Sunday message: Hope for the future (Presbyterians Sharing Sunday)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 29, 2019

Scriptures:

Psalm 91:1–6, 14–16

Luke 16:19–31

Jeremiah 32:1–3a, 6–15

The Babylonian army had surrounded the city of Jerusalem. The city’s people were in fear. The people were in deep despair. So many stories of despair and panic surround us today. Climate change is one more source of fear and despair. 

There is something about Jeremiah’s story of an ordinary exchange of land that is more than a simple field—it is a story of hope for the future. It tells of trusting in God’s promises.

The prophet Jeremiah was captured by the King of Judah. The field in question had an army camped on it as they laid siege to the city. The land was completely worthless. Yet Jeremiah bought it, not because it was of any current use to him, but because of the promise it held. God promised that one day that occupied field would once again be a growing vineyard. So, Jeremiah bought the field and took the jar and sealed the deed in it because he wanted to keep it safe. 

There is something about this moment in time that captures the heart. Jeremiah safely sealed the deed away because he had hope for the future. He wanted the deed to be safe and last as long as it took. So, it was not a question of IF God’s promises would be fulfilled but WHEN they would be fulfilled. It could be during Jeremiah’s time, it could be 100 years from then — but Jeremiah had faith in God’s promise, even if it would take years to come to fruition. In the previous verses Jeremiah had already prophesied that this siege would turn into 70 years of Babylonian rule. But he made it clear that he believed God’s promise that the land would be restored to the people. Fields would be bought and sold again. Vineyards would be grown there again. 

I wonder at that moment of hope. At the strength of Jeremiah who did what must have seemed crazy at the time. He did not question God; he just trusted in God’s promise and had hope for something more. By buying the field, he put this hope into action.

From week to week we read excerpts of scripture. While we tend to follow some of the books over several weeks, we still miss pieces. When we take the Bible as a whole, we quickly see that within its pages, throughout centuries and generations, there is a story of love and hope. Not the human side of love and hope, but rather that of a creator who has remained faithful to creation. God’s love changes everything for us as individuals and as a community, and it is in that love that we find hope for the future. That hope gives us the courage to live out God’s call in our lives.

Time and again throughout history God’s people have been asked to do the impossible. The prophets preached hope every day while they waited for God’s promises to be fulfilled. When the time came, and people were returned to their lands after being held captive, they often found themselves standing before a ruin of their former lives. But God always helped them to rebuild. In the New Testament we read story after story of the lame walking, the blind seeing. How many times did Jesus stand before the body of someone who was dead and then do the impossible and call them back to life? Just ask Lazarus about that. 

Through the love of God, the impossible gives way to the possibility of something much more. The only reason God’s people have the faith to do what seems impossible, is because they believe at their core that they are known and loved by God. Through that love they find hope, even in the face of invading armies, or the question of whether a vineyard will be replanted. 

As Jeremiah proved, it just takes one person to have hope. It took one deed, one jar, one act of faith. All these little actions put together created something much bigger: room for God’s work to continue to come to fruition. 

Today is Presbyterians Sharing Sunday. Today, we celebrate all of the incredible ministries we support both here in Canada and around the world with the gifts we give to Presbyterians Sharing. Our prayers, our money, our support—all come together to bless countless ministries and share the love of Christ.

This morning I am going to share a few stories with you—stories of hope, vision, passion, and call. Stories of people like Jeremiah, one by one putting their hope into action, faithfully working to share God’s love and build God’s kingdom in the world. 

Let’s have a look at renewing congregations. It can be hard for congregations to discern how they can share God’s love and hope in our changing world. A number of new programs supported by Presbyterians Sharing are creating renewal and new growth by helping congregations across Canada assess their potential for vital ministry. Over 60 congregations have participated in the discipleship, coaching and group discernment processes of ReVision, New Beginnings, Cyclical and the Presbyterian Evangelism Network.

Two congregations of the Kensington-St. John’s, New London pastoral charge in P.E.I. were experiencing the downward trends seen in many mainline churches: aging members, dwindling numbers and few young families. The Rev. Torrey Griffiths shares, “You could hardly blame us if we resigned ourselves to our fate and lived out our remaining years doing what we’ve always done. But there was a burning desire to try new things and to see what God had in store.” 

Such congregations find themselves moving forward in faith and in hope as they implement the new initiatives. God is at work. 

It’s a time of change for the church, and our gifts to Presbyterians Sharing are helping congregations experiment and dream of new things—putting their hope into action and making concrete changes. Seeing hope for the future is what Presbyterians Sharing is all about. Together we are acting in hope for the future—hope for a church that shares the love of God locally, nationally and internationally.

We can’t see the future. It is easy to become overwhelmed with the challenges facing our communities. But, like Jeremiah, we choose hope over despair. We choose to see God at work, building something new in the midst of change. 

All of our individual actions, put together, are creating something much bigger: room for God’s work to continue to come to fruition. Together we are building God’s kingdom as we share God’s love, in Canada and around the world. 1.)

1.) From a Presbyterians Sharing Sharing sermon suggested on www.presbyterians.ca

 

Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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