Friday, April 3, 2015

Hope Springs Eternal – An Easter Thought

I remember in my youth, many, many light years ago, how the Church celebrated the Easter weekend in a big way. I am not sure how many times we went to Church for 3 hours on a Good Friday through the years. The service seemed long for someone who was not only short in stature but also not long on patience. Yet, I have fond memories of those times. It always seemed like something was happening and what we were doing was worth the effort of trying to stay both focused and awake during the time in the pews. My Dad used to carry large nuts and bolts in his pocket, when we were really small, and when it seemed like we were just on the edge of making a bit too much ruckus, he would hand us those simple toys to keep us occupied so as least we would not disturb too many people around us.

I often wondered if my parents ever got really upset with us when we became a bit overzealous. I know as a small boy I must have had lots of energy and was known to be too talkative. Even today I am accused of being too wordy. I guess some of my family find my blogs to be too much and in that category… so I know the stories about my constant youthful chatter must have created more than one stressful moment even in Church. It seems, from my mother’s former reflections, that they always held to the hope that even though my brother and I were young, we were getting something out of what was being said during services. Their hope was that we would respond one day to Christ.

Today, we seem to think that children are far more energetic; perhaps they may even be considered far less attentive, but as I reflect I wonder sometimes if that is really true. The back pews of our home church had initials carved into them. The hymnals had youthful drawings, pages torn out and the corners turned down and almost ragged…. I know that few adults would do such destructive things. On one occasion the suggestion was made to keep a group of youth from attending Church as they were much too disruptive and destructive to the church building and furniture.  I questioned the validity of that reasoning and those few of us who felt that these boys needed to be part of our congregation, that they might see both God’s love and our love, finally won out.

Children have always been a concern to the crowd. They have always been noisy…they love to play and create, no matter the time being centuries/decades ago or today. In all ages the youth of community have followed their parents and have needed something to both keep their attention and challenge them, and it has been the challenge of the parents to keep them amused and in hand so that their youthful exuberance would not overly upset others around them. Perhaps the older we get the more easily we are distracted… No... Not at all… The older we get, it is more likely that we want “our” focus not challenged by others around us.
During a time of teaching the people, Jesus was asked to bless some small children. The disciples rebuked those who brought the children and wanted the children sent away. I have often wondered why this might have happened. We can only speculate, but it may very well have been a response to what may have been seen to be some disruption created by those same children, while Jesus had been speaking to the adults earlier. It is so interesting to read what Jesus response to that rebuke was. Verse 14 of Matthew 26 records, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Then he laid his hands on them and blessed them before he moved on.

There are so many things in life that we do not see clearly, do not understand fully. People often question where hope lies in the hearts and lives of those who seem to be paying no attention to what is going on in the context of faith in Christ and their Heavenly Father. Many the time I have heard common folk both Christian and non-Christian label, criticize and judge those who looked, acted and seemed in some remote way different from themselves. On one occasion years ago my heart ached for a man who was greeted by a neighbour, as he entered the Church to attend one of our Sunday services. The harshness of his comments turned that man away and nothing I could say could bring him back, just because one critical comment from a judgmental person broke his spirit and resolve to come back to God’s house to worship.

I never gave up on my friend and continued to pray for him even though he would not change his mind to attend. He did however say that he believed and I know that was the most important part of his faith journey. Years later a man who had never attended Church approached me with a gift, along with a note that said, “This little hurricane lamp is to remind you of the years you spent holding out the light to those of us in the community” Some must have been looking and listening and a few years later that same man who gave me the light became a deacon in the very Church I had pastored all those years.

As Christ approached the cross, though his personal courage seemed to be weak, his spirit of resolve was certainly strong. God did not leave His Son to die alone, rejected and forgotten by mankind, His creation. There was hope, an answer to Jesus’ prayer for former glory to be renewed. Even for the thief on the cross near Jesus, there was hope. Though he may have been rejected of man for his crimes, he was immediately forgiven and given the hope of eternity though he would not be baptized and may not receive a believer’s burial. We are often too quick to condemn ourselves and others, too full of grief, regret and self-abasement, to realize that God has more to give than we can ask for. He has always been full of grace and love… we are often too busy with life to see that clearly. It is so simple, yet we make it so complex. Hope is not just for the perfect but for the imperfect as well, not just for the uplifted, but for the downtrodden too.

With God’s creation there came hope intact and active, seen now at the Cross of Jesus. Though we are created with free will and can decide to accept or reject, that hope need never fade. Because of Calvary’s Cross and what God accomplished there through His Son Jesus, all have hope and that hope springs eternal for all and for all time. Today, don’t turn away from hope. Give hope its due. It is not something that need fade in our lives for it springs eternal every day. Like living near the edge, it is all in the perspective we take from where we are. My Mom always said that where there is breath there is hope and I guess she kept me breathing through the years with that hope in mind. I pray that this Easter you will take that hope into your heart and life, and give it a chance to grow…. Just like those little snow drops and early spring flowers prying their way out through these late snow falls. Hope does spring eternal!