God’s Hope Changes Everything

Hope is a feeling in your heart. It will get you through any situation. It will carry you through the good and help you through the bad.

Emily
Our guest co-preacher today is Emily Hagen, a sophomore at Owatonna High School.

It’s like a path. You are walking on. you are having amazing experiences, nothing bad has happened. Then you hit this point, there are people all around yelling that “you aren’t good enough”, “You’re too fat”, just putting you down. Pulling you deeper into the comments and farther away from your path of hope. Then someone or something comes and pulling you back onto your path. Giving you hope again.

I’m in high school right now and with this a lot of drama occurs. ​ I had these two best friends. We were all pretty close. But over time, the two of them got closer and closer, ​ and then they began pushing me farther and farther ​away​ until I didn’t really have a place. It was hard for me. I felt lonely, worthless, just not good enough for anyone.

I went off my path. I listened to all the ​voices and the​ comments ​that kept making me feel badly about myself​. Then I had another friend come up to me. She pulled me back onto my path. She showed me that ​I am ok, ​ that I can keep moving and that this is just​ a little ​roadblock​ in my life. All the sudden I had hope again. ​She gave me hope.

While I was at the ELCA Youth Gathering I heard this lyric ​from one of the songs that was sung. The lyric said: “God doesn’t need me, but he wants me.” This might not seem like much. Just another lyric to sing but when I heard it, it​ impacted me. At first this might sound horrible if you stop at “God doesn’t need me,” It puts you into moments where you think you aren’t good enough for anyone or anything. Like God is never there for you.

But ​when​ you add the rest: “but he wants me.” That puts it into a whole new perspective. God doesn’t really need us to do anything, but he wants us to be a part of his life. ​And​ he wants to be apart of ours. He wants to be with us ​both​ when we are lonely and insecure and when we are full of laughter and life.

When I was a kid I ended up losing my best friend, Tyler Harlicker. ​He died of cancer. ​It was a hard loss for me and it didn’t really seem to affect me but on the inside it did and still does. Most kids would get excited to stay over at people’s houses and go on church retreats. I couldn’t because I was terrified of losing someone while I was gone. I ended up waking up in the middle of the night crying because I thought my parents left me. I just always had the fear that I would be gone and someone ​at home would get hurt and I couldn’t help.

But with God in my life he gave me hope that I could leave for a day or more and that he would protect them, and I would arrive at home with them being there. It still didn’t fix everything. I still get homesick not knowing what is going on at home. Just because I believe in Jesus, and I have faith doesn’t mean everything will automatically become better.

There will still be challenges. I will still hear voices that will challenge my sense of who I am. But having hope can cut through all those challenges and pull me out.

Pastor Todd: Thank you, Emily, for sharing from your wisdom and experience.

In a very well-known piece of scripture.  If you’ve ever been to a wedding, the odds are pretty good that you’ve heard it.  They are the words of the apostle Paul.  He writes that “now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13).

Of course, love is the greatest of these three.  Love is that which motivates God.  And of course we’re all familiar with faith…in the world of the church, we talk about faith all of the time.  Faith is a gift.  Faith is something we practice.  Faith is evidence of how God is working in the world.  But hope?  We don’t think so much about hope.  Now to be clear, nobody’s opposed to hope, but we don’t give it a whole lot of attention.  In fact, I think the corollary of this scripture might be “Faith, hope and love abide, these three; and hope gets the short end of the stick.”

When was the last time you’ve thought about…talked about…or wondered about hope?

Hope is often misunderstood.

In the late 1930’s, Vienna, Austria was where the field of psychiatry was really developing.  It was the home of 2 masters, and one promising, young apprentice.

The first master was a man named Sigmund Freud. Freud reached the conclusion that the most basic drive in human beings is the drive for pleasure. It’s our need for pleasure that explains why we do what we do, how we live.

The second master was Alfred Adler. He disagreed with Freud. Adler was convinced that the root of human behavior was power. All of us grow up feeling inferior and powerless. Life is a drive to gain control, to feel we are important.

The third man was a young up-and-coming psychiatrist by the name of Victor Frankl. He was a student of Freud and Adler.

When World War II began, and the Nazis invaded Austria, Freud and Adler were able to escape. Frankl was not so lucky. He was arrested and thrown into a Nazi concentration camp for four long years.

As a prisoner, Frankel noticed something quite strange: the people who survived were not the ones you’d expect.  Many of the physically strong wasted away and died, while others who were physically weak survived. What was it that enabled them to survive?

Frankl reflected on the theories of his mentors. Freud’s pleasure principle couldn’t explain it. For four desperate and terrible years the men in that camp knew only pain, suffering and degradation. Pleasure was not a word in their vocabulary. It wasn’t pleasure that kept them going.

And Adler’s theory about power being the basic human need? That didn’t explain it either. Frankl and his fellow Jews were completely powerless during their time in the concentration camps. Each day they stared down the barrel of a loaded gun, were treated like animals, and were abused. They had no power.

Victor Frankl realized:

The difference between those who survived and those who perished was hope.

Those who survived never gave up their belief that their lives had meaning, and that despite everything going on around them it would one day end and they would live meaningful, purposeful lives.

What is the basic human drive? The one thing that gives life value? The ability to live with a sense of meaning. It wasn’t pleasure or power; it was hope.

When Jesus went to the well that day, he met a woman who was hopeless.  Her life’s circumstances meant that she had no social standing, no friends, no significant relationships, no power and no pleasure.  She was a woman just going through the motions.

That’s why, when Jesus spoke to her, it caught her so off guard.  It shouldn’t have happened.  Jesus was breaking all of the social and religious conventions.

And when they talked, they talked about the water the woman had given Jesus.  But he said “no, I’m talking about something else.  I’m talking about living water”

  • water that will nourish you
  • water that will restore your soul
  • water that will bring life
  • water that is hope

Emily spoke beautifully about times when hope seemed distant to her, and about how God worked in those moments to restore her sense of hope.

So my question today is this: When does your hope fade?  When does your sense of meaning and purpose seem distant?  Does it happen when things go wrong?  Does it fade from within?  Or is it external circumstances that cause you to lose hope?

We don’t think about hope often…at least not as often as we do faith or love, because I believe hope can be harder for us to get our hearts and minds around…and because hope is so easy to lose.

But at these moments, as people who follow Jesus, we remember.  We remember Jesus’ words to the woman on that hot, dry, dusty day.  He said to her: “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

May our reply to Jesus be as fervent and full of faith as the reply of that hopeless, broken woman: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

The woman knew.  She knew.  And we know.  The water Jesus brings is life.  The water that Jesus brings is faith.  The water that Jesus brings is love.  And the water that Jesus brings is hope.

And today, we cling to Christ’s promise, that hope changes everything. 

Amen.