We began this morning with a some quiet and these words (a mix of verses from Psalms from The Message and words of David Adam)
Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.
Be still and know…
I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking…
I’m never out of your sight.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
You Lord are in this place
Your presence surrounds me
Your presence is peace
Following last Wednesday as Epiphany, we read from Matthew 2 abou the visit of the wise men, the slaughter of the innocents and the holy family as refugees. This was followed by a clip from The Work of the People, in which Nadia Bolz Weber is interviewed about her belief in defiant hope as the central message for Christians. The following is a summary of her main points:
What is the light and why can’t darkness put it out?
This is one of our basic confessions. This is a confession we have to make all the time – especially when we are surrounded by such despair… It’s a confession that has to ring through.
This is not the same as optimism – hope has a defiance to it.
Optimism is shallow and is going against the evidence in front of you. Hope is saying ‘Oh no – there’s something deeper, there’s something more powerful… and it will overcome the darkness. This is the basic confession of Christians. It has to be. We believe in death and resurrection, right? A crucified God that was resurrected
How do you get that hope? Do you just say it?
‘You have to. You have to remind each other. You have to point to it. You have to point it out where you see it. Everything else might be conspiring to convince us otherwise…. The powers of evil and darkness are raging because they know they have lost already…
We want the ball in our court. We are always going to default to something that’s going to mean that we’re in charge. There’s something terrifying about saying that God’s grace is more powerful than [our attempts to control life]
Steve then shared some ideas about defiant hope
He spoke of a history of Lockdown believers:
- Joseph, Mary, Jesus
- Catacombed Christians
- Lockdowned monasteries as the empire destroyed
- Reformation exclusivism…priest holes
- 20th/21st Century tyrants – in China, USSR, Eastern Europe and today in so many Islamic countries etc.
Optimism v. Defiant Hope (Nadia)
Optimism – Mr Macawber – “Something will turn up.” Superficial positivity. My positive mind-set can change reality (D.Trump as influenced by Pastor Norman Vincent Peale “The Power of Positive Thinking) – a secular version of Prosperity Theology. The Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail “Tis but a scratch” or “Just a flesh wound”. Almost as ludicrous as Trump’s inability to acknowledge failure in the election.
Is not based on events. But ultimately based on a commitment to God’s unchanging love. Altered perspective.
Existentialism – often in its 20th century form it is associated with atheism.
ABSURDITY and AUTHENTIC CHOICE
But Kierkegaard – Danish minister – founding father of theistic existentialism. We hope/have faith in defiance of what may be facing us. Leap of hope in the dark – an experiential relational hope in Jesus.
Light in the darkness is defiance. A life AFTER death is defiance. Forgiveness is defiance of the law of retribution. A future hope defiant in the face of present circumstances. It answers to a different law. All things (good, bad and bloody awful) work together…
How do we practice defiant hope? How do we encourage defiant hope in one another? What stories of defiant hope do we tell?
Our prayers practised defiant hope in troubled times. I adapted words from Churchoftheascension.ca where they had advent prayers on this theme.
Our world is filled with trouble
It is wrestling with a pandemic that sees health workers overstretched and people struggling for breath, frightened and dying
But we remember that God is with us.
And we remember that Jesus is coming.
And we remember that the kingdom is near.
So we pray for hope, lost and found. For each person in need of your presence now.
Jesus, be close.
Lord Jesus, be close.
Our world is filled with trouble
It is fractured by division, corruption, misinformation and loss of truth
And so we pray for America and for those elsewhere in instability and tyranny
But we remember that God is good
And we remember that, with God, nothing is impossible
And we remember Immanuel – God with us!
So we pray in defiant hope that God’s presence offers strength to those who seek truth and justice
Lord Jesus, rescue.
Our world is filled with trouble
It is reeling under climate change, wilful destruction of habitats, sea levels rising, droughts lengthening, deserts advancing and refugees fleeing their homelands
But we remember that God will not abandon us
And we remember that God loves the world
And we remember that God will make all things new
So we pray in yearning hope
Lord Jesus save us.
There are people we know who are filled with trouble
We name them and we cry out to you for them… Jenny and Jean; Fi and Sue; Jane and Pete; Brian, Steve and Teresa; James and family and faith and family and emily and family and Suzi…
But we remember that God is on their side
And we remember that they are not left to deal with these things alone
And we remember that the darkness cannot put out the light
And we remember that love is stronger than death
So we pray in living hope
Jesus Christ our hope
Christ our hope.
We then shared bread and wine using words Steve had written:
Our story is born in Lockdown with Defiant Hope coursing through its blood.
The location was secret and the doors were locked for fear of the religious and political
authorities. They met to mark the festival of God’s liberation. You can imagine one saying, “Nowt is going to stop me celebrating Passover.” Perhaps Peter…or one of the sons of thunder. “We were slaves and God delivered us.” Defiant Hope. And Jesus gave them the blessed bread and wine speaking radical, reinterpreting words.
And ever since that night, for going on 2000 years, Jesus’ followers have re-enacted that meal, in every conceivable circumstance, with bread and wine.
Because the bread we eat and the wine we sup speaks not only of the past and God’s saving liberation through Jesus and but also of the future hope of that Great Feast to which we are invited.
The bread of Defiant Hope. (REPEAT)
The wine of Defiant Hope. (REPEAT)
We finished with the wonderful Youtube song Behold our God (World edition) – sung in languages from arounf the world
and these final words:
So may we live in the hope to which we are called
And may we share that hope with those around us
Bringing light into the darkness
Because God is God and we are God’s