Hope!

Hope!

Introduction
Hope is not just a word – to Christians it conveys so much that sustains us from day to day. In the midst of uncertainty and a lack of clarity that might surround us, we have a Hope that is absolutely certain and unshakable. That hope lies in the life, death and resurrection of our living Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Living Hope and he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Without him in our lives we have no hope for the future, with him in our lives we have every hope for the future.

Today, we are marking Climate Sunday as part of a nationwide inter-church initiative in the weeks and months leading up to the Climate Change Summit that the UK Government is hosting – as we remind ourselves of our responsibilities towards this beautiful world that God created and placed us in and also as we remind ourselves that when sin entered into this world through Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, a chain of events that wrought havoc amongst the perfection and beauty of the planet was started and that continues to this day. This is a chain of events that causes more and more damage to the planet we live on and that could, ultimately, make living on the planet extremely unpleasant.

The URC website, about Climate Sunday, taps into the hope that we have as Christians and reminds us that Climate Sunday itself is a reminder of the hope we have. This is what it says:
“Climate Sunday gives us a chance to fix our eyes on a horizon beyond Covid.
It is a declaration that as Christians, we believe in transformation beyond this time and this moment. That we are committed to being part of God‟s greater plan for renewal and restoration. This is a hopeful part of our mission as churches, to embed ourselves into the promises God makes for transformation and embrace the role we have to play. This is life-giving, life affirming mission. It has tangible effects on how our life – and the life of all creation – is shaped today, tomorrow, and for future generations. It is good news.”

Jesus is the King of Creation
Before we take a look at what Jesus expects of us, let’s remind ourselves of Jesus’ place and role in the creation of this world.

Genesis chapters 1 and 2 describe the creation of the world and all that God made. They tell us of the order in which things were made and how God was pleased with everything he did. On the sixth day, humankind was created – in the image of God and we are told that God was very pleased with what he had made.

John opens his Gospel narrative by looking back to the beginning of the world and bringing Jesus into the account. These are some of his opening verses:

John 1 – selected verses;
1 In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to
become children of God.
13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever
seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

Jesus was there, at the very beginning of creation and the world was created by him and through him
and everything that we have around us is here because Jesus called it into being. NLTi

Some people think that, once Jesus and his Father had finished making the world, that was the end of their interest in it – that having finished the job of creation they simply sat back and let us get on with it. Nothing could be further from the truth and the following readings from Colossians and Matthew both bear testimony to this. So let’s look together at the relationship between Jesus and the Earth.

Jesus is the true image of God
Colossians 1:15 -20;
5 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. NLT

This passage includes in verses 15-20 a meditation on Jesus. Author Tom Wright says,
„..the poem exploits the meaning of „in the beginning‟ this way and that (beginning, head, sum total, and first fruits), and combining it with the assertion that Jesus is the true image of God, in other words, the true fulfilment of Genesis 1.26f.‟
Paul: Fresh Perspectives, p.27 (SPCK: London 2005).

Jesus is truly the perfect example of what it is to be human. He has within him the power to subdue creation, to bend it to his will – and yet he doesn’t, instead he redeems it and recreates it from within himself, as a man.

We’ve already reminded ourselves that Jesus, and no-one else, is supreme in all creation. There is absolutely nothing that does not owe everything that it has to Jesus.

The passage reminds us that this world was made for Jesus – it was the Father’s gift to his beloved Son. Therefore, the world does not belong to us and we need to remember this and not act as though it was ours to do with as we please.

Jesus has a task for us to perform
What this passage in Colossians also reminds us of is that we, therefore, are not supreme in all creation. We are Jesus’ servants in the care of this world. It was through the actions of the first man and woman that the world needed redemption from sin in the first place, and it is only by God’s grace that that redemption is offered to us.

Matthew 25:14-30;
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.
15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more.
17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more.
18 But the servant
who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money.
20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with
five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver.
29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an
abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.
30Now throw
this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ NLT

This passage from Matthew’s Gospel is the well-known parable of the talents. The story asks a question of us, having reminded us of something very important.

Everything we have, our material possessions, our wealth, our skills and knowledge – our talents – all of these have been entrusted to our care by Jesus, and are ours to use until he returns. When Jesus comes back, how well will he find that we have made use of all he has given us? How can we better steward what we have?

The parable indicates that different people have different amounts of resources and skills at their disposal – from those who have more, more will be expected but even those of us who have less, or little, can still do something with what we have.

We have a calendar on our kitchen wall with a verse from the Bible for every day and two of the verses this week speak directly into what we are thinking about today.
Wednesday’s verse was from Micah 6:8;

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. NIVii

The following day’s verse was from Hebrews 13:16; To place the verse in context, here it is with verse 15 too:

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. NIV

Both these passages are reminding us that we have responsibilities towards the Lord our God and, additionally, towards our fellow human beings – and, by extension, towards all that God has made.

In preparing for today, I recalled the story of a boy seen wandering along a seashore upon which had been washed up a large number of starfish. As he walked along, every now and then, he bent down, picked up an ailing starfish and threw it back into the sea. Someone stopped him and asked him what he was doing. He said that he was rescuing some of the starfish that had been washed up. “You’ll never be able to rescue all of them – what difference can you make on your own?” The boy replied, “It makes a difference to the ones I do throw back!”

One of the greatest preachers this country has ever seen or heard was born in the 19th Century and he was Charles Haddon Spurgeon and thousands were led to commit their lives to Jesus through his ministry. He came to faith whilst still a young man when, one snowy Sunday morning, he failed to get to his own church service and called into a nearby church when he heard the congregation singing. The preacher that day was a stand-in, as the scheduled speaker had been prevented from coming. The man who preached was later described by Spurgeon as not being particularly gifted and having little to say – as most of the sermon consisted of him repeating “Look ye unto Christ and be ye saved” and explaining in simple terms those special words. However, they struck home in Spurgeon’s heart and he committed his life to Jesus.

Who knows how many others the old preacher led to the Lord? But one we know that he did, in turn brought thousands. So as we consider, in a few moments, a few closing questions – please read them remembering that we are never too old or too young to serve our risen Saviour and Lord. Neither are we too rich or too poor; too well educated or too poorly educated – God has prepared tasks for each of us and
equipped us well for those tasks. He told us this, through Paul, in Ephesians 2:8-10;

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God –
9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV

We are here to share God’s love with those who do not yet know him personally. We are also here to demonstrate God’s love through acts of service and kindness and, today, we remember that we are also called to be God’s servants in caring for this amazing planet on which we live. There are many steps that we can take, and if we feel that we are small and insignificant, then remember the boy on the seashore
and the old man in the pulpit that snowy day – their actions may have seemed small and inconsequential but God has ways of taking what we offer and multiplying it.
Remember, Jesus once took five small loaves and two fish which were offered to him by a young boy – and used them to feed thousands of hungry people. The boy gave what he had to Jesus and Jesus did the rest.

Remember – we have a sure and certain hope – for the one we hope in is utterly reliable, unfailing and loving.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us all that there are issues that affect everyone on the planet. Each country and government has drawn up plans to tackle the pandemic within their own country and some have been more proactive than others. Some have been more successful than others. Some have been quicker to recognise the scale of the problem than others. What has become clear is that,  globally, the problem will only have been overcome when it has been overcome everywhere –so we all have a part to play.

The same is true of climate matters – the actions of every individual can make a difference, as well as the actions and decisions of national governments and international collaborations. Jesus calls us to be good stewards of everything he has entrusted to us, and that includes the planet.

Some closing questions to ponder on
Where is your hope placed?

Have you personally responded to the offer of new life in Jesus that he won for you through his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection?

Do you feel personally responsible for the way in which you treat what God has given you?

Is there anything you wish you had/hadn’t been given?

How might you make the most of what he has entrusted to you? Are you already doing so?

Rob Frost said “When Christians take the earth seriously, people take the Gospel seriously.”

Do you agree with Rob?

Colin Hollies
Broadway
5th June 2021

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. ii Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton. A division of Hodder Headline Ltd. All rights reserved