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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

Live in Hope Sermon text. Proper 11 Year A 2011

Jul 9, 2011

Message Live in Hope

For the podcast - A shortened version of what appears below go to

Just in case you get too depressed as you listen to this week’s sermon I’d better tell you where we’re going from the start. Both the reading from Matthew and from Paul are about the problems of evil and suffering and just like the Old Testament book of Job they offer no simple solution or answer - they don’t explain evil and suffering, or why God allows it to happen now. BUT and it’s a big BUT they offer us hope that in the end suffering and evil will come to an end,  they offer us hope that in the end suffering and evil will come to an end.

[The other uncomfortable thing about today’s Matthew reading is that it tells us that not all will be saved. To put it in dramatic terms it says that some people are like weeds who will be burned in the fires of Hell. Most of you will be relieved to hear that I will not be tackling this subject but I know some of you will be disappointed. What I will say before I go on with the sermon proper is that the New Testament and Jesus who we meet there seem to consistently say that some will be saved and some will not. Even though I’m not going to talk about that today, it is related to today’s theme of hope. 

For part of our hope is surely that justice will be done and that evil will be dealt with. Does this mean that those who separate themselves from God, who do not repent of their evil ways or their desire to have their own at the expense of others, does this mean that those people are damned so that justice may be satisfied? Is this part of the way God will bring evil to an end? It probably is, but that is another sermon. Today I am going to simply argue that for those of us who believe, God will bring evil and suffering to an end, that God is at work bringing healing even now, and so we have hope.] 

Last week one of the readings was the parable of the sower At Clermont I had a terrible front lawn. It wasn’t just the bare patches.... (Weeds)

All of us know about the weeds; we know about the pain and suffering there is in the world. We know about “the suffering of this present time...” Most of us have suffered the loss of a loved one and we know about the pain of grief....  None of us have missed the events of the last Decade with the Twin Towers... We’ve prayed...

Evil and suffering and pain seem to rule sometimes in our world. The weeds seem to grow up and choke us - What are we to do? What are we to make of this? 

In our two readings this-morning Jesus and Paul were struggling with these same issues - these same problems of suffering and evil that we face. The details might have been different. For Jesus and for Matthew who wrote down Jesus’ words the weeds... Jesus own coming suffering and death... More than this, the weeds are more like the Pharisees.... Or they’re like Judas.... or they’re like the people who followed... For the people Matthew wrote for... temple destroyed... excluded from synagogues...

The people in Rome Paul wrote to the suffering might have been more the sort of thing we face... or it could be .. Jewish rejection... Jewish expulsion... and for the Roman Christians worse was about to come...

It must have been a confusing time... on the one hand incredible growth and excitement...  On the other hand suffering, betrayal... And just like us they were human and had to face.... grief... division...

This mixture of growth and excitement and suffering and evil is like the weeds that grow up with the wheat... it’s exciting to see... yet even with the best selective... an army of helpers...

Paul compares the suffering that we and the Romans face in our lives with the suffering of Jesus on the cross. He says the whole creation is in decay. He says that the whole universe groans in pain like the pain of childbirth. 

And neither Paul nor Jesus give us a nice simple solution to this problem of evil and suffering. In the story Jesus tells the Master and his slaves don’t.... Paul does not say now we are Christians there is no more.... In Both readings we are told to wait as the suffering goes on.... BUT and as I said at the start of the sermon - it’s a big BUT, we have hope. Hope for right now for the present and even greater hope for the future.

In the story of the weeds and the wheat, Jesus explains that the harvest is coming. One day every....

In his letter to the Romans Paul explains that he is sure, he reckons...  that the suffering of this present time can not be compared to the glory that is to come. He’s saying that we will be like brand new people, that a time will come when our whole being will be set free. A time when the suffering and evil of this present time will be wiped away. 

He compares the suffering of this present time to the suffering and pain and travail of labour. Women go through the most terrible pain in child birth, but at the end of what looks to be the most terrible ordeal - a wonderful, incredible, new life appears. And often the pain is quickly overwhelmed by this new tiny life which is given into our hands. Paul is saying that all the suffering and evil of this present time is like the birth pains which come before a whole new universe being born. A time when our whole being will be set free.

We are saved Paul says in hope. Hope is so important. I have known suffering, disappointment and grief in my life... Yet since I have been a Christian I have always had hope.... I also know that along with the suffering and evil I have also been incredibly blessed. The church in Rome that Paul wrote to had that hope that every cause of Evil would be destroyed. But in the Roman religion many of them had before they did not have this hope and some of the Jewish people Jesus spoke to did not have this hope either. Because the Romans and some Jews did not believe in life after death...

And this hope that we have is a living hope. Paul describes it as a sense within us that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are with us. They witness within us and allow to understand that we are God’s children. That we can have a relationship with God as a perfect and loving parent. That we can cry out to God in a personal way as our Dad. 

And it’s not a passive hope. It’s a hope that says with Desmond Tu-tu and MLK, and Mother Theresa and, and Wilberforce and John Flynn, and Romero and so many other heros of the faith that we can stand up to evil and suffering and injustice, because this is not the way things should be and even more wonderfully because maybe even in this life and definitely in the next suffering and evil will be defeated. It’s a hope which says to us that we can go on. A hope that says whatever our grief or suffering, or the evil and terror we face it will be defeated. We will receive wholeness and healing. Even in this life we will receive that healing, though only partly. In the next life we will receive it in all its fullness. And so in hope we wait with patience and eager expectation with the whole creation for that day when we will be healed and whole.