Sermon Manuscript from the Revs. Megan and David Collins, November 1, 2020
This is our fourth week of the series Grounded Hope. The first week we defined what these words mean for us. Being grounded means having your feet on the ground and your eyes open to the challenges we are really facing. The first step to being grounded we took when we admitted that things are not fine. Believing that the future can be better, that’s hope. We learned last week that hope takes patience as we wait for what God is doing, imagination to think of what might be, and letting go of things ever being perfect. When we bring these two ideas together we have grounded hope. With grounded hope you can be honest about how hard things are right now and yet still believe that things will be better in the future.
Let’s talk about your part in making that better future happen.
It can’t happen without you.
You might be thinking “Now wait, that’s a lot of pressure. The problems out there are really big, bigger than anything I can do something about. I’m just one ordinary person. Let’s wait on some extraordinary person to come in and make things right." But what if the person you are waiting for is you? Sound crazy? That’s exactly the way God works. God doesn’t wait for the smartest or most talented or perfect candidate.
God uses ordinary people.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
This was written by Paul who started out a whole lot worse than just ordinary. Paul persecuted the early church Christians and worked against what God was doing. Paul was working against the future hope would imagine until one day God called him to follow Jesus and his life took a turn. Paul is now known as the one who wrote most of the letters we read as our New Testament today, some of our most influential writings for forming what we believe as Christians now. So what does Paul say that he is?
Weak. Paul is weak. Despite all of his accomplishments, the churches he started, the new direction he took in his life, Paul says he is weak. Even stranger, he isn’t embarrassed by it. In fact, Paul says “I boast in my weakness.” That seems weird, right? Who brags about the ways they are weak? Paul does. Why? Because when he boasts in his weakness, “the power of Christ may dwell within me” and “because when I am weak, I am strong.” Paul knows the great paradox of faith, that when ordinary people know just how ordinary and weak and inconsequential they are, Christ’s power dwells in you, and you are strong. This leads us to the most important thing we will learn today.
God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
God uses ordinary people like you, like me, to do extraordinary things. How do we know? Because Paul wasn’t the only one this happened too. The Bible is full of them.
Moses, who knew he was a terrible speaker, but was called to teach and lead the people.
Abraham and Sarah who were told old to have a baby, but gave birth to a nation.
Rahab, who was a prostitute and an outcast but becomes a critical piece of God’s plan for God’s people.
Peter, who denied Jesus but then went on to be a leader in the early church.
The women at the tomb, who seem completely ordinary but become the first evangelists to the resurrection of Christ.
All of them ordinary. All of them would go on to do extraordinary things.
You are ordinary. You can do extraordinary things with God’s help.
I you were ever going to pick a time to take this seriously, it’s right now.
The problems in our world, if we’re honestly looking at them, are really big. When we talked about being grounded we looked clearly at the reality of the Covid virus, the racism and oppression and violence around us. This week we are clearly aware of the division in our country. These are big problems we are grounded in. But remember hope. Hope believes the future can be better, that God is at work and that we can be a part of building that to be true.
God needs you to be a part of building that better future, starting now.
We have a lot of work to do and it will take all of us.
God is calling you to believe things can be better.
God is calling you to see how big the problems are and not give up.
God is calling you to do the work of hope.
When we know we are weak, God makes us strong. When ordinary, weak people follow an extraordinary God, big things happen. But there’s one more thing. Ordinary people who do extraordinary things fail. A lot. Over and over again. Following God doesn’t mean everything we do will go perfectly the first time. This strength of God in you doesn’t make you into a puppet. It’s still your ordinary human hands and feet with God working through them. You can still trip and fall. You will still have things that don’t work out. And when that happens, you might be tempted to give up, to either believe that things can’t change or that you aren’t the right person for the job.
Paul wrote earlier in this same letter of 2 Corinthians:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Paul and the rest of the early Christian community are afflicted. Perplexed. Persecuted. Struck down. (This sounds familiar). But they are not driven to despair or forsaken or destroyed. Things don’t always work out. They try things that fail. They try to move forward but fall down. If you take seriously this call to do the work of hope, to build into a better future, it will be hard. You will fail. You will fall down.
But you keep getting back up.
Uou aren’t doing the work alone. God is working through you. Doing these extraordinary things will take a lot of persistence. Pushing past our failures is what it will take to overcome the obstacles inside of us that get in our way. Next week we will look at how others make it hard for us to do this work of hope, and how we can persist in spite of it.
You are an ordinary person that God has called to do extraordinary things.
That’s real hope, Grounded Hope, when it gets to work.