Hope: All in All

Ephesians 1:11-23
Lauren J. McFeaters
November 26, 2017
Christ the King

If the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians wanted to confound us, as to where to dive into this the scripture, then they’ve done a first-class job.

Wisdom, revelation, enlightenment.
Hope, glory, greatness.
Authority, power, dominion.
Mystery and will. Wisdom and insight.
The fullness of him who fills all in all; all in all.

Where are we to jump in? Certainly, we can feel the rush; smell the confidence; touch the sincerity; taste the spark; intuit the assurance. Yet at the center of it all is this blessing:

That the God of glory
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that,
with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.

You know there are times when in using the word hope, we downsize, we economize, and we scrimp. We say things like:

  • “Well, she’s a very hopeful person,” and we mean is she is positive, encouraging.
  • Or “I really hope this is going to work out” and what we mean is I’m in trouble and I need a plan.
  • Or “I’m hoping for the best!” and what we mean is, Lord, keep me out of trouble.

Hope is a much-misunderstood word.

  • For some, hope denotes cheerfulness.
  • Often, hope is mistaken for wishful thinking.
  • Hope is confused with having a “glass-half-full” kind of attitude.
  • But hope, in the theological sense, is not any of these things.
  • Pollyanna abounds in optimism; the Christian abounds in hope.

So, what is this Christian hope to which we’ve been called?

The author of Hebrews says hope is the sure and certain anchor of the soul.

The Psalmist declares, “Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” [i]

A Methodist or Nazarene might sing that hope is the blessed assurance that Jesus is mine, a foretaste of glory divine. [ii]

A Presbyterian might quote Paul: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [iii]

When the writer of Ephesians says hope is courageous and magnificent, generous, and bold.

These are hard days for hope. Perhaps it’s not hard for those who are satisfied with the status quo, those who benefit from the way the world is and may fear losing something if it changes. Who wants a new kingdom, after all, if the present one affords you a life of ease, affords all sorts of pleasantries.

But to those who are dissatisfied, anxious, disappointed, angry, who have been left out and left behind, who have known their fair share of heartache and believe our world can and will be better, then there is a God who:

  • trusts the eyes of our hearts
  • who hopes for us when we cannot hope for ourselves
  • who promises up enlightenment, wisdom, and revelation.
  • It is that promise that creates hope.

As David Lose says: Hope does things. Hope leads us to act, to do something to bring about that better future. Without hope it’s incredibly difficult to press ahead, to face the challenges of the day, to do anything but merely get by. With hope you can risk extraordinary things and do astonishing things because the future is not only open but promised.[iv]

Do you know where I found hope this week? In an unlikely place. Next door at McLean House, the yellow house that sits to the left of our church.

If we open the side windows, and imagine we can, we can see a full view of the McLean House front yard.

Many year ago, the house belonged to Samuel Finley, the fifth president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, and pastor of this church.

Antwaun Sargent tells the story that in July 1766 an advertisement announcing the sale of the Reverend President Samuel Finley’s estate, as he had died, appeared in the Philadelphia Journal. On campus that August, his personal property was auctioned off in this order — household furnishings, animals, a wagon and, “two negro women, a negro man, and three negro children.”

Last week, some 250 years later, Princeton University, as part of the Princeton and Slavery Project unveiled a sculpture on the front lawn of Finley’s house, right next door. It’s called “Impressions of Liberty,” by the African-American artist Titus Kaphar.[v]

Titus Kaphar stands next to his commission for Princeton University, Impressions of Liberty (2017). Courtesy of Princeton University Art Museum.

The two-ton sculpture of Rev. Finley is a huge inverted bust carved into a block of sycamore and coated on the inside with graphite. It’s a monument to the memory of the enslaved. And etched into a layer of glass positioned over the dark recess created by Finley’s inverted head is a family of three: a man, a woman, a child.

Sergeant says the family is meant to represent not only the people Finley enslaved during his tenure, but also the many other chattel slaves held by professors, families of students, and the pastor of this church.

And, hovering within Finley’s silhouette, the slave family holds onto each other with terrified expressions, awaiting their turn on the auction block, “unable to manifest their own destinies.”[vi]

And after church today I want you to walk out the front door, turn right and then right again. You’ll find yourself in Rev. Findley’s front yard. And what you’ll see is devastating, phenomenal, haunting, revelatory.

And here’s where my hope lies: it lies in the truth-telling about our sin. That steps away from our front door, a family of five was put up on blocks and auctioned like animals.

It convicts our eyes not to look away. It convicts our hearts to scream with anguish. It convicts our hands and feet to stand firm and speak ever more loudly against the oppressor and on behalf of the enslaved.

Quite fitting for our Christ the King Sunday. Our Redeemer comes. Our Word is made flesh. Our hope is built on nothing less. Thou art the life, by which alone we live. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

I pray that the God may give you
a spirit of wisdom and revelation
as you come to know him, so that,
with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.

For Christ our King: Hope is not an artifact, but is radiant, spacious, blossoming, healthy.

For Christ our King: Hope isn’t just a spiritual attitude. The emphasis is not on our wishes or moods but on character, substance, ethic, and honor.[vii]

For Christ our King: Hope is a deep-seated trust in a life that appears totally absurd, rather than putting blind faith in things that might work out for the best.[viii]

For Christ our King: Hope convicts us to get down on our knees, asking our Lord to reach out from Calvary, across time and space, to absorb us in hope like an unquenchable and refining fire.

When Isak Dinesen begins her novel Out of Africa she has experienced a love that distance and disappointment cannot divide. With faith and hope she has spent twenty years in East Africa and when she can no longer make a living on her farm and must sell her possessions, she prepares to leave for Mombasa and then for Denmark.

For twenty years she has loved Nairobi and has been transformed by its people. Her beloved friend and interpreter is Farah, and she tells him: “You must have the people of the farm ready to leave before the rains. They must not fight about it. Do you understand? Or they will lose it. You must make them understand that I will not be here to speak for them.”

“This land is far, where you are going?” he asks.

“Not too far,” she lies, for she is going thousands of miles away.

“How can it be now with me and you?” Farah wants to know.

“Do you remember how it was… on safari?” she says. “In the afternoons I would send you ahead to look for a camp and you would wait for me and build a fire, so I would know where to find you. Well, this will be like that. Only this time I will go ahead and wait for you.?

“It is far, where you are going?”

“Yes. It is far.”

“Then you must make this fire very big — so I can find you.”

“You must make this fire so very big — so I can find you.” [ix]

When you experience the love of God, you understand God has lit a fire so big, you will never be lost. We live in that Hope.

When you experience the grace of God, you understand God has lit a fire so big that you can always be found. We live in that Hope.

When you experience the hope of God, you understand God has lit a fire so big that you belong to Christ Jesus forever and ever and ever. Live in that hope.

Thanks be to God.

[i] Psalm 119:49-50

[ii]  Edgardo A. Colón-Emeric. “The Hope of Your Calling.” July 11, 2012, faithandleadership.com.

[iii] Romans 15:13

[iv] David Lose. “Hope as the Heart of the Christian Faith.” June 13, 2012, davidlose.net.

[v] Titus Kaphar stands next to his commission for Princeton University, Impressions of Liberty (2017). Courtesy of Princeton University Art Museum.

[vi] Antwaun Sargent. “At Princeton, Titus Kaphar Reckons with the University’s History of Slavery.” November 14, 2017, Artsy.net.

[vii] James C. Howell. “Christ the King Sunday.” November 20, 2017, ministrymatters.com.

[viii] Christopher Lasch as quoted by James C. Howell in “Christ the King Sunday.” November 20, 2017, ministrymatters.com.

[ix] Isak Dinesen. Out of Africa. New York:  Random House Publishing Group, 1992. Reprinted from the original 1937 edition.

© 2017 Nassau Presbyterian Church
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