Waynedale United Methodist Church
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April 26, 2015 Sermon

“Our Past Hope”
Lamentations 3:21 – 29, Psalm 71:1 – 5
Ted Jansen April 26, 2015 Waynedale UMC

1.)        Hope. We all have hope. We all need hope. I invite you to consider your hopes. Let me share a definition of hope that combines our past, present and future. 

Hope is a positive expectation of life in the future, that is experienced in the present moment, while being rooted in the past.

Let us look at the three chairs as our visual of the past, present and future. I want to focus on the past as we consider the experience of hope.  


2.)        Our past is something that we cannot get away from. It will always be a part of us no matter how hard we try to get away from it. The future remains unknown to us. We have desires, goals, dreams, for the future. We don’t know how they will be fulfilled. The future is a question mark. ? The past is a period. . The past is something that we cannot change. We don’t’ get a new past. We get the past that we had.   

            Think of our past as gravity. Gravity is the force that is keeping me on the ground at the present time.   I cannot free myself from gravity while I live on earth. I can jump and for a few moments be off the ground but gravity keeps me connected to the earth. 

            I am grounded to my past. I cannot get away from it. My past is my past.      


3.)        As we consider our past I believe we have a mixture of good and bad experiences, memories and situations, etc. in our past. 

If you look at your past and you have great memories then you are blessed. That is a great gift that you have. Isn’t it interesting that when you have moments of great pleasure that you cannot retain those memories in your emotional bank. You can’t get that same feeling back again.   You can remember a good time, but the emotional feeling will fade in time.   That same is true of experiences of pain and hurt.    

If you look at your past and you don’t have great memories you can find healing in God’s grace in your past. 

I find it interesting that when your body is in intense pain, like if you have been in a car accident, your body can shut out the feeling of the pain. The present pain can overwhelmed your system so that you cannot feel or even remember. 

When we can feel pain, God is a healing God and can begin the healing process in our lives, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. God is a healer. We can thank God that we don’t have to carry around in our life the intense feeling of pain that we once experienced. 


4.)        As we look at our past what have we needed more? God’s healing as it relates to experiences in our past or God’s affirmation of the great memories of the past. 

            God can bring us hope from our past from either good or bad memories.   


5.)        Allow yourself for a few moments to go back to a past memory. I invite you to consider where God was in that moment. 

When we go back to the past and consider what God has been doing there are times when we cannot see hope, or God, or anything good. There are times when we want to do our best to leave our past. Our past, like gravity, pulls us back. 

            I invite you to consider that God is like an artist that is painting a picture with your life. God, the artist, is creating something beautiful out of the experiences you have had. You might not be able to recognize the picture yet, it might be a little too early. 

            You might look at your past and say, it looks kinds of confusing, a mixture of good and bad memories and I am not sure where God is in it.   I am not sure I see hope as I look to the past. Let us believe that God is making something beautiful out of your life in God’s time. Let us take a look at a man from the past and see how his story can give us hope.   


6.)        Jeremiah was on Old Testament prophet who spoke to the Hebrew nation around the time frame of 620BC until 580 BC. The book, Jeremiah, that he wrote describes what was happening when he was alive. It was not a good time. Jerusalem and the Temple are in the process of being destroyed. The people are not being obedient to God and there appears to be little hope. The Temple, the symbol of God’s blessing and presence is being removed and destroyed.  

            Jeremiah is the believed to be the author of Lamentations. He wrote this book as a book of poems of mourning. Most of the words and sentences contained are sad words, mournful words, depressing words, descriptions of sad and depressing things happening.  


7.)        Let me read some selected verses from Lamentations 3. “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in the darkness rather than light…He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship…Even when I call out or cry for help he shuts out my prayer…I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” (verses 1, 5, 8, 17, 18)

Do these words sound like they have any hope in them? If you ask me I would say that Jeremiah has lost hope. There appears to be nothing that will bring Jeremiah hope.   

Hope is a positive expectation of life in the future, that is experienced in the present moment, while being rooted in the past.


8.)        At some point Jeremiah looks at the past, as we all must do, and he has change, a shift in his thinking and expression. He is transformed. Listen to these words from 3:21 - 25. Let me read them slowly so we can experience what Jeremiah was expressing. 

            “Yet this I call to mind and therefore 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. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.”

            Jeremiah says “this I call to mind.” He is going back to the past. He is remembering who God is and what God does, though at the moment it appears that God is absent. The picture that is being painted in life seems to be hopeless, dark, desolate and helpless. Life is not good. That is the present picture. 

            Yet, Jeremiah expresses this truth. God is faithful. God’s love and compassion are new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness.  


9.)        When we need hope let us look to the past and see what God has done. As I thought about Jeremiah and the stories of the Old Testament a story of how God brought the people into the Promised Land came to me. This was a moment when God was faithful to the Hebrews and a moment that He wanted them to remember as they lived into the future.   We can read about this in Joshua 3 and 4. 

God had promised the Hebrew people who had been in slavery for years to come to the Promised Land.   After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness it was not time for Joshua to lead the people through the Jordan River. God told them that the priests should carry the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan River before the people. When they stepped into the Jordan the water stopped flowing and the people walked through on dry ground. 

            God told Joshua when the entire nation had crossed the Jordan to have one man from each of the twelve tribes to go to the middle of the Jordan and pick up a stone.   They were to take these twelve stones and place them at the place they stayed as a memorial. 

            These twelve stones were to be a living remembrance from the past of what God had done for them as they began their new life, after crossing the Jordan River, and entered the Promised Land.   


10.)      The twelve stones were a memorial, a witness, from the past of God’s presence to give them hope for the future. 

            Psalm 71:5 proclaims, “You have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord.”   The Psalms were words to songs that the people would sing to remind them of God’s faithfulness to them in the past. That is a great thing that songs and hymns can do for us to give us hope.  

            When we sing a familiar song, it is going back to our past, like the Hebrews would do when they saw the 12 stones and remembered what God did in the past to give them hope for the future. 


11.)      Jeremiah’s words from Lamentations inspired Thomas Chisolm to write a poem. That poem was given to a friend. That friend put music to the words and in 1923 that song was published. Thomas was a Methodist lay minister for a year or so, but because of health problems could not continue. He had a difficult life and it was not until he was 57 that the song, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” came to be.    I invite you to listen to Chris Rice singing that version.  


12.)      I encourage you to have hope like a little girl did one day. 

            A man approached a little league game one afternoon. He asked a girl in the dugout what the score was. The girl responded, “It is eighteen to nothing… and we are behind.” The man said, “Wow, I would think that you are discouraged and that you have lost hope.” 

            “Why should we be discouraged,” said the little girl.   “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”  


13.)      Wherever you are today let hope come to you from the Lord who loves you. As we look at our past and whatever we have experienced may we focus on the God who is doing something beautiful with our lives. Have hope. You might not even be up to bat yet!