Hope for the Hopeless Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12

100 Florescent SunsetArise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  It is easier to believe that good word “arise and shine” if you’re on top, an undefeated and undisputed champion.  It’s harder to hear, Arise, shine; your light has come, if you are down and out.  When we are at an uncertain point it is difficult to process possibilities of hope that claim God loves us and is active in our life.  It is hard to hold onto a hope that says God doesn’t see us as hopeless, when it there is nowhere to turn.

The first 40 chapters of Isaiah have the prophet telling a sinful people they were about to be exiled by a foreign invader, losing their glory for trusting in their own ways and not in God.  Chapters 40-54, tell them God is going to bring them home and restore their fortunes.  The third part, chapters 55-66, the prophet speaks of some of them coming home—the older ones mostly.  Isaiah 60 is addressed to people who were carted off from home, spent 70 odd years in forced captivity in Babylon.  Some had returned to Zion and found it to be a fraction of what they remembered.  Everything was in ruins and there was nothing to build on.  They felt they were too old to even try.

This is why Israel has a hard time believing of the hope the prophet spoke, arise and shine!  Those words were astonishing; too good to be true to these hopeless people.  True prophets-not the ones who tell people what they want to hear-are contrarians.  Prophecy tells people who are on top they’d better get a grip because the floor is about to fall out from under them.  Prophets tells people who think the roof has fallen on them; they better run for the oxygen mask because the air is thin where they’re going.Prophet

God intended to remake Israel into a people everyone would want to be near and honor.  This word of hope that proclaimed she would matter so much, that others would think her to be important, was a surprising hopeful word.  It was difficult for God’s people to imagine they would rebuild their nation and that nations would stream to honor them with camels, gold, and frankincense.  These words sounded like nonsense to people who had been left for dead among the peoples of the world.

Any of us can lose our hope in a promising future.  We might be haunted by what we haven’t achieved and begin to think that we won’t have a chance.  These feelings can reside even though we try not to dwell on our difficulties and are thankful for our lives.  We fight those feelings that tell us that our time has passed; and we must accept an unimagined fate.  So, we remain persons of prayer, attentively aware of what God is doing in our lives.  Yet, we can still feel like Israel, hopeless; wondering if our future is darker than the light of our past.  No amount of hopeful words seems to help us overcome the nagging feeling we’ve missed our moment.

HopelessIt can feel hopeless for Christian churches around the globe.  Christians completely transformed the Western world from its pagan roots with our missionary efforts that had their effects everywhere.  The church occupied a privileged place in the culture until these last few decades.  We feel loss of control in our schools, offices, and the public square.  We wonder if our future is behind us, or is there still hope we may arise and shine?

We can look at our church and wonder if there’s still hope we can rise and shine.  Some are sure; some are not so sure if we have a future.  We’ve been blessed to celebrate more than a century of ministry together.  Yet, in recent years, we’ve celebrated persons home going who were pillars of this body.  It has happened so fast it leaves us short of breath; wondering if our future is behind us, or is there still hope we may arise and shine.

The word that came from the pen of Isaiah to an ancient people long ago is the same word that can speak to us modern folk who are stewards of God’s word in the this 21st century.  Arise, shine, women or men, Body of Christ, FUMC, Irving your light has come!  The words are still true and they pose questions to those who feel hopeless.  Can we acknowledge a new day?  Can we hear good news?  Can we act as if these hopeful words are true?Light has come

Acknowledge a New Day!

Hopeful words that declare we can arise and shine are better heard when we are willing to acknowledge a new day is coming; knowing that which was is no longer.  Our best prior efforts have brought us great memories.  But, they are memories, and efforts to keep on doing what we are doing can contribute to our hopeless state.  The essence of denial is to convince ourselves with those famous last words: “I got this”.

We’re to face new days, like we face each day we awake.  Every day we put our feet on the floor, we face a new day willing to receive the blessings it brings and to do what is needed to meet the challenges that come.  We are in a better position to hear a word of hope about today and tomorrow if we can leave yesterday behind, only taking with us the lessons of the past.  Accepting it is a new day; puts us in position to hear a hopeful word when we feel hopeless.  Can we acknowledge it is a new day?

Hear the good news!

Good NewsThe good news is God is our light and it’s rising upon us.  God wants us to hear in the depths of our being that heaven has a thing for the people God shaped from the dust of the earth and stamped with a divine image.  God wants to make something of us that is more than we can imagine.  But, God doesn’t need our best efforts or sterling reputations to make our future.  God simply wants us to hear the good news that God continuously shines a light of unconditional love on the lowly to lift high the work of God.

In Ephesians, Paul says Jesus is the clue to the mystery hidden in God since the foundation of the world.  When we look to Jesus we see from the darkness of a cold grave, God’s light did arise and shine!  God used a humble Jewish rabbi to fulfill the hope God promised to Israel.  Like Isaiah said, all nations found their hope in this unexpected Messiah.  That same hope is good news to anyone who wonders about their future.  Jesus is good news in the flesh to those believe he enables them to arise and shine no matter how low they have fallen or how hopeless they feel.  Can we hear the good news?

Act as if it’s so!

After we acknowledge it’s a new day and hear the good news, we’re to rise and shine for the sake of others, acting as if it is so.  The way to get unstuck from an old reality and hear the good news of a new day is live into the new reality.  We’re to arise off the couch of hopelessness; live in the light of God that is arising within and around us.  We act the part, even before fully believing it.  God wants to save us from the self, which fools us into thinking our future is over and done.

So we will not allow our sinful nature to rob us of the capacity to celebrate the goodness of being created in the image of God.  We will set aside the practice of internalizing our sins, becoming what we are not; allowing our dark side to enslave us.  We will refuse to act the slave-shiftless, head down, nothing to offer; this is the condition of the hopeless; this prevents us from acting as if it is so.  Can we live our lives in such a way that we live the good news of a new day right now?New Normal

We’ve turned the page to a New Year.  God’s light shines into our lives with grace that heals, and into our church to show we can arise and shine.  Where is God’s light shining into your soul; making your whole again, so you may arise and shine.  Church, where is God’s light shining into our work, guiding our comings days, so we may arise and shine?  Let’s, “Arise, shine the light has come, the glory of the Lord has risen upon us.”

Published in: on January 21, 2013 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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