The Hope That is in Us

Psalm 46

Colossians 1:9-20, 24-29

The reading from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians seems like an appropriate scripture for my sixty seventh birthday. Paul’s words to the Christians living in today’s Turkey combine spirituality, theology and practical guidance.

God is everywhere, and Paul gives us a vision of a Christ-filled universe.   Christ is the guiding principle of the universe, moving within all things and holding all things together.  The wisdom of God present in Jesus, is the source the cosmic evolution and human history.  Through we often go astray, deep down Christ is guiding us forward as our conscience, reconciling us with God and one another.  We are not alone in the universe: wherever we are, God is with us, and wherever we go, God is beside us.

As a theologian, now almost forty years past my doctorate, I appreciate Paul’s perspective.  He is telling us that when we think of God, we can’t think too big.  He is challenging small understandings of God’s work in the universe. Paul does not speculate on the nature of creation, but Paul would be at home in the world we are discovering as we sojourn with Buzz Lightyear to Infinity and Beyond.  The multi-billion year, multi-trillion starred universe, would not baffle the apostle.  He would be at home with the theory of evolution and the big bang, knowing that God’s loving wisdom is its ultimate reality.

And, yet the God of the Infinite is also the God of the Intimate: God calls each cell by name and knows you more fully than you know yourself.  You are written on the palm of God’s hand and God will never ever forget you.   As Paul says, the great and wonderful mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  Yes, Christ in you – in going to school and parenting, in playing baseball and soccer, in drawing pictures and going on journeys with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers, in our daily projects, in our attempts to be faithful to causes greater than ourselves.

Because God is with you, don’t think small. Imagine yourself doing great things, and many of them will happen. That God of the universe has a vision for you, that you can be God’s companion in bringing beauty to the world, in being part of God’s ministry of reconciliation. Kids, use your imagination – church, use your imagination.  God’s imagination for you is always bigger!

Knowing God is everywhere, how then shall we live?  Paul doesn’t give us a menu for the good life, but he points us in the right direction:

We pray for you all the time, asking that know God’s will  so that you may lead lives worthy of the God as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowing God.  May you bestrong with the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be patient, joyfully  giving thanks to God, whose love makes you a child of light.

A child of light – yes, you, I’m talking about you –  guided by Christ’s presence in our cells and our souls is prayerful.  Let prayer begin and end your day. Let encounters and interruptions call you to prayer even at school and work.  Pray for global and local events.  Pray for the people you love, for friends at school, and even people you dislike.  Let each moment be a call to prayer.

As a child I was greeted with a motto pasted to our refrigerator door.  I couldn’t help noticing whenever I wanted a snack, “Prayer changes things.”  While we can’t measure the impact of our prayers scientifically, I believe Leslie Weatherhead was right – “When I pray coincidences happen. When I don’t, they don’t.”  At the very least, prayer changes us.  You can’t hate someone for whom you pray, whether a political leader, nosy neighbor or a bully at school.

Prayer leads to action: “live worthy of the gospel,” Paul counsels.  In other words, let Jesus be your model.  As Therese of Lisieux says, “do ordinary things with great love” and as Mother Teresa charges, “do something beautiful for God.”

Often when I’m caught up in my own personal drama, I take a moment to pause and ask, “How can I do God’s work in this situation? How can I bring beauty, love and healing here?” Or, confronted with a tough issue, “What would Jesus do?”  This helps me recalibrate my Spiritual GPS and get on the right track to share God’s peace and healing.

Dag Hammarskjold captures the heart of a truly joyful life, a life of hopeful companionship with God:

“For all that has been – thanks!

For all that shall be – yes!”

Two thousand years earlier, Paul advised the Colossians to give thanks in all circumstances.  He knew that thanksgiving changes the way we look at life, moving us from scarcity to abundance and loneliness to relationship.  From gratitude to God and others, we can experience joy despite life’s challenges: we can, with Paul, affirm “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”

God is moving in our cells and souls and has a bright future ahead of us as companions in a realm where love abounds and every tear is dried and every dream fulfilled. With gratitude, we can embrace God’s great “Yes” us – for you, and me, this church, and all creation.  Amen!