The Sunday Sermon: “Holy Cross: A Community of Hope”
+ In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
This morning, I want to continue my sermon series on the three Theological Virtues, revealed to us in Paul’s First Letter to the Cornithians, where he tells us that “Faith, Hope, and Love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Last week, we talked about the virtue of Faith, and we learned that faith, as Hebrews tells us, “the conviction of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen.” And we learned that Holy Cross as a community of Faith is called by God to be formed and informed by Conviction and Assurance in the promises of Salvation which we have in Christ.
If you missed last weeks sermon, I encourage you to go online to our website, “HolyCrossWarrensburg.org” and have look at it.
This week, I want to entitle my sermon “Holy Cross a Community of Hope.” And like last week, I want to consider the wordly definition of hope.
Let me start with a short story. Yesterday, I went out hunting for the opening day of Southern Zone. I drove all the way down to my dad’s house in Stillwater at 5 o’clock in the morning. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not a morning person. But I mustered myself up and got down to the woods. Sitting there, it was 26 degrees, I couldn’t get my hands warm.
In the midst of all this, my dad’s wife, sitting a little ways up the creek in my tree stand, texted me “Hope one of us gets one.” Now, that was two hours before she told me she was cold and turning the heater on in the stand. That made me feel great, but we’ll deal with Christian love and how that statement made me feel perhaps in my next sermon.
“Hope one of us gets one.” We use that word hope all the time, but what do we mean when we say hope? I would suggest that we mean what the dictionary defines hope as: “to cherish a desire with anticipation <hopes for a promotion>”
In wordly terms, hope has to do with a cherished desire and anticipation.
When I’m out hunting, my hope involves a desire to see a deer and a waiting in anticipation for that deer to show up.
Now, Christian Hope, the Hope that forms us as a Christian Community also involves these two elements of desire and anticipation. But it also involves something more. Christian hope also includes a expectation.
Christian Hope can best be defined as “confident expectation in God.”
And two things differentiate Christian Hope from the Wordly hope of getting a deer on opening day.
First, is that our confident expectation in God, is grounded in judgment based on historical Fact, that is that, as St. Peter tells us, in his first letter, that basis of our hope is the Resurrection of Christ from the Dead. Without that historical fact, as Saint Paul tells us, all our hoping in God, would be in vain. It is because of the Resurrection, the power of God poured out in that historical event, that we can have confidence, assurance, and conviction in the promises of God.
Second, the object of Christian hope is and always is God. As Christians, we don’t place our hope in any other thing – not science, not technology, not another person, or human nature in general. And more specifically, our hope as Christians, then is the Vision of God. In the 22nd Chapter of the Revelation to John, John writes of the vision he saw at the time of the new heaven and the new Earth. He says,
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of lifeb with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servantsc will worship him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And night will be no more.”
There, in the fourth verse, John tells us that the servants of God, those who worship him, “Will see his face.” Scholars and Theologians call this revelation of God “The Beatific Vision” the “Blessed Vision.”
St. Irenaeus of Lyon once beautifully taught, “The Glory of God is man fully alive and life of Man is the Vision of God.”
This vision of God, then, this final and great revelation is the great object of our Christian Hope. It is something that as faithful followers of Christ, we desire, something we anticipate, and something we also expect.
Now this hope, this confident expectation in God, changes the way in which we live our lives in, well, many ways. But today, I want to touch on three practical ways.
First, “Hope frees us from the present by directing our hearts and minds to the End.” Let’s flesh that out. By pointing us to the fulfillment of God’s promises, we become freed from things like perfectionism, ideologies, or the idea of creating a perfect society by our own strength. We know that it is only through God’s Kingdom, the new Creation, that such things find their fulfillment.
Secondly, Hope motivates our behavior in the present, because John teaches us in his first letter “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself.” And Peter likewise tells us “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:11-12)
And finally, Hope guides our behavior, mindful that Paul tells us in Romans 13 that because we have hope in God, we know that “the night is nearly over; the day is almost here… let us behave.. as in the day time.”
There is much more to say about hope, but I don’t think Jack would like me to go on too much longer, and to say more would be to say much more.
But what I want us to walk away from here today with is the knowledge that our Hope in God is supposed to be a much more powerful thing than our hope in worldly things. What I mean is, as much as I desired to see a deer, and as much as I anticipated seeing a deer yesterday, I couldn’t really expect to see a deer. That’s why it’s called hunting and not getting.
And so our Christian Hope is a hope based not in wishful thinking but in confident expectation in the promises of God, which we accept by faith, which convicts us and assures us of those promises.
And so may we, as a parish family, seek to live out this new life we have been called to in Faith and Hope in the wonderful promises of God, which is nothing less than the vision of God: Eternal Life in his glorious kingdom.
IN the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
 NDCEPT, s.v. “Hope”