(In The Life Of The Church)
Hope From the Other Side
Over the next four weeks we'll be hearing form various folks in our community on the themes of advent. Those themes could be any number of things including: waiting, light in the darkness, anticipation, the lectionary texts or the four explicit themes of the candles (hope, peace, joy and love). Our first entry come from Ben West. Ben is a graduate of Logsdon seminary with a masters of dignity. He is currently ministering as a unit manager at the Methodist Children's Home boy's ranch.
A few weeks ago we sang a Leonard Coen song “Heart with No Companion.” It is a song about the long arm of the love of God that reaches us even in our darkest and loneliest places. A love that is not afraid to inhabit our unfulfilled dreams, doubts, and outright despair. It is a love that finds its home in hospital rooms and empty nurseries; a promise from the other side of pain that God is a God of restoration and redemption.
Now I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair,
with a love so vast
And so shattered,
it will reach you everywhere.
And I sing this for the captain whose ship has not been built,
for the mother in confusion
her cradle still unfilled
You can see this sentiment at play in this Sunday’s Old Testament reading from Jeremiah 33:14-16. The book of Jeremiah straddles the most tumultuous event in the Old Testament for Judah, the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile. Chapter 33 is a great example of this. Verses 1-13 are a bleak prediction of the coming destruction and a promise of redemption. But by the time the second section, beginning with our reading in verse 14, is written it is likely that all of this has already happened.
Judah is on the other side. Their concern now is living righteously in the aftermath of God’s grace. The message from the other side is not that everything happens for a reason, or that everything will work out and all your dreams will come true beyond your wildest imagination. The message is an appeal for hope in the face of despair. A reminder that you are not forgotten by God, you were never abandoned and in the end God is still good.
The thing is, this can be hard to believe when you’re in exile. When your hopes and dreams ring hollowand it feels like no one is there. This is the image earlier in chapter 33. The walls of Jerusalem have been destroyed and the streets are “desolate, without inhabitants, human or animal” (v. 10).
We have more in common than we may realize with Judah, waiting on God in Babylon, who are promised that their streets will be filled with “voices of gladness” again (vs. 11), but are left in a time of waiting, and hoping with nothing to do but “build houses and live, plant gardens and eat” (Jer. 29:5) while their home is empty. There is a tension between hope and contentment. How do you build gardens and live while still living in hope, waiting for restoration?
I don’t think there is any easy answer to this question, and I don’t think there is anything easy about hope. Hope, by definition, has an element of doubt and expectation, it is born in the rubble, and makes it home in the ruins of our lives. There is no sure footing, each next step is an act of doubt overcome by faith. Faith that God is a rebuilder and that the love of God is never too far out of reach. This is captured perfectly in my favorite hymn for this season of hope and expectation:
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
This week may we rejoice in our waiting. Let us remember God’s promise that our empty streets will be filled once again with glad voices. Let us not forgot the times that the love of God has found us in lonely places. Let us rejoice and wait for Emmanuel.
Reminder. If you signed up for the advent workshop it will take place this sunday. You can either go get food after church or pack a lunch. We will begin about a half hour after service is over. If you haven not signed up and are interested email: email@example.com. We may have enough supplies.
Work is Worship
Coffee Makers: Caroline & Sarah
Mug Cleaners: Leigh & Stephen
- Sunday Sermon Text: Luke 21:25-36 "Advent 1"
Advent Workshop, November 29th. email josh@ubcwaco for more details.
Least of These and Bradley Hathaway are playing a show at ubc on December 12th. It's free, and you should come.
Study Hall: Dec. 8th & 9th
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