June 28, 2020
Christ Church Gardiner
I feel like my sermons have been a little heavy the last few weeks. Which, I guess, is to be expected. The world feels pretty heavy, and I believe with my whole heart that it is the responsibility of the church to wade right into the messiness we see around us. We have an obligation, as Christians right now, to be a part of the transformation that needs to happen in our communities and in our nations. And while this is not easy work, the obligation to do something is embedded in our very baptismal covenant.
Obligation, however, can make us feel weary. And sometimes, even powerless. So this morning, I want to talk about something that is more powerful than we know. More powerful than the frustration and fatigue and helplessness we sometimes feel. I want to talk about hope. More precisely, the gift of hope.
Have you ever wondered…
- What is God hoping for?
- What does God yearn to bring about?
- Where is the desiring of God drawing us?
These are questions that Father Martin Smith, an Episcopal Priest, asked in a recent podcast called “Seeking the Gift of Hope.”
The gift of hope: that sounds like a gift that we’re all seeking in these days of pandemic, societal unrest, and divisive politics. It’s easy to feel discouraged and hopeless. By the news. By social media. Even by our friends and family, sometimes. But we must always keep our hearts open to the gift of God’s hope. Father Smith likens receiving that gift of hope to being “caught up in the current of God’s yearning to heal, repair, and remake the world.”
And when we receive that gift of God’s hope, our response will be an offering of our very selves, as partners with God, who desires to make all things new.
So how do we partner with God in hope? Partnership implies activity. We have to be doing something. But there’s reassurance in knowing that we aren’t working alone. God has a vision—a yearning for a world of love, justice, and mercy. And we are already in the midst of God’s work, and our partnership in that work, to fulfill that vision.
I was ordained to the transitional diaconate in June of 2017 at the Cathedral in Portland, Maine. My ordination shared that festive and celebratory day in Portland with the Pride March. And on that day, I was proud to be ordained into a church that had taken a stand for LGBTQ equality. In a recent interview about Pride Month, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry claimed, “For much of human history we have not seen what we now know to be human equality … this is a profound transition in the understanding of who we are as human beings.”
He then went on to say, “Gender, race, and sexual orientation and identity are the three touchstones of where our time is transitioning from an old world way of seeing of ourselves, to a new world way of seeing ourselves… It’s true of women, blacks as well as people of the LGBTQ+ communities…We need to accept people for who they are…God made all of us equally, in God’s image and likeness, and that is how we need to behave to each other. That’s been a dawning in the last 100 years.”
That transitioning into what Curry called a “new world way of seeing ourselves,” is an opening of ourselves to the gift of God’s hope—God’s dream for the world. A world that acknowledges and celebrates each person as equally made in God’s image and treats them as such.
God’s hope extends into the Black Lives Matter movement, as well. Even as we hear the pain and frustration in the stories of people of color, we can look for the hopefulness in a national debate that is finally happening, though long overdue, about systemic racism.
As Martin Luther King reminded us, “The arc of the moral universe is long. But it bends toward justice.” It feels today like it might be bending in the right direction. But we know that it does not bend alone. God’s dream of a moral universe needs us. Will we offer ourselves to help bend that arc toward justice?
God’s gift of hope can be found in the great black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” that we will hear played at the end of our worship today. Written in 1899 by writer and civil rights activist, James Weldon Johnson, the hopefulness of that song is profound when we acknowledge how much abuse and discrimination against the black community persisted, even after slavery ended. Its lyrics point us to God’s dream of liberty and equality for all.
Lift every voice and sing
till earth and heaven ring,
ring with the harmonies of liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise
high as the listening skies;
let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us;
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on, till victory is won.
Weldon’s words are a call to action for us, even today. A call to action, but also a word of hope.
Next weekend, we will celebrate the birth of the United States of America. While we reflect on our history as a nation, if we are going to celebrate who we are, we need to also celebrate those movements like Black Lives Matter and the Pride movement that seek to help us become a more just and equitable nation.
And during this time of unrest in America, let us receive the gift of hope that God offers. And may we, by accepting that gift, be “caught up in the current of God’s yearning to heal, repair, and remake the world.” Amen.