Our Reason for Hope Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Our first reading this morning offers this prayer: “May we know once again that we are connected – in mystery and miracle – to the universe, to this community, and to each other.” Oneness with God and with all life. The 2nd reading attributed to the prophet […]
Our Reason for Hope
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Our first reading this morning offers this prayer: “May we know once again that we are connected – in mystery and miracle – to the universe, to this community, and to each other.” Oneness with God and with all life.
The 2nd reading attributed to the prophet Isaiah encourages hope by saying, “Do not be afraid…” It then goes on to suggest that there is only one power, one presence, one substance, and since there is but one power and that power is what we call God, there can be nothing to oppose that power, and so there is always reason to hope.
The Apostle Paul in the third reason actually names hope as his primary focus: “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
You see, we can change our thinking by focusing on what is possible more than on what is problematic, on what is promising more than on what is perilous, on what is left more than on what is missing. And sometimes, the shift can happen in an instant and the results seem to happen almost as quickly; and then, there are those other times, when we start to shift our thinking but it’s a process, and even after our attitudes have made great improvement, there is still a delay between our newly embraced optimism and the manifestation of the thing for which we are hoping.
St Paul knew this, that’s why he reminded the early Christian community in Rome, “If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” For Paul, hope is itself a great gift. It isn’t the magic wand that will necessarily make everything perfect right away; it is the power that sustains us even when things seem to be falling apart. When it’s all going to hell in a hand basket, the fit has hit the shan, the sky is falling, when it rains it pours, and we are between a rock and a hard place, that is exactly when hope is most needed and most powerful.
If we knew it was all going to be perfect in five minutes, who would need to hope? But when we don’t know when it will get better and we can’t yet see how it will get better and we choose to believe all the same that it can get better, that is the shelter in a time of storm!
Of course we do what we can. We treat our conditions with prayer, but we also know that what God does for us God does through us. So, we take our medicine, we get rest, we apply for new jobs, we go to the support group meetings, we read the self-help books, we ask for help and accept it when it is offered, we do what we can even while we pray, while we treat our condition with hope and with prayer. As Religious Science practitioner David Sharer says, “Treat, Treat and Move Your Feet”.
We do what we can, we keep praying, we keep hoping, and if need be, we keep waiting. The miracle is no less dramatic when it happens whether it showed up five minutes after we started looking for it and 50 years later…once it arrives, it is still a miracle, so don’t give up on your miracle no matter how long it takes.
Hear the Apostle say again, “By hope we have been saved (made whole, liberated)! But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have we wait for it patiently.”
Then, if we were just to read two more verses, it would become even clearer. Verses 26 and 27: “In this way the Spirit helps us in our weakness…The Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with God’s will.”
Paul knew pain, rejection, betrayal, loneliness. He knew what it was like to have people try to undermine him, vilify him, threaten him. He knew what it was like to long for companionship. He even knew what it was like to be nearsighted in a world without glasses and to be bitten by a snake.
And he knew what it was like to have regrets…before he became the church’s first systematic theologian (though his systematics are greatly flawed on occasion), he was a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. He never even met Jesus, except for an unverifiable claim that he made that he had a mystical post-mortem experience of him. He is putting his life on the line for a movement he once persecuted in the name of a man he never even met or heard in person. How he must have regretted hurting a movement that he would later fully embrace and in which he would become a primary leader.
Paul knows what it is like to have fears and regrets and unfulfilled longings and loneliness and physical and emotional pain…and yet it is this very Paul who says, “these sufferings do not compare with the amazing possibilities that exist for us, and if we don’t see those possibilities made manifest yet, we keep working for them and hoping for them and waiting for them. That they haven’t shown up yet is all the more reason to keep hoping for them.”
Australian bible scholar William Loader says of this Pauline passage, “The Spirit yearns. It longs for change, for renewal…[Paul] is in the midst of the pain of change and hope. The Spirit helps us in our human frailty, not by offering shortcuts to success, but by praying with and for us. The Spirit, the life of God with and within us, is a longing and yearning Spirit. What a spirituality!”
If you’ve had yearning, know that the spirit of life yearns and longs with you and for you.
Divine Love, Universal Life longs to express perfectly and joyously and abundantly through and as each of us…so when we wish for happiness, wholeness, peace, or right relationship that is actually god’s desire coming to life in us and Hope is god’s gift that sustains us while we are waiting with god for all the good god wants for us!
Now, hope can sustain us in difficult times, hope can lead us to its fulfillment, and hope can occur by simply changing our habitual thinking. When we follow Paul’s advice to the Philippians, that is, when we focus on “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” then we will find that hope comes alive in us and hope will be our companion on the path toward miracles; but then, hope is a miracle itself. A miracle is a change of perception, and to hope is to change one’s thinking, one’s focus, one expectation, one’s consciousness, so of course hope leads to miracles because hope is a miracle and it is a miracle that often attracts many more!
But finally, what is the reason for indomitable, miraculous hope? And now we come to the very basis of Sunshine Cathedral theology. There is no creed or iron clad tradition or proof text, no Greek or Latin or German words we need to force into our vocabularies, there is just one simple but empowering concept to ponder, and that is: OMNIPRESENCE.
Whatever God is must be everywhere, fully present. That is, there’s not a spot where God is not, and so, we are never separate from the substance of life, the ground of being, the I AM that I am, and that you are. Sufi poet Rumi put it this way, “You are not a drop in the ocean; you are the entire ocean in one drop.”
James Dillet Freeman said it like this, and we pray these words every Sunday, “wherever I am, God is.”
The Greek poet Epimenides said this way, and Paul borrowed the phrase, “It is in God that we live and move and have our being.”
You see, we are part of a universal and eternal web of existence. We can call it spirit or God or Goddess or Spirit or the Universe, but whatever we call it, we are part of it and we cannot be separated from it!
We are waves in the ocean of life, branches on the tree of life, sparks generated by the flame of life…Life is omnipresent and everlasting and this one Life is our life, we are that Life expressing. And if we are, as Nona Brooks said, “in God, of God, like God,” then of course we have reason to hope. We are, as Emerson said, part and parcel of God. In this experience of life and beyond, without end, we are part of infinite substance, one with ultimate reality, we are individuations of an everlasting and perfect Whole. he holy Spirit, or whole spirit of god, the entire spirit of life and love that God is, embraces us, flows through us, and expresses as us.
God doesn’t care what you call her, what gender you know yourself to be, the gender identity of the person you love, the religious label you choose, how many sacraments you have; in fact, God is love and love must be unconditional in order to truly be love, so unconditional love is the Truth we call God and you are forever held in that divine Love’s embrace.
Unemployment, cancer, loss, AIDS, betrayal, depression, storms, injustice…nothing can separate us from the omnipresent life that we call God; and when you know yourself to be part of something that is everywhere fully present, something that is without beginning and without ending, then you find yourself being pretty optimistic. That’s my reason for hope, and it can be yours. It’s simply that God will not and cannot ever let you go; you are one with God. When we change our thinking to embrace this powerful truth, we change our lives, and we always have reason for hope. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
God holds me.
God flows through me.
God will never let me go.
And so it is that I have hope.
And hope sustains me always.