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Hopelessness and Hope

hopeArgy was a sweet old fellow, a member of the first church I served after seminary.  I visited him shortly after hearing that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.   I found him where I almost always found him, sitting in a lawn chair, overlooking his garden.

After a few minutes of small talk, I broached the subject of his diagnosis.

“How are you feeling about what the doctor said,” I asked.

“Well, if I knew when and where I was going to die, I’d make it a point not to be there!”

I snickered at this bit of dark humor (considering the circumstances), while Argy leaned back in his chair a roared with laughter.

After a few minutes discussing the detail of what the doctor had told him, Argy got reflective and said:  “I am not afraid of being dead–but I am afraid of dying.”

We understand that sentiment.  Very few of us (religious or not) are actually afraid of death.  But we are afraid of the process of dying.  Yet that is the one thing we all share in common.  We are all in the process of dying.

I’ve been feeling that process a bit more acutely this past year.

  • Earlier this year, on Good Friday, my father died.
  • Our family has incurred nearly $7000.00 in unexpected medical/dental expenses.
  • My mother-in-law has been very ill and close to death on more than one occasion in the last several months.
  • A couple weeks ago I was diagnosed as diabetic.
  • A few weeks ago, my wife lost her job unexpectedly (the company closed down the franchise where she worked without warning or notice, sill owing her and the other staff a paycheck.

I could go on…but you get the point.

My effort here is not to illicit your sympathy or prayers (though I always welcome the latter).  The aim is simply to acknowledge that we are all in the process of dying.

Have you heard those preachers that get on the airwaves and proclaim:  “the end is near?”  They speak of the Apocalypse and refer to wars and rumors of war, tons of geopolitical strife, and a boatload of economic uncertainty.   They preach about a BIG Apocalypse – the “end of the world.”

We’ve been hearing about the BIG Apocalypse for a long time.  Since I was a teenager (a long time ago) I remember sermons and books about the end of the world.  I remember reading: “The Late Great Planet Earth” and the author’s suggestion that the planets were aligning in our solar system, which would cause huge earthquake.  California would far off the western coast.  Apocalypse.

Well, that preacher/author was wrong.  He misunderstood (still does) the Bible’s teaching about the Apocalypse and the “end of days.”  But he did understand one thing about human nature.  We just can stand the process of dying…and yet we all face it.  We all face what we might call “little Apocalypses” – personal and family oriented catastrophes, grief, illness, troubles, financial uncertainly, etc.  It might not be the “end of the world,” but it certainly seems lie the “end of our world”

We feel like we are at the end of rope and without hope.  It seems like our life is unraveling.  These things cause a drastic impact on our emotions.  They leave us with feelings of apprehension, trepidation, dread, and fear–a sense of hopelessness.

At the end of Luke 17, Luke uses the teaching of Jesus to speaks of an Apocalypse.  Luke’s early church was facing turmoil and stress.  They felt a sense of hopelessness and despair, yet the culture around them was oblivious.  The church had a sense that they were careening towards disaster, but most of them are not even aware of the situation.

If they knew when and where they were going to die, they’d make a point not to be there.  But the one they were certain about was that they were facing an Apocalypse.  They were confronting the reality of their mortality.

Then, just as everything that pointed toward despair was hitting the fan, as it were, Dr. Luke introduces us to the parable recorded in chapter 18:1-18.  As the week continues, we will explore this parable and look to uncover the HOPE that it can bring us in our own difficult days of “little apocalypses.”

 

The Christian Hope
by: T. A. Kantonen
publisher: Muhlenberg Press, published: 1954
ASIN: B0007DS3WW
sales rank: 5480686
price: $2.25 (used)

Vintage hardback in good condition for its age. Light general wear. Contents include: Christ Our Hope, If a Man Die, The Harvest of History, The Promise of His Coming, The End of All Things.

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