-risk children, helping.”
How are you and I caring for others outside of our family, our friends, even our church family? I know that schedules are tight and when work is available we work and we have necessary responsibilities for family.
And I know that there continue to be acts of caring that no one knows about because you are doing it for the Lord. And that is ok. But a key way that hope is evidenced in our lives is through simple acts of caring offered in love and respect. We are all called to be Good Samaritans.
Finally, Pastor Wilson offers hope itself as evidence of our resurrection living. He notes, “The world is not a hopeful place. While many in our society enjoy a high standard of living, they feel that their lives lack meaning. Our sense of hope, purpose, and confidence about the future are appealing qualities…While people may be less willing to listen when we talk about Christ, they are likely to take notice when we live like him.”
Are we more hopeful or less hopeful these days? I know that there is a strong feeling that this world is on borrowed time. But is it cause for long faces and despair? Or is it cause for a hope that is rooted not in our circumstances but in a God who transcends and redeems us through the circumstances?
Our hope in Christ must be rooted in this resurrection that has changed the possibilities for us now and not just in the hereafter!
We are in the last days, (have been since Jesus ascended back to the Father) but should that make us full of gloom and doom or full of hope!
So what does this mean for us this day? How do we handle the loss of hope in things, in people, in causes, and in the past that causes us to stand stuck in grief, anger, rage, and feeling hope-less?
I suggest to us this morning that hope is not wishful thinking but faith-full action based on God’s redemptive work and His character.
Which one of these three things might be of help to you and me in grounding our hope in Christ? What is the first step you and I need to take in partnering God in making it happen?
Let me suggest the first step – the willingness to re-open ourselves to God and address the hardest thing for us to surrender to Him for that is where our hope, and our faith, is thin.
Is it in finances?
Is it with our work?
Is it with a family situation?
Is it with our health?
Is it with our personal faith?
The late Henri Nouwen wrote, “Trust is the basis of life. Without trust, no human being can live. Trapeze artists offer a beautiful image of this.
Flyers have to trust their catchers. They can do the most spectacular doubles, triples, or quadruples, but what finally makes their performance spectacular are the catchers who are there for them at the right time in the right place.
Much of our lives is flying. It is wonderful to fly in the air free as a bird, but when God isn’t there to catch us, all our flying comes to nothing. Let’s trust in the Great Catcher.”
Do you trust God with every area of your life? Hope needs trust because part of hoping in someone or something is that there is a level of trust present for such hope to exist.
What is the Holy Spirit saying you to this morning about your hope? Respond in obedience as you need to respond. Amen.
(Note: The copyright of Star Trek to its various entities is hereby acknowledged and respected.)
Star Trek: Eslaf of Krod
Kirk (offstage): Captain’s Log, Stardate 4557.9. The Enterprise is in orbit around the planet Gamma Blutarski 7, a Class M planet supporting humanoid life. Our sensors have detected a large source of power emanating from below the planet’s surface. I am beaming down to the surface with Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Lt. Uhura to contact the natives and investigate.
(Transporter sound effect is heard. Characters walk on stage.)
Spock (scans with tricorder): Captain, the power source we detected seems to be coming from this direction.
Tesol: You appear to be strangers to our land. Greetings! I am Tesol, of the land of Krod.
Kirk: Greetings. We are … visitors from far away. Our scientific instruments have detected a great source of power and we have come to learn about it.
Tesol: Ahhh, you have sensed the power of Eslaf.
Tesol: Eslaf. The one who protects us and guides us. The one who holds our hope for the future.
Uhura: And it is Eslaf’s power we are detecting?
Tesol: Yes. Eslaf’s power surrounds us all.
Spock: That would be highly illogical, since the power we detect seems to be centered behind this rock face.
Tesol: Your instruments must be mistaken. Eslaf surrounds us all.
Spock: It is highly unlikely that the tricorder readings are in error. In additional to power generation, I am detecting noise and vibrations from what appear to be a vast network of machinery below this planet’s surface.
Tesol: But Eslaf surrounds us all. Eslaf cannot be a … a…. (collapses)
McCoy (examining Tesol, looks at Kirk): He’s dead, Jim.
Kirk: Dead? From what?
McCoy: Some kind of implant in his brain. It caused a cerebral hemorrhage and killed him.
Kirk: But… why?
Spock: I believe we will find the answers we seek behind this rock face.
Kirk: All right then, calibrate your phasers to vaporize the rock.
(Crew fires phasers.)
Uhura: It’s a … computer of some kind.
Spock: Lieutenant Uhura, can you decipher these symbols sufficiently to determine where I could plug my tricorder in to retrieve data from this machine?
Uhura: There appears to be a data port over there.
Spock: Similar to broadband technology from Earth’s 21st century. Quite primitive, but I should be able to interface it with my tricorder.
(Computer noises are heard. Other crew members look at Spock.)
Kirk: What is it, Spock?
Spock: Just as I suspected, Captain. This is Eslaf.
McCoy: You mean to tell me these people are worshipping an overgrown iPod?
Spock: A crude analogy, Doctor. Eslaf was apparently built centuries ago to ease the life of this planet’s inhabitants through climate control, waste management and other functions. Over time the people of this planet lost the knowledge used to create and maintain Eslaf and instead treated it as a deity.
Kirk: We need to do something. These people are worshipping a… a machine. There’s no hope – no future – in that. Their god is nothing but a bunch of crude circuits. We need to take it off-line somehow.
Spock: That would be a violation of Starfleet’s Prime Directive of non-interference in other cultures, Captain.
McCoy: That’s never stopped him before…
Spock: Besides, Doctor, how different are these people from your fellow earthmen who worship things that give them no eternal hope? Human history is full of those who have given their lives over to wealth, power and other pursuits that only resulted in temporary fulfillment.
Kirk: I suppose I can’t argue with your Vulcan logic, Mr. Spock. Hopefully these people will find true hope to cling to before it’s too late. (Takes out communicator. Crew all stands up straight.) Kirk to Enterprise. Beam us up, Scotty.