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Hope Does Not Disappoint Us.

This is the sermon I'll be preaching at St. Timothy Lutheran Church's Drive-In Service (hence the reference to horn beeping) on Sunday. The text is Romans 5:1-8.


How are you all doing? If you’re doing well, beep your horn. If you’re struggling a bit, beep your horn. Do you find that you fluctuate between doing well and feeling overwhelmed? Some people find themselves breaking down and suddenly crying. We are under a lot of pressure. Not only are we dealing with the Coronavirus, which has gone on much longer than any of us thought it would, but we have come face to face with protests about our own racism. That is not easy to handle. Maybe we never thought of ourselves as racist. Maybe some of us aren’t. Maybe some of us find the whole Black Lives Matter and the mere thought of being accused of racism offensive. But I think deep in our hearts, we have all been infected by this sin which is every bit as rampant and debilitating as the Coronavirus. In the midst of all of this, how can we have hope?

Let’s talk about the Roman church. This was not one mega-church to which Paul was writing to, but numerous small house-churches. They were struggling with issues of division and they lived under the thumb of the Roman Empire. Their life of increasing persecution for their faith was hard. In this situation Paul speaks words of hope; telling them to boast in their hope, telling them what produces hope, and finally telling them that hope does not disappoint. Paul was not selling false hope. He was proclaiming a hope that could not die because it emerged from the death of God’s Son.

How is it that Paul could tell the Roman churches to “boast in their hope of sharing the glory of God?” (v. 2). Paul could say this because of the relationship with God that he knew the Roman believers had. Verse 1 begins “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God…” This is the basis of their hope. “Having peace, having access, standing in grace, and boasting in hope. Faith is connecting the past event of our justification and our current reality of peace, grace, and even pride in God with the future hope of our salvation” (Rob Myallis, lectionarygreek.blogspot.com).

Paul could tell the Romans to boast in their hope because we do not justify ourselves; only God does. The verb “justify” is also past tense pointing toward an event in the past: Christ’s death. We look forward to a future with God, which is what hope implies.

What produces hope? Hope is not produced in our lives by the happy times when all is well. Rather, Paul writes that “suffering produces endurance…endurance…character, and character produces hope” (v. 4). Oh my, so this all goes back to suffering. It is not that we look to or strive to suffer so that we can grow hope, but it gives us the courage to keep pressing on when life is at its most difficult. Hope may be strengthened by these human circumstances, but it remains a gift of God. (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV-Year A).

The Christian life does not spare us from troubles, but places them in the framework of God’s ultimate purpose for the world, in other words, “produces hope.” Our lives are incorporated into God’s larger purpose for the world, which will finally prevail. All of Paul’s words make no sense apart from the hope of the final coming of God’s kingdom.

Hope does not disappoint us. This is because our hope is founded on God’s gift of love already poured into us by God’s presence, the Holy Spirit, living in and among us. Our hope in Christ and in God’s faithfulness will not make fools of us. Instead, difficulties or not, we live trusting in God’s love poured into us (Sarah Henrich, workingpreacher.org). Love is the result of God’s work in us, not the product of our own efforts (Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary). Additionally, the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of the believers’ future hope (Elizabeth Shively, workingpreacher.org).

There is a contemporary Christian song by Aaron Shust that expresses what God is saying to us. The chorus is:

My hope is in You, Lord
All the day long, I won't be shaken by drought or storm
A peace that passes understanding is my song
And I sing my hope is in You, Lord.
           (Aaron Shust, “My Hope is in You”)

And all God’s children said, “Amen” or tooted their horns.
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