This is the full text of a sermon I preached… So excuse the things that don’t make sense written but would spoken.
I love storms. I love the loud claps of thunder and I love the pouring rain. I love the smell, and I love the feeling in the air just before. It’s an assault on the senses. You can’t ignore it. The only thing you can do is wrap a blanket around yourself, make a cup of tea and sit in a room with big windows and watch it take its course.
Last week there was a storm while I was visiting some friends. I asked their three year old son, Levi, what he thought of storms after his mum and I had talked about them. He smiled and told me he loves them, too. I asked why. His response was this:
“Without the storm, there isn’t the end… when there’s a rainbow.”
He loves rainbows, and knows that they only come after the storm. Apart from being adorable, I think he explained exactly why we hang on when things get tough. I think we hold on because of the hope of the rainbow at the end… We know there is good, somewhere in the storm. We trust in that.
But here’s the problem with rainbows; you can’t touch them. They’re unreachable, untouchable and if you find the end of one you’re more likely to be beat up by angry leprechauns than find a pot of gold. Today we’re going to look at a different hope together. Hope that, as the passage read before says, doesn’t disappoint us. Hope that strengthened and refined. Hope found only in one person.
Where is the hope?!
But first the question needs to be asked… How can we talk about hope, when there seems to be a never ending storm going on? Before I became a Christian, I always hated that people would come to church and act like everything was alright, when everything inside and outside the four walls we gathered in was broken. But I never asked the question, because I always thought that people didn’t want to hear it. Ignorance is bliss, right?
So, I wrote this in 2004… If you didn’t know me back then – yeah, I was that miserable most of the time.
I’ll bleed my faith away.
And let my tears
Tell the story of my pain.
There is no hope. Not in that writing.
When I was 13, I started self harming.
Hope, you tell me?
When I was 16 one of my close friends got hit by a drunk driver and died the next day. She was 15.
Hope, you say?
Just last year, my parents split up.
Yeah. Hope. It’s there. We know something is coming… Like the end of a storm, when there’s a rainbow. Let’s look at the hope that we’re offered…
Here’s the thing about the hope that we’re on about, that makes death, depression and divorce not effect it. The hope that we have doesn’t depend on us. It isn’t about what we can do. It isn’t about our words. It isn’t about our lives. But it does completely change the perspective we have on our lives.
Look at Romans 5:1. Justified by faith. We have peace with God through Jesus Christ! There was no rainbow for us before Christ came along. There was no hope, because we couldn’t possibly reach God. We couldn’t fix the void. We couldn’t fix ourselves. Christ came along. Christ lived the life we could NEVER live, and he died the death he didn’t deserve to die… And we receive peace with God because of it. That’s the reason for hope. That’s the way we have hope.
You might have heard that play on words – know God, know peace.
No Christ, no hope.
You can try to convince yourself that tomorrow will be better. That is you’re good enough, that the good with ultimately come back to you. You can say that you create your own hope – for a good job, for a boyfriend or girlfriend, for a perfect HSC mark… But is that hope going to be realized? Is it solid? Or will it break in the storm and leave you shattered and crying and wondering why God let you down?
No Christ, no hope.
Do you get that?
Without Christ, there is no hope.
With Christ… We look for the rainbow at the end of the storm… Move down to verse two. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. We are waiting. We are straining for the end of the storm. For the glory of God to be revealed. But what is the glory of God? What will it look like when it is completely uncovered? Keep a finger in Romans 5 and flick over to Revelation 21.
We wait for the rainbow. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
But… we also rejoice in our sufferings?! That doesn’t make sense. How can I rejoice when my friend dies? How can I rejoice when I’m stuck in a cycle of addiction? How can I rejoice when my family is breaking apart?
Because suffering produces perseverance…
It means we stick with God through thick and thin.
Perseverance produces character.
We grow to be more like God through our suffering, by our perseverance.
And character… As we become more like Christ in our lives…
That produces hope.
I don’t know how that’s worked in your life. I don’t know how you’ve seen God working through the crap you’ve gone through. But through addiction to self harm, God showed me that when all else has failed and nothing else makes sense but to go back to that… I need to rely on his grace and mercy. I need cry out to him. And it was never easy but he taught me to persevere.
God showed me, as I lost a friend to a stupid accident, the value of his people. The power when they get together to hold each other up. The power of praying for each other. The power of an afternoon spent laughing and crying… He showed me that his church isn’t just a whole lot of talk. It is living and breathing his grace and mercy and love and glory.
And as my parents split up, I sat on a gutter outside a friend’s house after church and resolved that the time following that wouldn’t be when I walked away. I would cling to the cross and I would cling to the hope I have in Christ. Perseverance in practice. And I slipped and cried and forgot the rainbow because of all the thunder sometimes…
But suffering… produces hope. And so in the storm, we can rejoice. It doesn’t mean we’re smiling. It doesn’t mean you don’t cry. It doesn’t mean you don’t ask questions. But it means that when everything else falls away…
What’s left but hope?
The reading started with justification by faith… Peace with God, through Christ.
And it ends like this.
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Where is the hope? What is this rainbow?
We hope for the glory of God… and in the meantime, we live for God. We cling to the hope in the storm and we show others that hope, so that they wont get lost in the chaos.
I love storms. The thunder and the lightning are breathtaking… But in life, and maybe even storms…Levi was onto something when he said that the best part is the rainbow…
So we wait.
We wait for the rainbow to be revealed…