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A Sermon By The Rev. Stuart E Schadt

In the opening of our baptism service we say there is one hope, one Lord,  one faith and one baptism. Well I am pretty certain you can identify the one Lord, the one faith and the one baptism, but what would you say is the one hope.

The one hope of the Christian is for the reconciliation of all creation with God. This is understood as a personal day of reconciliation when in new life I dwell with God. It is also understood cataclysmically as the summation of all creation. When all of creation exists within the righteousness of God.

Since the mid 1800’s there has been a tremendous focus on the apocalyptic end time events that precede this greatest of all accomplishments. Most of this is written by people who want to tell you horrible tales of the suffering of others and they seem to care little about the great act of redemption. They just like to make sure you know somebody is going to suffer.

This approach leads us away from our Hope. Our hope is in the day when all things are reconciled with God. I mentioned before that judgment is our purification before God. As I have thought further about judgment I thought the next part of judgment is setting things right. I think we so see our courts as part of a penal system that we forget to see our courts as a justice system, a system that restores the just order of things. When God finally gives judgment all things will be put in full and righteous order. Just as we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  So we hope for the day when we will individually live in the presence of God and we long for the day when all of creation will enjoy life in God’s presence.

But that is not where hope ends.  Hope for the Christian is at work in the here and the now. With hope we look out on the world and we see its pain. Its brokenness. Some are even willing to say they see on earth where the horrors and torments of hell go unchecked. The drug wars of Northern Mexico. The famine of East Africa, the AIDS epidemic of central Africa. The fact that in our own nation there are hungry people. As people of hope we refuse to simply accept these things. The eyes of faith look and ask what would we see here  if the will of God was to reign in this place. To use the language of Jesus:  What would it be if the kingdom of God came near to this place.

I think hope gives to people the strength to work for causes they have no expectation of succeeding at yet they are willing to begin in the hope that others may finish.

Our calendar of saints led us to four such women who began great works they only saw partially fulfilled within their life time.

Elizabeth Stanton died in 1902; she campaigned for the rights of women in society and in the church never giving up hope. In 1881 when the revised standard version of the bible was completed by a men only group of scholars she organized a group of women who studying the Greek worked to write a commentary on the bible. She blamed the church and the all-male clergy for much of the oppression of women. She had great and powerful hope but women would not be allowed on Episcopal vestries till the 1960’s and into the ordained ministry until the mid-seventies.

Amelia Bloomer who died in 1884 was a friend of Elizabeth Stanton. She campaigned for temperance, abolition of slavery and women’s right. But her true mark was made in her opposition to the waist cinching corsets which even pregnant women were expected to wear. She was denounced from pulpits for her adoption of loose fitting Turkish trousers as her normal outfit. Women would not get the right to vote until 1920 and it would be the late sixties or early 70’s before women wearing slacks to church was not considered scandalous.

Sojourner Truth who was illiterate but was given by God an eloquence of speech and an ability to quote scripture that opened the doors of the white churches to hear her message opposing slavery and defending women’s rights.  

People often try to undercut the power of hope by pointing to how little is accomplished int eh early days of a cause.

Harriett Tubman who saw in the story of Moses a call to work for the freedom of people in slavery is credited with leading over a 1000 people to freedom.  Some might have been tempted to dismiss this accomplishment after all there were 4 million Americans held in slavery at the time of the civil war. But that freedom made all the difference to those and it was world changing to every slave who heard about the freedom of that thousand because it filled them with hope.  That hope was so powerful that a bounty of $40,000 was placed on Harriett Tubman.

But hope lives not only in ages past.

I spoke this week to a young man who is going to Guatemala for a year to help that country develop the part of its justice system that deals with cases of the sexual abuse of children. With a staff of fewer than 20 he will be working to transform a system that more often ends up persecuting the victim to one that serves justice.

Last spring we helped provide weekend food for 20 children. I wonder how many families are filled with the hope that they will be included in that program when it restarts this fall.

Last Thursday I attended the 100th anniversary of the Manassas Peace jubilee. 1911 when the first peace jubilee was held was a time of great optimism. It was a time of massive new technology that was transforming the world. The auto, the airplane, electricity and the telephone.

While that event focused on the peace and reconciliation of our own nation it was also a time of optimism for the world. However those visions of optimism would be crushed by WW1 (the Great War, the war to end all wars) and WWII, the holocaust and the nuclear bomb. In fact I don’t think there has been even a decade since that we have not known armed conflict. But Christian hope is more powerful than all those forces.  We pray for peace today and every Sunday not that we really expect peace but that we never accept war as a norm. I hope that maybe if every day a few more people learn the way of peace we might someday forget the way of war.

I hear of the drug wars in northern Mexico and I hope for a better way.

I hear of the growing famine in east Africa and I hope for a better way.

I hear of the bombing and murders in Norway and hope for a better way.

When we look upon parts of our lives or of the world that fall so short of the kingdom of God

We should mourn and weep. We should be grieved. To not be is to be calloused and jaded.

We should lament. Let others know.

We should offer the vision of what might be. This is so important. One person saying my neighborhood should not feel unsafe. My school should not know violence. These children should not be hungry. One person daring to speak can start amazing things happening.

And finally if we can we should act.