Restored Hope and a Revived Sense of the Possible, a sermon
Joan Didion, in her book Blue Nights, writes:
A doctor to whom I occasionally talk suggests that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.
In fact I had lived my entire life to date without seriously believing that I would age.
I had no doubt that I would continue to wear the red suede sandals with four-inch heels that I had always preferred.
I had no doubt that I would continue to wear the gold hoop earrings on which I had always relied, the black cashmere leggings, the enameled beads.
My skin would develop flaws, fine lines, even brown spots, but it would continue to look as it had always looked, basically healthy. My hair would lose its original color but the color could continue to be replaced by leaving the gray around the face and twice a year letting Johanna [at my salon] highlight the rest… My memory would slip but whose memory does not slip. My eyesight would be more problematic than it might have been before… but there would still be no question that I could see, read, write, navigate intersections without fear.
No question that it could not be fixed.
Whatever “it” was.
I believed absolutely in my own power to surmount the situation.
Whatever “the situation” was.
Then Joan Didion went to find a picture of Sophia Loren, at a fancy event, someone who was born the same year Joan was born. She says, “no one on that red carpet, to my knowledge, is yet suggesting that Sophia Loren is making an inadequate adjustment to aging.”
Didion continues, “This entirely meaningless discovery floods me with restored hope, a revived sense of the possible.”
Isn’t that what we all need? “Restored hope, a revived sense of the possible.” Didion finds it in superficialities, and she soon loses it. But don’t we need “restored hope and a revived sense of the possible” from a more substantial and sustainable source?
Moses finds himself needing a “restored hope, a revived sense of the possible.” Remember Moses’ past:
He was born to a Jewish family during the time of the exile in Egypt. From Exodus 1:11,
“So the Eyptians made the Israelites their slaves and put brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down under heavy burdens. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more quickly the Israelites multiplied!”
Pharaoh required that the midwives kills the boy children born to the Jewish mothers, they refused. So Pharaoh required that all the new born Israelite boys should be thrown into the Nile River.
After three months, Moses’ mother finally threw him into the river. In a basket. And he was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised by her, and was nannied by the his own mother. Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s home.
When he was older, Moses was visiting the Hebrew people, on the job sites around Egypt. He saw how hard they worked. During one visit, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. Moses killed the Egyptian, and rather than being arrested and killed by Pharaoh, Moses ran away to Midian.
In Midian, he married the daughter of a priest, and they had a son. Time passed and the Pharaoh died. The Israelites were still in slavery, though. God heard their cries.
And Moses, tending the sheep of his father-in-law, was visited by an angel of the Lord appearing as a blazing fire in a bush. The bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. And when his attention was fully on the burning bush, God called to him, “Moses, Moses! Take your shoes off because you are standing on holy ground.” Then God told Moses that he was to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt.
Let’s take a minute here and really reflect on what Moses might have been feeling. He is a sheep herder, this man who was educated in the house of Pharoah. He is a murderer, exiled from his own people because he will be imprisoned or worse. He is a coward, not facing his own sins. He is insecure, he stutters and is afraid that the people will laugh at him. This is not a man of strength. This is not a man of honor. This is not a man of God.
Moses says to God, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them what you have said, they won’t believe me. They’ll ask, “Which god are you talking about? What is his name? What then shall I tell them?”
And God replied, in Hebrew “ehyeh asher ehyeh.” In English “I AM.” In Spanish “Yo soy el que soy.” In Indonesian “Akulah aku.” In Greek, “eimi ho ohn.” And while there is really no great translation of it, probably the best is, “I am who I am and who I was and who I will be.” In Hebrew, it’s the perfect tense, meaning was, is and will be. Basically, God encompasses all that is.
In this moment, Moses experienced, “Restored hope, a revived sense of the possible.”
Why does that one phrase, that one little phrase, “I AM” inspire such hope? Is it because it begs the questions, “I am WHAT?” I am (you fill in the blank) strong. with you. powerful. merciful. loving. your creator. your savior. your liberator. your friend. your comforter. your father. your lover. your master. your mother.
God says, “I am what you need.”
And then we have the disciples out with Jesus alone, with no crowds. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist, Elijah, or ancient prophets.”
And Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, of all of them, answers him, “The Messiah of God.” Messiah is an interesting choice of words… it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but essentially, it means the chosen one of God. Or the one who is set apart.
You see, Jesus probably could have asked everyone of the disciples that same question and gotten a different answer. In fact, he probably could have asked them that question one day and gotten one answer and another day and gotten a different answer. Because that’s how our relationship with Jesus is. He is something different to each of us, and something different to us on each day.
In other words, Jesus is I AM. And you fill in the blank with WHAT? I am redeemer. comforter. friend. brother. teacher. messiah. son of God. lover. liberator. guide. example. savior.
Jesus says, “I am what you need.”
And that gives the disciples, me, and hopefully you, “restored hope, a revived sense of the possible.”
If you haven’t figured it out by now, you’re going to need a restored hope and a revived sense of the possible. You may only need it once in a while. You may only need it once a month. You may only need it once a week. Or, you might need it every day.
I’m in an every day place right now. Maybe you are, too? I need hope when it comes to the future, to know that my dreams are possible. Maybe you need hope because you’re lonely, and you need to know that finding someone to love you is possible. Maybe you need hope because things aren’t so great at home, and you need a revived sense that peace and even happiness is available in your home. Maybe you need hope because you’re facing a disease or a disorder, and you need a revived sense that healing could be possible. Maybe you need hope because you need to be honest with someone, and you need a revived sense that forgiveness and acceptance can happen. Maybe you need hope because you have experienced failure, and you need a revived sense that your failure does define who you are.
I say to you, look to Jesus for that restored hope, for a revived sense of the possible.
Because the God can do miracles. God sent a stuttering man with a price on his head to free the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. Jesus picked a cursing fisherman to start his church. If God can use these faulted men, God can certainly use us, just as we are, and make something even better in us. If God can give them a revived sense of hope by showing us who He is, can’t he do that for you? And for me?
So who do you say that Jesus is? The Advocate? The Alpha and Omega? The Bread of Life? The Cornerstone? The Counselor? The Dayspring? The Good Shepherd? The Great High Priest? Holy One? I AM? Immanuel? King? Lamb? Light? Lord? Messiah? Mighty One? Only Begotten Son? Prince of Peace? Resurrection? Savior? True Vine? The Word?
Yes! All of these and more. Find your place… The important thing is not how you answer the question. The important thing is that you’re in the relationship to ask the question.
May it ever be.