Hope at Easter (Gordon Graham and Steve Elton)
Easter is the time of the year when many of us pause and reflect on the possibilities of new beginnings, of a fresh start and maybe a brighter future. That has never been more needed, at least in my life time, than Easter 2021. With so much pain, heartache and difficulty filling our world we need hope like never before.
With that in mind the theme that seems to have come to the fore in all the sermons shared in the month of April is ‘hope’. We started on Easter Sunday with Gordon sharing about the ‘Results of Resurrection’ and reminding us of how Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the Fathers yes to His ‘It is Finished’. That the definitive declaration of death as the end is no more as Jesus conquered death and His invitation to all humanity is to come and live. He also shared how this ‘living’ with Jesus is not a life filled with empty promises and hollow dreams but one filled with hope, peace and joy everlasting. That we enter into His mercies that are new every morning, and get to experience His grace that overflows.
It may seem too good to be true, but the the results of resurrection haven’t been photoshopped or edited through time to make them seem better than they are, no, the results are resurrection are better than we can possible imagine, and. Jesus is inviting us all, along with the whole of the human race to come and make the most of them.
Connected to this we then also looked at how Easter is a moment for us to ‘unwrap Jesus’ in the same way that we may unwrap an Easter egg. Jesus is inviting us to know Him deeper than we ever have before. To know His heart, to know everything He accomplished when He declared ‘It is Finished’ and to know the ‘Results of Resurrection’. Jesus wants us to take time to come close and unwrap what He has for us. He doesn’t want us to view it from afar, on the contrary He wants us to come close and experience His goodness. As we do not only will our lives be transformed but the lives of those around us too.
Listen to the Easter Messages here
Building a hopeful imagination (Steve Elton)
We continued this theme of hope, and laying hold of what Jesus has for us by looking at how we can build a hopeful imagination. Hope is like a picture, blueprint or image in our mind, something we believe about what the world is like and can be like. Sometimes when we find ourselves faced with situations, feelings and events that go against the hope or ‘image’ we see inside it can lead to us being disappointed and even beginning to give up hoping for a better tomorrow or at very least lowering our expectations to something more ‘realistic’.
It very much echoes what Proverbs 13:12 says
‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life’
For many of us our hearts have become sick because of disappointed hopes and dreams. So as mentioned we lower our expectations, and paint a picture, or build a hope based on what we can achieve and do within the limits of our ability and resources. However, this doesn’t allow for God to be a factor in the pictures we paint and hopes we build. It also leads us to a place where there are no ‘dreams fulfilled’ and as such no ‘trees of life’ for others to each from and start to hope themselves.
Jesus is calling us to start to build a new hopeful imagination. Not an imagination based on the news cycle, our past failures, other people’s opinions or even ‘natural’ wisdom and sense, but instead to get our ‘paint’ from God’s store of resources – Jesus, the Scriptures, testimonies, each other, historical events etc… – to begin to find moments that tell us even in the most challenging and difficult situations God remains faithful and comes through. To spend our time looking for stories to build and paint a hopeful imagination.
As it says in 1 Peter 1:13, God wants us to
‘…rest our hope fully upon the grace that’s brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ…’
He is calling us to build a hope based on Him being the main factor and as we do we start to see new possibilities, new opportunities that we haven’t seen before, had forgotten about or didn’t even know were options. We start to see how all things can be made new and start to, step by step, make our way towards the new possibilities Jesus has for us. All because we took time to build a hopeful imagination, and waved goodbye to the lies that have shaped our thinking up to this point like:
- I’ve/we’ve missed it
- It’s never been done like that before
- People have tried and failed
- Too old/too young
- Too busy/too tired
- Too flawed/too unskilled
Lets spend our time thinking about what we’re thinking about and paint a new picture of what God has for us, and as we do, we’ll start to see ‘trees of life’ be planted all across our communities and city.
Listen to Steve’s Sermon here
Faith in the Faithfulness of God (Gordon Graham)
One of the main ‘paints’ we need to paint a hopeful imagination is the realisation that we serve a faithful God. Gordon shared from Lamentations 3:21 – 24 which says:
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
It shows us that great is the faithfulness of God, and that because of this we can rest in two hugely significant truths:
- there’s a power we can lean on
- there’s a provision we can live by
That no matter what we face, what we’re experiencing we can lean on and depend on His faithfulness to carry us through, to provide for us when faced with our greatest need. That this faithfulness is foundation for all our hope, the backdrop to every picture we build, every hope we build, His faithfulness is our strong tower and great support.
His faithfulness is more dependable than ‘Old Faithful’ in its consistency and reliability. His faithfulness means He is always with us, always helping us, always leading us. His faithfulness means we can fan the flame of hope, keep believing and keep going. It means we can face whatever the barriers our to us stepping into what He has next for us and whatever has stopped painting a hopeful imagination.
Listen to Gordons Sermon here
Jesus our Primary Colours
We see this faithfulness in action in the life of Jesus. Jesus becomes our primary colours that we use to paint a hopeful imagination. Jesus is the colours that make all other colours. He is what filled every testimony, every encouragement from a friend and every story of someone overcoming insurmountable odds. That as we look first to Jesus, the picture of faithfulness, it gives us a concrete example of how His faithfulness works and ‘pools of paint’ for us to draw from as we paint our own hopeful imagination.
There are three moments that speak to all of us in the life our Jesus when it comes to our hope, the picture on the inside of us. They are:
First – Jesus resurrecting Lazarus from the dead in John 11. To story tells of Lazarus dying and Jesus arriving later than expected by Mary and Martha. Jesus in fact arrived ‘too late’ for there to be any of hope of Lazarus being raised from the dead. All hope was gone. That is maybe how some of us feel now, like our hope is dead, its gone, its been too long for it to be brought back to life.
Yet, Jesus’ word to those of us who find ourselves in that place, is the same word He spoke to Lazarus’ dead body ‘Come forth’. And just like Lazarus had no ability in himself to bring himself back to life, and it was all on Jesus, the same is true for those of us who feel our hope is dead, and we don’t know how to bring it back to life. Stop and hear Jesus’ call to ‘Come forth’. He is resurrecting your hope, even as you read this.
Second – Jesus healing the blind man in Mark 8. This speaks to those of us who know hope is out there but we cannot see it and as such cannot find it. We are stumbling around in the dark searching for hope. To us, Jesus is coming to touch the eyes of our hearts so that we can see again, in the same way He touched the blind mans eyes.
The interesting thing is it may take time to see things clearly again, but Jesus wants us to know and see hope clearly. Not to have a vague and fuzzy idea of an abstract possibility of something good happening. But instead to have a clear and concrete confidence in tomorrow being a good day when hope is seen and fulfilled.
Third – Jesus healing the lame man in Luke 5. Here we find a resonance with those of us who can see the hopeful possibilities that tomorrow brings but we cannot get there and take part in what’s to come. Maybe we’re paralysed by fear, or crippled by our past mistakes. Maybe we feel blocked by the crowds of dissenting voices. Whatever the situation may be Jesus’ healing words to us are ‘Take up your bed and walk’. He is both commanding and enabling us to lay hold of the hope He has for us, to go through the doorways, to make the most of possibilities that lay ahead.
The interesting thing about all three of these stories is that non of them are individuals doing all alone:
- Resurrection – sisters asked for help, others took bandages off
- Blind man healing – people brought him to Jesus
- Lame man walking – friends carried him and lowered him through ceiling
This tells us that in the process of us painting a hopeful imagination that community matters. And as we move together towards a brighter and more hopeful future we do so together.
Lets start painting today, and follow the new ways He is opening up to us.
Listen to Steve’s Sermon here
Questions to consider
How can you engage with the ‘hope’ revealed at Easter?
What helps to remind you of Gods faithfulness?
Where is your hope at right now?
What ‘paints’/resources* can you use to begin to paint a more hopeful imagination about what the future holds?
*examples of resources: the life of Jesus, the Bible narrative, historical figures, testimonies, each other