The Persistence of Hope

Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalm 121
Luke 18:1-8

The Rev. Dr. Stephen Caine

 

18:1 “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: Generous God, you brought us into the abundance of our inheritance. Grant us the faith to be people blossoming with generosity and goodness, so that we may produce bountifully the first fruits of grateful hearts and compassion, which are pleasing in your sight. Amen.

 

This is the second Sunday of our stewardship campaign and the lectionary did me no favors with the scripture passages assigned for today.  Especially the parable of from the Gospel of Luke about the persistent Widow and her pursuit of justice from the apathetic judge.  The most common interpretation of this story would be “don’t lose heart” or “pray always” and while they are correct interpretations they easily become spiritual platitudes suitable for hanging on your wall for inspiration but have very little traction especially in a stewardship sermon.  Or maybe not.  Perhaps the message is spot on and I should take on the role of the persistent widow and hound you to give more money and continue to hound you until we reach our goal.  But as enticing as that sounds, I don’t believe that is what true stewardship is all about.  So, instead I looked for a theme running through the three readings for today and what I found in these texts is the consistent message about confidence in God’s promises or hope.

 

Hope, much like faith, is a feeling or belief that a certain thing will happen.

 

I am asked all the time how are things going at the church?  My response lately has been that we are in a time of transition, and it seems that that transition has been constant in the almost three years I have been here.  It will be 3 years on December 15 and I am already on my third Episcopal Priest…I am trying not to take it personally.  I promise I am nice and agreeable.  But you get the point, change is the true constant in life and in the life of the Indian Hill Church.  This change and time of transition has affected the staff as we have lost Karen Pauly, Randall Davidson, and now Barb Hoffman.  I have also been asked what is going on that people are leaving.  Again, it would be easy to take it personally since Brenda, Jennifer and I are the only ones remaining.  There are many reasons for people choosing to leave, retire and move on and this is not the time nor the place to get into all of them.  The next thing I am often asked is why I am staying?  It is difficult to move through a period of transition and change, especially in church where most people least expect change.  We often have the thought that the world is changing all around me but at least my church doesn’t change.  It is constant, reliable and unchanging.  Except, that it is not.   So, why remain committed to a congregation in transition?  A great question that I ask myself over and over and my answer is hope.   I may be naïve or as I like to see it faithful enough to believe that God is at work in this place and the light I catch out of the corner of my eye is a new day rising and not the headlight of an on-coming train that will run me over.  I have faith that through this transition we will be better, stronger and healthier as a congregation.  I have faith and hope in the Rector Search Committee that they will call the right person for our church and then the new Rector and I will work together and lead us into a positive future. I have hope that this unique mix of Episcopalians and Presbyterians is what God intends for his church, that our two denominations that work together and show in our otherwise fractured world that it works.  I invite you to join me in giving more this year because you have faith in God and hope in the future of IHC.

I have great faith in Jennifer Taylor and hope that our youth program and children’s ministries will continue to grow and prosper.   It is amazing how many of you talk about how meaningful it is to see so many children come forward for our children’s sermon each week.   Our confirmation class is off and running for this year with 14 confirmands, 6 youth mentors, Blake and Ellen.  Every week there are opportunities for our children to learn about God through excellent Sunday School Classes, fun events like laser tag and just hanging out in the youth center and building community in a safe and supportive place.  These programs have to have your support to continue, nurturing and strengthening the faith of young people and families.   So, I invite you to join me in giving more this year because you have faith in God and you have hope in the future of IHC.

I have great faith in Brenda Waugh and hope that our choir will continue to provide inspiring music that helps us to praise God together in worship.  But it costs money to pay for these glorious soloists, it costs money to purchase music, and hand bells and instruments for the children.   Music and worship don’t just happen.  There are countless hours of practice, planning, and prayer and yes money that goes into the worship and music process to make it good and meaningful and inspiring.  So I invite you to join me in giving more this year because you have faith in God and you have hope in the future of IHC.

I have great faith in Jocelyn Tozier and hope that our Nursery School will continue to grow and provide early childhood education and wonderful enrichment for the young children in our community.  She has guided our school into the step up to quality certification process and we will soon be the only accredited school in the area.  I encourage you to stop by some time during the school hours and see the children learning and growing in this nurturing environment.  It is a very special school and it is making a difference in our community.  So I invite you to join me in giving more this year because you have faith in God and you have hope in the future of IHC.

One of the new people on our Church staff is Nikki Daley.  If you have not had the pleasure of meeting her yet please do because she is great.  She is our new director of communications; and she is starting from scratch building our social media presence.  She is in the process of redesigning our website so that it is more user friendly and informative.  I hope you are seeing Nikki’s touch on everything from the recent stewardship mailer, to Christian Education, to Facebook pictures right down to the bulletins and Newsletters.  She is helping us move into the new world of communication and connections with new demographics of people.  So, I invite you to join me in giving more this year because you have faith in God and you have hope in the future of IHC.

Moving forward we have a staffing plan for the future…we are in the process of interview to hire a Business manager, we will then hire a receptionist, a book keeper, and youth interns.  This is a slow and somewhat tedious process but I have great hope and faith that we will be better in the end.  So I invite you to join me in giving more this year because you have faith in God and you have hope in the future of IHC.

Beyond our high functioning and talented staff, I have hope in our outreach program.  I can’t begin to name the number of people we have impacted through the work of Doug Bierer and the Church and Community Committee. The various agencies we support that directly impact lives of others…

Housing for homeless families through IHN

Back to School Backpacks for Children in IPM

Christmas for needy families through IPM

Tutoring through MEAC

Visiting the imprisoned through 20/20 and Jail Ministries

And many other opportunities to give more than just our money…

We have a Day of Service coming up and I invite everyone to get involved and give back to our community on Saturday, October 29th.

As you consider your pledge for the year 2017, remember how you and your family have been blessed and we invite you to give back to IHC with a generous heart and a giving spirit that will enable us to continue providing the ministry and programs that make a difference in the lives of so many people.  God calls us to new tasks and adventures during times of change and we need to respond with courage.  I have great hope that each of us will do our part to build the Indian Hill Church and participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Let us pray:

 

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