Hope for the Hopeless

This past weekend I got the
opportunity to preach to a room full of homeless men and women at
the Safehouse Outreach Center in downtown Atlanta. I had
never preached to the homeless before (which is odd for a
Christian, or maybe it just should be odd for a Christian), and it
ended up being a really incredible experience. I had written
out my message and was driving back from Piedmont Park when I was
brought to the realization that I had really offered no hope for
today in what I had written. And so 2 hours before leaving
for Safehouse, I scrapped everything and started over. I
don’t quite know why I work this way, or maybe why God works
through me this way, but my best inspiration never seems to come
until it is almost too late.

Either way, the message that I ended
up writing was definitely better and more hopeful, and it
seemed to be heard and received well by the group at Safehouse, but
even when consciously writing a message about the hope that the
Gospel offers the needy today, I had a really hard time coming up
with anything tangible. And I think that this is an important
question that we should be asking ourselves as Christians. So
the transcript of the message is below and I would love to hear
peoples’ thoughts and feedback on the issue.

Thanks for reading and sorry
that it has been so long

So when I asked Brynn what I
should talk about tonight she said “hope” … and I thought, “great”
that’s easy enough, and I went on to write out some thoughts about
our inability to save ourselves and I had some very funny stories
prepared to illustrate the point that Jesus makes up for our
shortcomings and bada bing bada boom, our hope should lie in Jesus
and not in ourselves because Jesus is the only way that we will
ever get to the Kingdom of Heaven. And it
was a great message that I pretty much just gave ya’ll in two
sentences.

And I believe that it is a true
message and a good one to hold onto. Jesus
gives us hope for eternity in heaven with God and the rest of
creation as it is supposed to be. There’ll
be no more tears and there will be an end to all of the suffering
in the world and justice will ring true and that is good and we
want that …

The only problem is that it is a
message that always seems to spoken in the future
tense. One day every tear will be wiped
away … one day poverty and hunger will cease to be real
things. But for many of us in here tonight
we truly hope for that, but also can’t help but ask the question …
so what about tomorrow? Will I have food?
Shelter? Will someone care about me and love me?
Will I get a job or will I get into that
school?

Does this Jesus who offers hope
for my eternal salvation also care about my hungry children, or my
sick brother? Or what about the fact that
I don’t feel valuable or good enough? Does
the Jesus who offers me long-term hope also offer anything in the
way of hope for today and tomorrow and every day until the fullness
of the Kingdom is revealed?

We’re going to read from the book
of Luke, chapter 4, and in the passage, Jesus is more or less
announcing his mission … his reason for being with us, and his
intentions in his ministry, and he does it by quoting from the book
of Isaiah.


16He
went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath
day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up
to read. 17The
scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he
found the place where it is written:
18“The
Spirit of the Lord is on me, 
because he has anointed me to preach
good news to the poor. He has sent me to
proclaim freedom for the prisoners 
and recovery of sight for the
blind, to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim
the year of the Lord’s favor.”


20Then he
rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,
21and he began
by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your
hearing.”

Later on, in the book of Matthew
Jesus speaks a parable that is known as the parable of the sheep
and the goats, and in it identifies himself with the hungry, the
thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the prisoner … he doesn’t
identify himself as one of the sheep like we might expect, but
instead draws attention to his oneness with those of us who are in
need.

And so I believe that we can know
beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus does indeed care about our
daily needs … he cares about your hunger and the hunger of your
family … he cares about your sickness … indeed it was and is His
mission in the world to bring and end to the brokenness that we
currently live in.

Some of you experience that
brokenness physically … you’re hungry and cold, or you’re sick …
some of you experience it emotionally … you’re questioning whether
or not anyone really loves you or even knows that you exist … Maybe
spiritually, you are coming to believe that you just aren’t what
God is looking for … and you feel broken and only worthy of being
passed over for someone whose got their life more
together.

But let me reassure you, whichever
of those roles you find yourself in, even if it all of them …
especially if it is all of them, Jesus stepped out of heaven and
into the world for you. He became hungry
when he went 40 days without food in the desert.
We see him almost dying of thirst and naked on the
cross and abandoned by most of his followers, not to mention
forsaken by his father

And it may sound crazy or trite,
but that is a really big part of the hope that Jesus offers you
today. Whatever pain you are experiencing,
Jesus can offer the almost supernaturally comforting words “me
too.”

Take comfort in those
words. The Lord of all Creation suffers
with you … and He suffers for you.

Beyond that I can’t promise much
of anything. I don’t know that everyone
here will eat tomorrow or stay warm until the summer, but I do know
that that is the mission of God and so it also is the mission of
the Church.

And we see the partnership in
places like this. A meal is served,
worship happens together, and the Kingdom of God becomes a present
reality, no longer confined to an idea that we can only dream
about.

This, right here is the church of
Jesus followers doing just that … following in the footsteps of
Jesus. And when we who proclaim to follow
actually do it, our hope can turn into
gratitude.

2000 years ago Jesus began his
ministry with these words: “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at
hand.” In other words, change the way that
you are living because God’s way is better and it is available to
you from this moment forward. Then he
spent the next three years modeling that way of life for us and
inviting people along the way to follow his
lead.

And many people over the years
have done that. But the reality is that it
is a hard thing to do and so many people have not … good people
too! And consequently, we have violence
and poverty and hatred and suffering, etc.
It’s still here. We still
live in brokenness.

And so our hope for today and
tomorrow, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” is only a glimpse of the
ultimate hope that Jesus offers us. It is
real and we can find real comfort in Jesus’ oneness with the
afflicted, as well as in the knowledge that God’s mission and the
church’s mission are one and the same; to bring and end to the
consequences of sin & brokenness.
And we shouldn’t take these glimpses for granted, but
be thankful for them.

But ultimately, those moments will
serve us best if we take them for what they are.
And that is a sign … a glimpse of what is to
come. Jesus’ final words on the cross were
“it is accomplished.” In other words, the
outcome is set. And though the journey may
seem like a difficult and long one at times, our ultimate hope …
the end goal & belief of the Christian faith is that all of
creation would be redeemed and that we would live eternally with
our God.

And in that time, every tear will
be wiped away & all suffering will come to an
end.

But for today we find comfort in
the companionship of Jesus and the knowledge that God is on a
mission with the church, and that mission is
you!

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~ by Will Norman on March 10, 2009.

3 Responses to “Hope for the Hopeless”

  1. Hi thanks for a great post. I’ll be back 🙂

  2. Awesome sermon bro….the Kingdom of God is at hand!!! that feels so good!

  3. Will – I really enjoyed reading your message for the men and women at Safehaven. I feel sure it made quite an impression on many of the people there. You continue to inspire me and make me proud of you.
    Mom

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