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Bringing God’s Future into the Present as a People of Hope – By Doreen Peters

April 30, 2012

We have heard the promises of God, promises that we know can be relied on absolutely, promises that assure us of our future – we said in the psalm that we are sure  “goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives”.

Therefore we are people of hope,  not the “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow” sort, but an altogether tougher and more resilient hope.

Our hope faces up to the fact of evil and suffering in the world but steadfastly refuses to accept that that is the last word – earlier in the psalm, we said “… though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” so we know it might not be easy, but that God will accompany us through, and out of, the valley.

We can listen to news reports of wars and genocides, read in the papers about crime, corruption and violence, be bombarded with statistics of how many people will contract the HIV virus today, or how many children will go to bed hungry, and still not throw our arms up in despair.

Because, if we read our bibles we know that God’s promises have quite often seemed unlikely to come true. Abraham and Sarah would give us an example. God was promising them that their descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach, and yet they didn’t have any children, and they were pretty old! If you were taking bets on which promises might come true, I think you’ld give rather long odds on that one. Just shows how little we know.

However, the fact that we don’t have the foggiest idea how God can bring his promised future from the mess our world is in presently isn’t an excuse for doing nothing.

I picked up a pamphlet at a church we visited that says, “God’s mission has a church.”

It appealed to me as I was used to talking about the mission of the church, but not about God’s mission, and yet once I saw it written down it seemed so obviously right. GOD’S MISSION HAS A CHURCH, and that church, of course, is us. We have the duty and privilege of taking part in God’s mission.

After all we often pray, “thy kingdom come” , so how do we see God’s kingdom coming?

I suggest there are signs if we look for them, that we can catch glimpses of the Kingdom.

When someone gives comfort to a person in deep despair, or to someone in the agony of grief, perhaps God is using that person to begin to “wipe away the tears from all faces”

If someone who feels alone and unwanted gets a warm welcome here and finds a place in our parish family perhaps that’s a step towards there being one fold and one shepherd with no-one left out.

For, make no mistake, God’s kingdom has come, is coming, and will come – choose whichever tense you like since God’s time is not like ours. God’s promises for our future have already been fulfilled. Our future is assured , and that changes thing now. Because we are assured of the future, we can act more freely and generously. Changing people’s future changes their present.

There’s a true story about a successful businessman who was invited to give a commencement address to a group of youngsters about to graduate from elementary school in a very poor part of a large US city. Very few students from this neighbourhood finished high school so he knew that the usual commencement address along the lines of “apply yourself, work hard, and with a little luck you can make it just like me”,  wouldn’t do the trick. So, on that graduation day, he said, “I will pay for a college education for every one of you”. He had established a fund large enough to cover the college education of all the children. Five years later all 61 of them graduated from high school – not a single dropout. 58 of them finally attended university. Now their lives are markedly better than they would have been.

Do you see what happened in the lives of these young people? Because the shape of their future was changed so thereby was their present. I couldn’t help but think of our youth group who put on such a lovely dinner last night. With the funds they have raised from these kind of events they have sponsored Joyce Akello and other students at the Kalagala school in Uganda. Four years ago, they undertook to guarantee that Joyce would be able to get an education at the school. She has now gone on to study nursing. The difference they have made in her life I don’t think can be measured, and now they are going on to help other students who couldn’t otherwise afford to go to school.

We are so blessed, in material and other ways, that we are able to help change people’s futures too.

When a refugee family is settled in Calgary their future is changed. They can look forward to raising their family in safety, and the children will be able to attend school.

When our contributions to PWRDF help to bring clean water to people who have not had access to it before, or support projects for sustainable agriculture for people used to hunger, we change peoples’ lives, and perhaps anticipate God’s future feast where all have good things to eat and drink. When PWRDF helps build clinics and schools, or provides food and shelter after disasters, we change people’s lives for the better. We give them hope for the future.

No, we cant fix all the ills of the world, and we’re not called to.

What are we called to do? One answer was given by the prophet, Micah, and we heard it at the very beginning of the service. Another is on the front of today’s bulletin. We are called to be faithful, and, in faith, to join hands and inspire hope. After all, our God has made us a people of hope.

Thanks be to God.

(Thank you, Doreen Peters, for blessing us with this challenging and inspiring reflection at our Services on April 29, and graciously allowing it to be reproduced here.)

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