Isaiah 2: 1-5

Advent 1A

December 1, 2019

Lincoln Street UMC, Portland, Oregon

Elizabeth Winslea

Hope is something with muscle and grit. Think midwest farmer rather than English rose gardener. Hope gets its hands dirty and isn’t afraid to sweat. Hope knows that what is important in this life is worth showing up for, in sturdy boots with a tool belt strapped around its waist.

Hope knows that its job every day is to work for what might be, what should be; to follow a vision that shines with the promise of good food for everyone, a quiet night’s sleep, meaningful work, and loving relationships. Hope knows that tears shed when the work gets tough are a sign that it’s on the right track, that it hasn’t forgotten its way.

There is nothing so fragile and yet so remarkably resilient as hope. Cynicism and doubt lurk on the sidelines, just waiting for the right moment to start slithering in through the cracks that can form when hope starts to dry up.

So hope knows that it’s best to tend lovingly and faithfully to the well that feeds it. Hope does not stand alone. It needs to feast at a table that is spread with generosity and trust. It needs to share its stories with its friends, take a long walk out under the stars, read a good book.

Hope needs to be sure that it has taken nourishment and sustenance enough that it can rise the next morning refreshed and ready to work once again.

And when hope works. Well, there’s nothing like it. Hope has a magnetism that draws others into its efforts. It shimmies and shines and others want to dance in its glow. And as more and more are drawn into its presence the heat of their shared light warms them and stirs them into action.

Into protecting the most vulnerable.

Into protesting for just laws.

Into beating swords into plowshare.

Into transforming soldiers into students.

Into making art rather than money.

Into tuning ears toward harmony.

Because hope knows that it is important to keep singing even when no one else seems to know the words to the tune. Keep singing. Out on the “growing gloom” is where one’s voice is most needed, hope knows. And so hope clears its throat and finds a pitch and begins its song, again and again. And sometimes it sings alone. But more often it is joined by others who thought they were alone.

And in that dance and music they are lifted once again and reminded that their efforts are not in the end what the song is about. The song is there to stir the heart and to bring a sense of spirit - ripping away loneliness and despondency with the rhythm and melody of something that lies behind hope.

Sometimes though hope loses spirit, forgets who it is. Sometimes the grit that holds hope together gets washed away in the latest storm of trauma or violence, corruption or greed. Hope loses its way and begins to give up. It feels like there is no reason to go on, given the evidence of this life. It wonders if it has ever made a difference.

But the song carried by others, it is there thrumming and beating in the background. Keeping the tempo, keeping the spirit. And eventually hope hears it clearly enough to find its way back to strength. So that the sweat of another day is met with power and confidence.

The determination of hope, the sheer umph of hope, is the lifeline of the planet. And hope knows this, at some deep level. That hope does not give up is a sign that hope knows - hope knows that it’s important to keep singing, it’s important to keep working, it’s important to keep weeping and sweating and digging in to where it finds itself.

Hope is an Advent gift. It allows others to trust in a message that is counter cultural, helps others hold onto a promise of God’s return to dispense all evil that seems so impossible and ridiculous in the face of worldly powers. Hope knows how to hang on and keep singing that powerful promise.

Because Hope knows that sometimes its grit is just what the next person needs. And that person is just what the world needs.

And so hope knows deep to its very core that it is time, it is always time, to show up again -

work boots tightly laced and tool belt snuggly clasped. Time to stretch its muscles and dig in. Time to show once again the power that is found in Hope.

And hope knows this is just what is needed to keep the world singing - singing for joy, singing the ridiculous, impossible, joyful truth of God’s return to restore all, all of creation. Singing hopeful joy.


This sermon was written by Elizabeth Winslea and delivered on December 1, 2019 at Lincoln Street United Methodist Church. It is published here with the permission of the author. Please link back to this post and credit the author if you reprint or use any portion of it.