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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

In Our Reading from Romans - 12/04/2016

In our reading from Romans, Paul writes, “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and Peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound with Hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What beautiful words.  May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you believe in him, so that you may abound with HOPE, by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

WOW

What could be more amazing than to be filled with all JOY and PEACE and to ABOUND with HOPE.  Notice we are to be filled with ALL joy and ALL peace.

Not a little joy.  Not a little peace. But ALL joy and peace.  We will not have a small amount of hope but AMOUNDING HOPE.

What would that even feel like?  Think about that for a moment.  Maybe for you, your shoulders would unknot, your stomach would calm, and you’d breathe in and out a little slower.  For me, I think I might stop grinding my teeth at night.  How would being filled with all joy and peace and overflowing with joy change your day?  Things as simple as conversations?  Would you listen to people more closely with more focus?  Would your reply be more encouraging and kind?  Where would your little nagging worries and your big fears go?  What would you do without them?  Many of us have allowed worry and stress to take over much of our day.  Worrying has become a habit and negative thoughts a constant companion.  Does this describe you?  If you asked me if this described me, I would have said, “No.”  If you had spent time with me the last two weeks, you would know it wasn’t true. 

I started working on this sermon two Sundays ago-and I hate to say it but they were two terrible weeks.  I felt stressed almost continually.  I had too much to do and too little energy.  I was tired, sad and crabby.  I often felt afraid and constantly thought of how to prepare for impending disasters.  I was swirling in a tornado of worry.  All of this was happening as I was trying to come up with something meaningful to say to you about JOY/PEACE & HOPE.  Tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!

So, looking for answers, I went back to the text and I read three different versions of the Bible.  The New Standard Revised Version reads, “May the God of Hope fill you in all Joy and Peace in BELIEVING.”  The New International Version reads, “May the God of Hope fill you in all Joy and Peace in as you TRUST in Him.” And, the New Jerusalem Bible says, “May the God of Hope fill you in all Joy and Peace in your FAITH.” 

From these translations, I determined that to be filled with peace, joy and to overflow with hope, action was required of me.  So every time worry came, I concentrated on BELIEVING, TRUST and FAITH.  I prayed and told God my fear.  I asked for his help.  I pictured what God could do, knowing he is capable of things greater than I could imagine and trusted Him to handle things, knowing all He does is done out of love.

Then I moved on FAITH that God was in control and that I am not and that He does not want me to be fearful but rather to enjoy the blessings he has given me.  As I concentrated on this, my worry lessened and I did find more joy, peace and hope.  The term “practicing my faith” comes to mind because it did take practice to constantly turn back to BELIEF, TURST and FAITH.

Despite the stress I felt, there really wasn’t anything terrible happening in my life.  So, I questioned-how does this work when life is really falling apart?  So many things can go terribly wrong-health problems, money problems, loss of loved ones…Can we really have joy/peace and overflow with hope then?

NO.  We can’t.  Not on own.  Wile the verse tells us what we must do for joy/peace and overflowing hope, we all know that the real magic doesn’t come from us.  We are merely opening the door for the Holy Spirit to work.  Listen to the verse one last time, May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you beleivein him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  PEACE/JOY/HOPE these are all come from Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gives us PEACE/JOY/HOPE at all times-times when life is easy and during our darkest times.  When we practice our BELIEVING/TRUST &FAITH in life’s easier time, that becomes our habit making it natural for us to turn to God during dark times.  The Holy Spirit is always there for us, waiting for us to let open the door.

That is my sermon as presented at class and last night.  But I have this nagging feeling that I need to tell you the rest of the story. 

After I presented my sermon in class, I asked the instructor, Pastor Allan Johnson, if I had only “a big bowl of fluff.”  Pastor Allan said “no”, but I could dig deeper.  I had told him that I had wanted to emphasize that peace, joy and hope are ours to have always

They don’t always look like the image you may first get when you hear those words, but they are more subtle.  The peace allows rest, the joy allows you to see beyond your darkness and the hope, that is the best.

Pastor Allan asked me to think of a time when on my own, I couldn’t find peace, joy or hope, but God came through anyway.

I told Pastor Allan about losing Amy, my best friend.  I told him that while I know that having her for almost 10 years after her cancer diagnosis was a miracle, we wanted the “big miracle.”  We wanted her to grow old with us.  While thankful for the time, it made me question God.  Why her?  Why Ryan’s mom, Al’s wife, my best friend?  It made me angry w/God-scared and left me feeling alone.  Pastor Allan bluntly said, “Your best friend is dead.  She will miss milestones.”  He asked, “What do you know for sure?”  My answer came quickly-I know I will see her again.

That is what I wanted to say.  For me the hope is knowing that this life is a gift and full of love and blessings, but this life is temporary.  My hope, which is the Bible’s for but for me to get it, I swap it with certainty is that when all this is done, we go to God.  We meet Jesus and we reunite with those we love.  That gives me peace, joy and hope.

Elaine Robbins

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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