Proclaimers of Hope, Ephesians 1:15-23
Today is the fourth Sunday of a series of six messages that began on January 3. This series is focused on how followers of Jesus are called to be the light of the world. The guiding scripture of these messages is I Corinthians 13:13 and the three things that are eternal for followers of Jesus. This verse reads as follows: “Now faith, hope, love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” On our first Sunday, we considered how the Christian faith is an invitation to trust in Jesus as we travel the uncharted journey of life. On our second Sunday, we considered how Christians are called to practice faith by pulling the ripcord and living in an accountable relationship with Jesus and, in turn, living in an accountable relationship with each other. Our third Sunday was about hope and how people of hope change the future by transforming the present.
During the past three weeks, as we have considered what it means to be a follower of Jesus, here are some of the things that have happened in our nation and our world:
- On January 5, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, announced a strict nation-wide lockdown that will last through mid-February in the UK.
- On January 6, the Capitol building of The United States was invaded by a mob of domestic terrorists
- On January 9, Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, announced that North Korea is in the midst of developing new weaponry, which includes a nuclear-powered submarine, tactical nuclear weapons, and warheads designed to get through missile defense systems.
- On January 13, Donald Trump was impeached
- On January 15, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia, killing at least 46 people and injuring hundreds.
- On January 19, the 400,000th death from Covid-19 in the United States was recorded
- On January 20, Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of The United States of America. At that same inaugural, Kamala Harris became the first woman of color in the history of The United States to be inaugurated as Vice President.
- On January 3, 10, 17, and today, January 24, Christians around the world, including members and friends of Fort Hill, have gathered as communities of faith, both in-person and online, to proclaim their hope in God in the midst of the ebb and flow of history.
In our scripture lesson from Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote about the hope that is proclaimed by followers of Jesus. The epistle of Ephesians is unique in that it is a letter written as a sermon for the Church in general rather than a letter written to address the concerns of a particular congregation. In this sermon, Paul offers a particular prayer for hope, in verses 15-23 of the first chapter that is for all followers of Jesus. In this prayer, Paul lifts up a specific petition in verse 18:
“So that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.”
So that you may know the hope to which God has called you. What a powerful prayer for followers of Jesus wherever they find themselves in the ebb and flow of history.
So that you may know the hope to which God has called you.
People of faith in Jesus are called to hope because of Jesus. In the midst of what has already occurred in the opening weeks of 2021, followers of Jesus are being called to be proclaimers of hope. It is this calling that sustains us as we navigate the present and the future. We are called to be proclaimers of hope because we believe in a risen Savior who can give new life in the present. As Paul prayed, we move forward with the eyes of our hearts enlightened.
To appreciate Paul’s prayer of hope, consider the challenges Paul encountered as he lived as a proclaimer of hope. Paul listed these challenges in II Corinthians 11:24-33:
Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.
And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus (blessed be he forever!) knows that I do not lie. In Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped from his hands.
It was in the midst of these challenges that Paul wrote his Epistle to the Ephesians as a message for the Church and for all people of faith in Jesus who are called to be proclaimers of hope.
The late Dr. F. Douglas Dillard, Jr. preached about the hope we are called to proclaim with these words:
“To hope is not to ignore the future and say it is not ours to fashion. Hope is the art of learning to rest our anxieties in the love and adequacy of God . . .The longer I live, the more I feel that no discouraging situation into which we sail is pure disaster with nothing that can be done about it. We do not deny the pain; we throw out the anchor of hope and go to work to become aware of the possibilities of redemption.
- 30-31, Journeying With God, Dr. F. Douglas Dillard, Jr.
Proclaimers of hope. Moving forward with life and faith even when we encounter challenges that seem to lead us to dead-end streets.
See if you can guess the name of this person who lived by the calling of hope as he professed faith in Jesus Christ. When he was seven-years-old, his family was forced out of their home because of a legal technicality. He had to work as a child to help support them. Ag age nine, while still a backward, shy little boy, his mother died. At twenty-two, he lost his job as a store clerk. He wanted to go to law school, but his education was not good enough. At twenty-three, he went into debt to become a partner in a small store. Three years later his business partner died, leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay. At twenty-eight, after developing a romantic relationship with a young woman for four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no. An earlier youthful love he shared with a lovely girl ended in heartache with her death.
At thirty-seven, on his third try, he was finally elected to Congress. Two years later, he ran again and failed to be re-elected. At about this time he had what some today would call a nervous breakdown. At forty-one, adding additional heartache to an already unhappy marriage, his four-year-old son died. The next year he was rejected for Land Officer. At forty-five, he ran for the Senate and lost. Two years later, he was defeated for nomination for Vice President.
At forty-nine, he ran for the Senate again … and lost again. At fifty-one, however, he was elected the 16th President of the United States in a time of national upheaval that resulted in a civil war. His name was Abraham Lincoln.
Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Charles Swindoll
At his second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln shared the following proclamation of hope that is inscribed on a wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
We find ourselves in a time when our nation’s wounds need to be bound up. We find ourselves in a time when our world’s wounds need to be bound up. We find ourselves in a time when we are being called to proclaim the hope to which God has called us. May God bless us as we live our calling to be proclaimers of hope in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pastor Marc Brown
January 24, 2021