The following is a sermon I’m going to preach tomorrow at a small service where I know there will be a group of non-Christians there. I have about 10 minutes. I decided to base the talk on some thoughts I was having about the sense of hopefulness that has followed Obama’s election victory last week. I’d appreciate any thoughts.
“Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.”
Quotes from Barack Obama’s victory speech in Chicago a few days ago. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be inspired by the vision that he cast. He talked about people coming together, to right the wrongs of society, to bring nations together in peace, to provide opportunities for those usually at the bottom of the pile. He talked about old divides being overcome, and looked to a new a bright future. Through determination, humility, service and Self-sacrifice.
In his victory, past battles have come to fruition. The spectre of racism is put behind them. The struggles of previous generations have paved the way for a moment like this, and now it is the turn of a new generation. There is hope!
I don’t know if you watched any of it, or saw the news coverage, but there seemed to be a new era of hope, not just in America, but throughout the world. He was the candidate the world had wanted to win.
Hope is a funny thing. Only one night has passed, but suddenly for many, the world seems a lot brighter, the future a bit more bearable, people are walking taller. There is a spring in the step. But what is hope? Simply an attitude change as we work together to achieve our common goals? I am hopeful for this president, that he pursues peace over war, and values listening and understanding. But in four years time a lot might have happened, and then we will do election night all over again.
Why is the world so excited? Well, it seems that the vision that Obama is casting taps into a fundamental desire within us.
We want a world that is peaceful, where nations don’t need to fight each other.
We want to see justice – we love watching films where evil is defeated and good wins out. We want to see those on the margins of society have a opportunity to be better.
We want a relationships that a real, deep and long lasting. It is an innate, built in human desire.
That’s future that I yearn for, peace, security, justice, love and close-knit relationship. We hope for it, we long for it. These hopes seem to be a fundamental part of being human.
But why, in the 21st century is it still eluding us.
You’d have thought that with all the progress in technology, the medical advances made throughout the last century, that we’d be approaching this vision of love, peace and security that we long for. But we seem to be further away from it than ever. Why is this hope so difficult to achieve?
This problem is summed up in this verse from the Bible that we heard earlier:
Rom 8:22 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”
Creation is groaning – the world doesn’t work as it should. We have glimpses of what it could be like – we can look around us at the beauty – but then creation seems to work against us in the form of hurricanes, earthquakes tsunamis, floods. It’s groaning, it’s broken.
And we, as humans are groaning. We experience the wonder of human relationships, of being with other people in close community. And there’s nothing better than being in love. But then with so many people we fall out, have arguments, say things we don’t mean… We’re generally selfish – and our relationships fail.
We experience the joy, and sense of achievement of doing something well, whether it’s writing, building or sport – but then in so many other things we fail. We’re groaning, we’re broken.
All of this groaning I’m going to call “Sin”. Sin isn’t just the fact that we do some things wrong, it’s our inability to become who we want to be.
We’re made for so much better than we’re capable of.
That’s why we have grand dreams – these hopes of a better world, better communities, and better selves, because we are made to be better.
But sin stops us from doing it. How can this be fixed?
The only way that this can be fixed, is not from inside, but from outside.
Computers are useful objects but when our computers break, very rarely can they fix themselves. We have to get a man in toe re-programme certain things, or to taken the whole thing apart and replace a bit of hardware. They cannot fix themselves.
Similarly, the solution for a broken humanity has to come form outside of ourselves.
We’ve tried so many times through technology, politics, medical advances to fix ourselves, but ultimately we don’t get very far. The help needs to come from outside of ourselves.
And this is what God did. He entered into our humanity to fix it.
We hear the Christmas story of Jesus being born, and one of the names Jesus is given is Emmanuel – which means God with us. In Jesus, God entered into the human condition to fix us, because the only way for humanity to be fixed was for God to become human.
So what did Jesus do? He showed us that a life lived with God results in a life with joy, purpose and hope. He lives the perfect life and brought God to humanity. He helps us become the people we want to be
As we read the accounts of Jesus life, we see him, fixing – improving people’s situations – helping them to live, to love, to forgive, and in some cases, healing them from their diseases – showing that a better life was possible with God’s help. He gave people who had no hope, hope.
And fundamentally, he tackled this problem of sin.
We all know that Jesus was put to death on the cross, and that he was an innocent man. But the point is that he didn’t have to be put to death. He had plenty of opportunities to get out of it. But he chose not to. He chose to go through with it for the benefit of all humans. Why? Because by going through death he took all the failures and wrongs and the inadequacy of humanity upon himself. And God showed that all of those things were capable of being beaten by raising Jesus to life again on Easter Day.
Sin and death overcome. The longings we have for ourselves and the world can be met, with God.
So, where is hope, long lasting real hope? When we listen to inspirational visions of hope, like that we heard from Barack Obama on election night 10 days ago, we recognise the longing that God has put inside us that the world needs to be, can be better.
But we also recognise that these hopes are unfounded if we try to do it ourselves.
The longing that we have for a better world and a better life – those longings are all fulfilled in the person of Jesus, and what he has done for us on the cross.
Where is hope? Hope comes from Jesus, Emmanuel – God with Us.