Harrowing Of Hell
November 5, 2017

Love Spreading Difference Makers

Preacher: The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.

This sermon is about hope.  The point I want to leave with you today is that hope is a verb; it is an action; and when the action of hope is single-mindedly focused upon God, then the belovedness of humanity is revealed. (repeat)

Now all those words you just heard are floating around in today’s Epistle: hope, reveal, beloved, even single-mindedness…disguised within the Greek translation as pure; but I’ll get to that later. Right now it is enough to know that the Beloved Reformation that we have been talking about here at Epiphany comes directly from the Bible. It is enough to know that this Beloved Reformation is supported directly by passages like this one we hear today.

Now the Oxford dictionary doesn’t agree with me about hope being a verb.  It defines hope as a feeling you have on the inside, but in the kingdom of God hope isn’t a feeling, hope is a way of being.  It is a way of being that we inherited, from God our Father who made us. Hope is hardwired. Hope is also honed.  We hone this intrinsic trait of hope by living our lives as Jesus would if he were you or me. {This is what we promise to do for Teddy today, to be a the community who teaches him to hone that hardwired hope inside him.}

I don’t want us to feel hope, I want us to be hope; not because we want to be hope, but because we were made to be hope; and when we own this hardwired hope, two truths are revealed: 1)we are people who are at ease with all people; 2)we are fearless.  I’ll say more about these things later.

First, I want to tell you a story. It is a story of single-mindedness and hope, with a little belovedness thrown in. But it is a lesser story that I am using to call your attention to the greater possibility of how human belovedness could be revealed if we, together, single-mindedly focused our hope on God.

I received a call from my daughter, Margaret, who is away at college. She called to tell me I was going to receive a call from Mr. (we’ll call him) Smith…That is never the kind of thing you want to hear from your child.  It gives that “OH NO!” feeling in the gut.  But I asked some questions (that is what my wife has trained me to do) and found out that this call had to do with the attack Margaret and her friends experienced last summer at Magnuson Park.

Here is what happened: It was about 8 PM on a Wednesday; still light out.

Margaret was with some friends enjoying a post-graduation bonfire when a pack of younger kids wandered into their company and started kicking up trouble. The graduates were mature enough to walk away, but the kids were looking for a fight, and got into it with one of Margaret’s male companions. Long story short, Margaret and her friends ended up being chased back to the car. One boy got beat up bad.  They piled into the car as the pack of kids kicked in the car panels, smashed the windows with rocks, and jumped up and down on the hood and roof. Margaret started the car, threw it into reverse and drove off.  She took her friend to the ER and then returned to Magnuson where she met the police to give a report.

We made an insurance claim, received a check, and got the car fixed.  The police report, I am sure, went into a file of unresolved cases; and our family sort of forgot about it.

Well, it turns out that these tough kids beat up another young man shortly thereafter. He was a big kid. They wanted his shoes. He told them they won’t fit. So, they beat him up.  He went to the hospital, filed a police report, and it may have gone into the bin next to Margaret’s. But the boy’s dad, Mr. Smith, was going to have none of it. With single-minded focus he set out to identify these troubled kids.  He did so primarily through social media. That is how he found Margaret.

But he also found a 13-year-old boy who had shoes these kids wanted.  He gave them his shoes, and they still beat him badly.  And he had no advocate; no single-minded person to champion his cause, because his mother had passed away a few years earlier. And then suddenly, while this boy was still in the hospital his dad died.

And because I believe this is how things works, I believe it was by God’s providential hand that Mr. Smith met this boy and added his cause to the cause of his son. And then, with dogged persistence, Mr. Smith collected evidence, acquired videos, took down testimonials, and put together a case strong enough to put the ring-leader of this gang in jail.

And here is the lesser point I wanted to make with this story: That single-mindedness has a wake. It has impact beyond intention. It has unintended consequences, like justice done for a defenseless 13-year-old boy.

But here is the bigger point: I believe that when our single-mindedness is focused upon God, love is what is left in our wake, and the Beloved Reformation burns brighter.

Hope, reveal, beloved, single-mindedness, disguised as the word pure, come to us from today’s Epistle as fuel to energize us to be love spreading difference makers in the world.

Now the word John uses for single-mindedness is pure; but not as code for sacrosanct, self-righteous, prudishness; rather, pure as unadulterated, uncontaminated, uncompromised single-minded, hope filled focus on God.

And this is what single-minded hope reveals:

  • that we are people who are at ease in the company of all people;
  • and we are fearless.

Now why would people of hope be at ease in the company of all people? Not because we have similar backgrounds, or languages, or religions, or governments, or skin colors. No, it is because we have trained ourselves to see beyond these things into the belovedness that God has hardwired into every person.

We are made beloved because we are made in the image and likeness of God; and we are made with the capacity to see the beloved in all people.

And you know what happens when we train ourselves to see the belovedness in all people?  We become love spreading difference makers. If we focus on God the thing we leave in our wake is love, and it spreads, and it makes a difference; and the Beloved Reformation burns brighter.

Which brings us to the second result of being a people of hope-fearlessness. Here is why we can be fearless…I quote 1 John chapter 5, verse 13.  It comes at the end of his letter we hear today. “I, John, write these things to you…so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

You have eternal life. God never puts an end to something that God loves. And so, to be eternal, makes us fearlessness.  We have nothing to lose…ever! because we can never lose God; nor can we ever be lost to God; nor can we ever be separated from the love of God.

And you may be wondering because of the terrorist attacks in New York City this week…how about that guy? Is he beloved?  Well, he certainly lost sight of God, when he lost sight of the fact that those people, on that sidewalk were and still are beloved to God. But did God lose sight of him?  I don’t see how that is possible. What I do know is that the love of God is still accessible to him; but this is his choice.

That is all I know. But, I should say this; that because of his act of horror, I’m encouraged to pray more and more that this Beloved Reformation moves into the hearts of more and more people; so anger is replaced by the deep desire to be love spreading difference makers.

And so, I ask you today, what does this community of Christians, here at Epiphany, caught up in the Beloved Reformation look like if our hope is single-mindedly set upon God?

Maybe like a people who meets a middle-eastern looking man on the street, catching his eye, smiling, and saying “hello.” Maybe it looks like making a goofy face at a crying infant, distracting him so his mother has a second of relief.

Maybe it looks like making a huge cash donation to a Christian hospital in the Gaza Strip that serves mostly Muslims. Maybe it just means looking up from your cell phone when your spouse comes into the room and saying, “Hi, tell me about your day.”

These may sound like little things, but they are the things that hone the hope hardwired inside each one of us-so we can live our lives as Jesus would if he were you or me; so we can leave love in our wake in a way that makes a difference; so we can be love spreading difference makers; and as this happens the Beloved Reformation will shine brighter.