The Missing Peace 04: A New Hope | Danielle Strickland

Welcome back to our series on making peace in our relationships. Today we are in Romans 12. It’s time to get out your Bibles and get ready to learn. And for now, here are some quotes to get us thinking… We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King Despair closes off the future, making us feel assured that all of our attempts at building a more just and humane world are doomed. Hope holds the door open, if ever so slightly, to the chance that it could be different. Do everything you can to keep it cracked open.
– Jonathan Foiles So I tell you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
– Jesus When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till all seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
– Harriet Beecher Stowe I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.
– Jesus May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.
– J.R.R. Tolkein Ask yourself, “What would you do if you had an unlimited supply of both courage and hope?” Now begin answering that question with action.
– Author Unknown I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
– The Apostle Paul – Well hi friends. So I’m here just to say that today we do not have a special guest. We have special family. This is our first time with
Danielle Strickland speaking as family of The Meeting
House, let’s welcome her. (audience applauds) I’m so excited, we’re all excited and so today I just wanted
to take this opportunity to, for all of us to pray for Danielle, to kind of commission her
into her new role here and just thank God for what lies ahead. So will you join me in
praying together, let’s pray. Heavenly Father we thank
you that you have given us a gift in allowing us
to learn from Danielle. We pray for your richest
blessing to be upon her as she teaches today. We’re just so grateful, thank you Jesus. In your name we pray, amen, amen. – Amen, thank you Bruxy. What a joy to be with you and
to be with you, all the way. I’m excited about it. Is it just me or has
December escalated quickly? Feels like ah, it’s
happening, it’s happening and it’s out of, almost out of control. I love this season. It actually reminds me,
the whole Christmas thing, the whole Christmas story
even in the Scriptures reminds me so much of
when I was throwing my son a surprise birthday party. He’s five years old, Judah. His best friend at the time was Gracie, and Gracie’s one of those kids, a little older than him. One of those kids that’s like
dramatic and full of life and like wide-eyed and kind
of like, into everything. Like all the way in a
dramatic story is Gracie and in order to pull
off the surprise party for my five-year-old son
I had to invite Gracie into the ruse you know. Like she had to be in on the story and I said to her, “You
know so we’re gonna pretend “like we’re going here but
as soon as we pull into “the parking lot of Chuck E. Cheese.” The things you do for your kids. I said, “I’m gonna give you a little nod “in the mirror and then you
can tell Judah the surprise.” So Gracie’s like I’m in,
like I’m all the way in. This is exactly the
thing Gracie loves to do but I remember driving,
pretending to drive somewhere that we weren’t and going into the Chuck
E. Cheese parking lot and I remember Gracie the whole drive, I just like was looking in the mirror, looking at her and I thought
oh man she’s gonna explode. Like she’s like trying to hold it in, she’s turning red, she’s
just like pretending something’s happening
but it’s not happening and then we finally get
into the parking spot and I give her the nod
you know, in the mirror and then Gracie just explodes. She literally, she’s
just like it’s a party. It’s a surprise, we’re
not really going there, we’re going to Chuck E.
Cheese and like just, all of it comes out and every time I read the Christmas story, like every single time I
read the Christmas story an angel shows up you know, to Mary or to the shepherds or wherever
these, these proclamation. You know this angelic visitation, every angel in the story in
my mind has Gracie’s face. Every single angel, like
Mary is just humdrum. Like we’re just going on a routine life. We’re just like, this is life as normal and of course in those days, 400 years since the last
kind of fiery prophetic word. I mean, this has been
a long time of normal, of waiting, of sort of
a culture of despair which I think last week
if you’ve been tracking with this series, Jimmy
did a fantastic job of painting sort of
the despairing culture, the Roman rule that the world was under when Paul wrote this incredible letter in Romans chapter 12. But this idea of this
angel coming to this girl who’s written out of the story. Who is like literally not supposed to be at the centre of the story
with this like surprise. It’s really, something’s going on that
you didn’t really know about that will change everything. Something’s happening that’s so filled and packed full of heaven’s resources of hope and joy and possibilities for a future that could
change for everybody. My favourite angelic incident
at the Christmas story is the shepherds and the reason
it’s one of my favourites is ’cause of the way the
shepherds are described in the Scripture. If you have a chance
to read over that story which I’m sure you will but, and you’re reading over
that story and it says that the shepherds are
over the hill in the dark. I just feel like how
many people do we know or maybe are here today that feel like you’re over the hill and in the dark? And in my mind the shepherds you know, who are literally at
the margins of society and at the margins of this
Christmas story you know, are kind of left out. I feel like they’re around
a fire sharing some beer and swapping sheep stories. You know just life is normal and then all of a sudden God like, you know from heaven
is just like watch this and he gives the nod you
know to the Gracie angels and they explode on the scene, surprise. There is this great joy,
this message of hope, this possibility of a
future that could be changed for everybody including you and you are no longer in the dark. Now you are literally in the light and you are invited into
the centre of the story. The missing piece in our lives to be part of this
emerging incredible story of hope for the world. So we’re gonna continue
on with this series. Bruxy kicked us off in Romans chapter 12 and what makes Romans
12 such an integral part of this big story, this Christmas story that we celebrate once
a year but is ongoing which is this like divine invitation for every person to be
invited into the centre story of hope and change that centres around the person of Jesus and
if you don’t know that we’re glad you’re here
because we want you to know that the birth of Jesus
and the presence of Jesus in the world is this
missing piece of our culture and of our relationships
and of our society and of your own life and we want you to find that missing piece. Just like those shepherds you may feel like you’re in
the dark and over the hill or maybe like Mary you might feel like this is not a thing that
you’re supposed to play, a role that you’re supposed to have and this will be disruptive
as much as it will be good. It will also be hard but
in all the right ways, to bring the missing piece to your life but also to the whole world and what makes Romans 12
so important in this story is Romans 12 is Paul
speaking to God’s people about how we live this
story out in real life. And the passage that
we’re gonna have look at is Romans chapter 12 and
we’re gonna get to verse 12 to 16 and this is the
fourth part of this series and it’s probably not even long enough. There is so much information
packed into this letter written by Paul to the early Christians that apply to our current culture. And so much to unpack
that I’m just praying we have the time to get to all the things we wanna get to. Romans chapter 12. By the way if we don’t have all the time and we won’t have all the time to get to where we need to get to, you’re gonna wanna
check out home group and the hangout video’s gonna come
with even more information that will unpack this a little bit further in the way that we
actually live our lives. So Romans chapter 12. If you wanna crack that open. If you don’t have a
Bible, there’s lots here. So just raise your hand
and you can get a Bible. Romans 12 and we’re starting at verse 12 and it says this. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s
people who are in need, practice hospitality, bless
those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be
willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Now I wanna talk a little bit about just the backdrop of despair. I think our culture has
a backdrop of despair that we work in and live in and maybe we don’t even
realize but we pick up almost like dust. You know, I have this nonstop
argument with my husband about who’s responsible
for dusting in our home. And the reason we have this argument is ’cause none of us
feel responsible for it. He’ll say I didn’t do
it and I’ll say I know, I didn’t do it either. And who did it? Who’s responsible for dust? I think despair is like
the dust of our culture, it’s not even like you
have to do anything. Just by living in a
culture that is cynical, in a culture that is fatalistic, in a culture that has a defeatist mindset, you’ll see this all through,
just even watch the news. We’ll see this in our
day to day interactions where people just feel like it’s too hard and it’s too late. We’ll experience this in
just living in this world and the life in which, we’ll hear these messages
that we cannot change this, that this is actually
too late and too hard in so many different areas of our lives and our experiences. And so we will be living in
that same cultural backdrop that I think Romans was
originally written to. A people who lived in a fatalistic, in a defeatist and in a cynical mindset. If you haven’t read the
book by Carey Nieuwhof, he wrote a book called
“I Didn’t See It Coming” where he talks about the
things that contributed to his own emotional
breakdown, his burnout and one of the things he lists and the things he never
saw coming was cynicism. Even as a leader, even as a
spiritual leader in ministry, the cynicism just began
to build up in his life where he started to actually think people were only in it for themselves and it would come out in
a skeptical worldview. This comes out of course in our lives in so many different ways. I wanted to share a story
with you about my own you know the cynicism, this like thing that just keeps buildings
sometimes over just hardness and times as a church
leader even in my own life. I was invited to go to a
conference for Catholic kids in Salzburg, Austria a year
and a half ago on Pentecost. Now a day before I was
going to that conference I was with a Pentecostal movement and I was celebrating a lot of the things that God was doing around
the world with this movement and I was talking to the
President of the movement and I said what are you most
excited about in these days? Like what are you hopeful for? And he listed a few
things in his own movement but he said, “I’ll tell you the one thing
that I’m kind of confused “and excited at the same time about.” I said, “Oh yes please tell me that. “That sounds exciting.” He said, “I’m confused and
excited about an invitation “that I’ve received to go to the Vatican “to pray with the Pope.” I said, “Yeah that does sound
confusing, tell me more.” And he said that actually
it was the 50th year of the Pentecostal movement and the Pope was inviting 50 Pentecostal leaders from all around the world
to come to the Vatican, to pray that God might
pour out his Holy Spirit in a new measure and in a new way in a new era in which we’re living. Now if you don’t know much
about the history of the church, I should tell you that that’s
almost impossible to believe as it’s coming out of my
mouth and it already happened. It’s too hard, it is too late. The Catholic Church as an institution and as a part of the
church but as this ancient tradition locked in so many barriers and levels of ah, too hard and too late. And even as a Protestant,
forget about a Pentecostal. So like in a Protestant movement I mean Pentecostals are
like your crazy cousin at dinner right? And I love them, they’re like, I have really fantastic
friends but I mean I’m like, the Pope invited the
crazy cousins to dinner? Like there are some aunts and uncles that are well behaved in
the denominational spectrum, you know what I’m saying? Like it should’ve been you guys. You would’ve been calm
and nice and peace-making and all those sort of things,
but those guys really? Like this is happening. So while this is happening, I’m aware this is
happening at the Vatican. I’d been invited to speak
to 9000 Catholic kids crammed into a cathedral
in Salzburg, Austria and the priests have just said this to me. “Danielle would you please “just tell these kids about Jesus?” I said I would be thrilled. I brought a picture for
you to see this Cathedral, it was jampacked with
teenagers, 9000 of them and this is me trying to
tell them about Jesus. Dressed, not like a
priest as you can tell. And so I tell them about Jesus and the exciting thing
that they don’t have to be over the hill and in the dark. That they’re invited right
into the centre spot, to invite Jesus and to have
a personal relationship with Jesus and to follow Jesus as a life. And so I invited whoever wants to do that, you know just stand to your feet and all 9000 kids stood to
their feet and said yes, you know and I thought oh gee, I must have preached it too soft. You know like this can’t be
that- I was like sit back down. Everybody sit down like
what I meant to say was it’s gonna be hard. You know and you’re gonna
have to be friends with like kids with no friends and
you’re gonna have to like I don’t know, do things. Like I just was like
turning up what I call the Bonhoeffer dial. If you don’t know that,
that’s a guy who wrote a book called “The Cost of Discipleship” while he was resisting Nazi Germany. So I was like turning up. You know like I mean this. And then I was like
okay, who wants to now? You know and then all
9000 kids stand up again. Yes God, yes God, yes
God they start saying. So then I’m overwhelmed, a
priest comes and helps me and we don’t really know
how to manage sort of, what to do next. I’m sure it was a problem at
Pentecost for the ages you know but a priest comes up and as
you could see in the picture I’m standing in what they
would call like the holy place. Like only the priests go there, it’s where they keep the
bread and the body of Christ and like only the priests
are allowed in there. They let me in there
which is its own mistake and then, it’s where it
all started unraveling and then this priest
stands up and he goes, “If you’re here and for
the very first time, “like you had never
heard that Jesus wanted “a personal relationship with you, “that this was gonna be something “that you could follow Jesus personally “for the rest of your life. “Not just go to church,
not just do those things “but follow Jesus in a relationship, “I want you to stand to your feet.” And about 1000 kids stood
to their feet, some leaders. And he said “Here’s
what I want you to do.” And he threw open the gate to
this holy place in the church and he said I want you to come in here. And 1000 snot-nosed teenagers. Now I’m not saying that derogatory, I’m saying they were literally
bawling, they were weeping. There was a lot of snot
in the holy place and I, it was so much snot I
remember it you know. And they all just, they
all just gathered around this holy altar. 1000 kids in this massive holy place and priests just began to lay
their hands on them and pray and what happened to me in that place, I am telling you right now, what happened to me as I witnessed that and was a part of that
encounter a year and a half ago was hope filled me. Hope filled me, wave after wave of hope that maybe it’s not too late
and maybe it’s not too hard for God to bring life, to bring renewal, to bring people to himself. What is your Catholic Church? Think about it, where is
the place in your life that looks too hard and looks too late? That you’ve kind of been like ugh, that’s, that God will
have to do something new ’cause that’s impossible. Renewing that, bringing that
to life, that old thing. Breaking that up and doing that again, that’s too hard, that’s too late. What’s that this Christmas,
where’s that place in your life? That’s how that worked out for me. Be joyful in hope. You know, Romans 12:12 when
it says be joyful in hope, what joyful actually breaks down to mean is to be expectant. To be expectant in hope,
to be ready for it, to be looking for it. You know like King David
used to pray this prayer in the Psalms which I just
love where he would say I placed my request before the Lord and then I wait in anticipation. Is that the way you pray? I place my request before the Lord and then I wait in anticipation. How is God going to show up here I wonder? In all of those too lates and
in all of those too hards, what will God do here? Be patient in affliction
is what the Scripture there and patient actually,
that word kind of means to remain true, to
remain true in affliction and the affliction is broken
down in two different words to describe the word affliction. One is lots of pressure put on your life. So pressure, just think
about a weight dropping down. If you’re a weightlifter,
too much weight on your life. And the other word that
helps describe affliction is to be put in an excruciatingly
small, confined area. So to be squeezed in. Pressure and squeezed in, anyone relate? In Romans 12 when Bruxy
kicked off the series he said that the opening
verses of Romans 12 are don’t be conformed any longer
to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind. And then you’ll know God’s will and the rest of this letter is about how transformation is lived out and to remain true to who you are even when you’re feeling
pressure and confinement, when you’re being squeezed
in by the pressure of living in this world. By the confines even of
despair, of skepticism, of cynicism, to remain
true to the possibility of God’s intervention and God’s invitation and God’s ability to do things that look too hard and look too late is the definition of hope. And to be faithful, that
is to never give up, to stick to it in prayer
and prayer of course is connection to God. Notice how in this verse, in Romans 12:12 these things are connected,
they’re not individual. You can’t just be joyful in hope without being connected
to God, I guarantee you. Notice even in the larger Christmas story that we’re immersed in in this season, in our Christian experience
and our celebration. An intervention from God, a
connection to a heavenly host, this divine invitation
that we feel a prompting to actually, that God lifts us to look, lift our gaze up into the big cosmic plan that he has for the
world, a redemption plan, the missing peace for the world that actually fuels our expectancy for God to show up, that actually helps us to remain true in a culture that would try to confine
us and pressure us into its own shape. This is the way this works. But the story doesn’t just
stop there at a cathedral with the Catholic church by the way. What happens after that meeting is all of these thousands of kids pile out of the cathedral and they climb this big hill in a castle. You can’t even make this stuff up can you? It sounds like, I feel like I’m talking
about a Shrek episode. But we climb this castle and this, there’s this big open space. I have another picture for you to see if you’re present here. If you’re listening just bear
with me as I describe it. It’s kind of overlooking
Europe and they start a prayer meeting. I remember, it lasted an hour and a half. Kids, teenagers, praying for the world. And as they began to pray for the world they would pass this microphone along and people would take
turns praying and this kid, this young kid began to pray in this prayer meeting for ISIS. And I’ll never forget
it because as he prayed this is what he began to pray. He said, “God, I’m praying for ISIS. “Every member of ISIS right now,” he said, “I am praying.” This is someone filled
with the Holy Spirit. “I am praying for every
Saul, every leader of ISIS, “every Saul to be made a
Paul by the transforming work “of your love.” Now I was listening to this prayer, I was trying to pray the prayer but as soon as that prayer
came out of his mouth I was instantly convicted because what I had realized,
without intending to, I had been squeezed in to a worldly idea of how we could restrain ISIS. I had been squeezed in to believe that the best scenario would be for the bombs that were
necessary to wipe out that group that was causing
so much pain and havoc in the world, that I was praying
that those bombs would fall on the right people. Now think about that for a
second, that’s a hopeless prayer. That’s a despairing prayer. At best that’s a worldly prayer. That’s the solution that
the world has to offer. Violence is actually
one of those despairing cultural values. But this kid, this Catholic kid, just prayed for a
transforming, a hope-infused, a upside down, right side up, a revolutionary which
is the Christmas story, a revolutionary answer to
a deep despair in our world and what’s really cool
is even as he prayed that we can think about this for a second. Romans 12 was written by an
ISIS revolutionary leader. This is Saul before he became Paul, before he wrote this story was a guy who persecuted, went around
persecuting Christians, trying to kill them,
trying to persecute them, trying to put them into prison and God showed up in a too
hard and too late scenario in Paul’s own life. And actually invited him
into the centre story of a different transformed worldview. To be a, to be a messenger of
hope to a despairing world. That prayer convicted
me that hope is not just some sort of elusive idea. It’s not just some kind
of idealistic optimism, it’s an action, it’s a prayer,
it’s a lived out reality, it’s a truthfulness to what
God has called us to do. It’s a people who will do hope. Practice hope, act hopefully in the midst of a despairing culture. This is where Romans 12
gets really good by the way. He gets really practical. Paul makes a list and I’m gonna show you a list here so that you can follow along. This is the list. Share, in verse 13 and by the way, I didn’t make this list up,
this is literally just the text of the Bible. This is Paul the Apostle
doing these incredible, declarative manifestos. Be joyful in hope, be
patient in affliction, be faithful in prayer and
this is what it looks like to do this in real life. It looks like sharing. It looks like sharing, doesn’t
that sound kind of elementary to share? In the text of course it says
to share with God’s people who are in need and
oftentimes when we read that I feel like, at least when I read that I just see it through an economic lens. You know that’s not a bad
idea this time of year, especially end of year
giving, be generous, be extremely generous. Give to people who are in need of course. Practice just assaulting a spirit of greed and closed handedness with
open-handed generosity. By all means, that’s what hope looks like. Just to sow hope and a word
of hope into organizations and places and people that need it. What a beautiful thing to do. But sharing with God’s
people who are in need is not just about money. Sharing is really about stewardship. Years ago I lived in
community in the downtown east side of Vancouver and I lived with a guy named Aaron White. He’s now the National Director
for 24/7 Prayer Movement and a wonderful guy and
even as a young family, we were living in this neighborhood and I went over with my son
and they were playing together while we were chatting
about some work stuff and they began the
classic kid conversation or disagreement with the
words it’s mine, give it back. It’s mine, give it back. It’s mine, give it back
and we could hear this, it’s mine give it back. And Aaron I remember just
saying to his son Joshua saying, “Joshua, come here please.” And Joshua comes out
with my little son Zion, it’s like a Old Testament party. And Aaron says to Joshua,
this is getting weird. He says to Joshua, “Whose
toy is that Joshua?” And Joshua looks at his
dad and he looks at the toy and he goes, “It’s God’s toy.” And Aaron says, “So did
God share it with you?” And Joshua said, “Yeah
he shared it with me.” He goes, “Well do you think
maybe ’cause God shared it “with you, you could share it with Zion?” And Joshua’s like, “Yeah I guess I could.” And he gives the toy to Zion and I remember thinking to myself, what? It’s God’s toy? Like something, like what? It’s God’s toy which of
course is the greatest lesson of sharing is the stewardship that actually nothing is ours. And the idea that it is ours
is one of those worldly, confining ideas that keep us
limited and self sufficient and stuck and like then
we start actually putting fences around our stuff
so nobody else can take it and on and on this goes
and I remember thinking like just that day going whoa,
this could change some things if I helped raise my kid
to know that everything that we have has actually been a blessing and a gift from the Lord
that we get to steward rather than own and how I
knew this was really working in my son’s life, we started adopting this in our practice saying,
“Zion, whose toy is that?” You know and one day he
was jumping on my bed, I said, “Zion, stop jumping on my bed.” And Zion looked at me and he
said, “Whose bed is it mom?” (audience laughter) Sharing, sharing here’s another one. Practice hospitality,
practice hospitality. This is making space in
your life for other people and this is so tricky when we live in a magazine, Instagram culture. And I wanna just get
real practical with this, nobody ever feels like having people over. Nobody ever feels ready
to have people over, nobody’s home is ever
ready to have people over but can I tell you this? Whenever I go to somebody’s
home and they weren’t ready for me and it’s just like
normal, I feel so much better. I feel so much more at home, I feel so much more like myself. I feel like the pressure
is relieved from me having to be this perfect host. Thank God and here’s one
of the things that we did in our family’s life to help
us practice hospitality. Notice it doesn’t say kill it it doesn’t say like nail hospitality. It doesn’t say like Martha Stewart it, it just says practice it. Practice making space,
so one of the things that we realize when we
read practice hospitality was that this is a
thing that you practice. You actually have to do
it and the more you do it, the better you get at
it and so what we did was we took for years and years, we took Friday night with
the Jewish kind of tradition of having people over
for the Sabbath dinner on a Friday night and inviting somebody that you wouldn’t normally
invite at your table and we just made that a practice. Every Friday night at our
house was somebody for dinner so that was like a great goal. ‘Cause we had to clean up a tiny bit and we had to get something ready. Whether we felt like it or not, whether we were exhausted or not. Whether it fit our- or not, we were gonna practice hospitality and it made space for people to join us and that making space is one of the ways we bring hope to the world. One of the ways that we
live hope in the world. Let’s think about some other things. Bless even your enemy, if
you haven’t had the chance to see It’s A Beautiful Day
In the Neighborhood yet, Mr. Rogers is on full
display in that story where he’s impacted and
he’s impacting the life of a cynical, jaded, defeatist journalist. All disguised as academia
and one of the scenes in that movie’s classic,
where this you know, known cynical reports gets
assigned to cover Mr. Rogers and his wife is going
to bed and his wife has Mr. Rogers as one of her heroes
and she just says to him, please don’t ruin Mr. Rogers for me. Like please just don’t ruin Mr. Rogers and you can see this guy does not believe. It’s all the disease of
a culture of defeatism and a culture of despair is all over him, eating him up, pushing him in to the small, tiny world of
isolation and separation. And he goes to cover Mr. Rogers looking for where to find all the stuff and instead of cursing him or
protecting himself from him or separating himself from him, Mr. Rogers begins to bless him. Mr. Rogers begins to make room for him. Not just the story but for him
as a person, for his family. Mr. Rogers begins to pray by name for him and the members of his family. Mr. Rogers begins to
share in a stewardship of all that God’s given him
and it transforms cynicism into potential connectedness and joy. This is the transforming power
of living a hope-filled life. Check it out, be with others. This is the word harmony,
be mindful of others and then here’s a list of don’t do. Don’t curse, anyone driving? This is like a legit, good thing to do. Like don’t curse, like
and I don’t just mean like say the swear
words, I don’t just mean that as a cursing. I mean like calling
out things onto people, placing things onto people
like out of your mouth the Scripture says comes
blessing or comes cursing and how much of a discipline
of hopeful living would it be for us just to stop cursing? Even your enemies, this is very clear. Even your enemies, what
if we actually began to call out the best in people? And who do you need to, I have a hunch that at Christmas-time, this is the best time to practice this. When you’re around a table and
you just wanna cut somebody down or use a sarcastic
comment to dismiss that person or like distance and isolate
yourself from somebody or even if it’s just because
we’re Canadian, in our mind. What if we stopped that tape and what if we intentionally
started to bless, to call out the best of the
people around our tables, around our families,
around our communities. What if we actually started
to bless one another with what it is that
God has called us to be? What if we saw the best
selves in each other? What kind of a difference would that make? And don’t be proud. This is the beautiful
preach that Bruxy preached about the mountain of superiority? Right, where we create these
mountains of superiority that we’re on and arrogance
keeps us separate from people. One of the best lessons I ever received when it came to living
and working in community was in a group where a
bunch of people had joined a tight-knit community
and I said to somebody who was an expert in this, I said what’s the best
advice you have for me to live with other people? And this person said to me, “The best advice I could give you “to live with other people in authentic, “meaningful relationships is
learn how to ask for help.” Learn how to ask for help. See the difference between
superiority and mutuality is not just helping somebody
out of your superiority but is actually recognizing those places where you could use some help, where other people can come
into a relationship with you. How about this Christmas instead
of having it all together, what if you asked some people to help you? Might that change the
dynamics of your relationship, to come off the mount of superiority or the self sufficient thing, that push of all the glossy magazines that make us supposed to have it all together and actually begin to ask for help in relationships with other people. How might that change the way things work? I love this idea of hope
having arms and legs and flesh and blood and this
is the message of Christmas, that Jesus came, incarnated himself. He didn’t consider himself
too superior to enter in to a relationship and a connectedness and then offering this great news that we get to be invited
into this scenario too. And hope has this way of changing, cracking open the door
is what one of the quotes said in the earlier, in the
quotes before this message. Cracking open the door of our
lives for the possibility. In places that we think are impossible, this is what it means to
live radically different in today’s culture, infused. Not with idealism but with
an optimistic divine hope for the future. We refuse to give in to despair. About a couple months
ago I was in South Africa and I was around a table
with a whole bunch of folks who are working in
beautiful ways towards peace in South Africa, trying to
live out a reconciled country, 25 years after Nelson Mandela was elected the president there
and Apartheid was finished. And it’s been fascinating
because in those moments 25 years ago when Nelson
Mandela said you know, we envision a world that’s
better, that’s shared, that’s mutual, that’s reconciled. I think the whole world as
you learn that narrative and we entered into that
space and time in history, we were filled with hope. I mean we were just like yeah,
the world could be different and these things could be
overthrown without violence and there could be forgiveness and there could be
reconciliation but 25 years later in South Africa it’s still so hard. And these people around that table, about 20 of us around this table and our hosts had called
the meeting together and they’re you know, non-profit leaders and church leaders and
vineyard owners and all, business folks, all
kinds of different people but all of them working in their own gifts and skills towards this better world that they had signed up for 25 years ago but all of them weary and despairing because if you look around
in South Africa today at the disparity and the scarcity and the difference, it’s
still basically segregated. Just through economics
and they’re despairing, they’re wondering is it even possible? This vision, this ideal, this
hope that we held 25 years ago is it still even a possibility? And the host of this gathering
just had one question that she gave to everybody
around the table and it was this. What are you hoping for? What is one thing that you’re hoping for? Just right now in your own life and as we went around the table, one person would share I’m
hoping that this business will actually create jobs for the people that are in my community
that are desperate for work. I’m hoping that our winery
will be a hospitable place that actually will be a connector for networking organizations to get. I’m hoping that this NGO you know, I’m hoping that this housing project I’m working on with the
government will actually move this whole people from a
slum into adequate housing for the first time in 25 years. I’m hoping and on and on
this went around the table until by the time we
got to the last person, I’ve never been more
hopeful about South Africa in my whole entire life
and neither had they and that’s when the host of
that dinner party said this. “All of this hope has given me hope again “and here’s something
we should keep in mind. “This dinner party 25
years ago was illegal. “We couldn’t have even
gathered in this spot “with the diversity of
backgrounds that we have “to even share our hope with one another. “Not only is this possible
it almost seems certain. “It’s inevitable, it’s
a divine cosmic hope “that God means to redeem the world.” That God means to show up
in the lives of shepherds everywhere on the other side
of the hill living in the dark. Of teenage girls, of
people living in slums. Of your own uncle and crazy cousin. Where is it that you need to
not only hope but be the hope? Where do you bring hope
in your own relationships? Where are you the Gracie-faced
angel of good news in your life? What does that look like
maybe even in your own ideas of church and community and
world and working towards? In these areas that feel
too hard and too late, where does hope manifest
itself through you? And how do you not only think hopefully but how do you live hopefully? These are the questions
that we wanna ask of Jesus to fill us again, to be good news people in a despairing world. Let me pray. God thank you so much that
even though we felt like we weren’t part of the
story that you reminded us that we were and we are. Thank you that you have
the power to transform us. Thank you Jesus that you
are our missing peace. I pray right now that
as we’re in this season, particularly that you
would fill us with hope. That you would make us a
people that are transformed and that are transforming
our relationships and our communities and our culture. I pray right now for
people even here among us who feel with every fiber of their being that it’s too late and it’s too hard. Maybe for them, maybe for a relationship. Maybe for a job, a community. I pray right now that you the God of hope would fill us with hope. That we would experience
and then share that hope with the world. And I pray it in your
holy name Jesus, amen.

Joseph Wolf

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