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The sermon for week November 22, 2015

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A Dream Built on Hope

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Revelation 1:4b-8

This week I came across the following story…
A man was struggling to get his washing machine through the front door of his home as his neighbor was walking past. The neighbor, being a good neighbor, stopped and asked if he could help. The man breathed a sigh of relief and said, “That would be great. I’ll get it from the inside and you get it from the outside. We should be able to handle this quickly.”

But after five minutes of continual struggle, they were both exhausted. Wiping the sweat from his brow, the neighbor said, “This thing is bigger than it looks. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get it into your house.”

“Into my house? I’m trying to get this thing out of my house!”
(From bible.org/seriespage/17-communicating-vision)

The neighbor was operating from one perspective and the home owner from another. Today I want to set before you two ways to see and to live into this world. One is to live by fear and the other by hope.

First let me address the issue of fear. Who among us has not been affected in some many by what has gone on in France this past week. When I talked with you about this, the one common theme that arises is that of fear. Fear that if it happened there it could happen anywhere.

Clearly we are living in a time of great fear. The tragedies that occurred in France are reminders of our vulnerability. For if terror could strike a restaurant, or a soccer game or a concert in France, it could strike anywhere. It makes us wonder if no place is safe. It gives us all reason to fear. Plus fear has its value. It can win elections. For instance, this week consider how many politicians across this nation used our fear to garner political support. Capitalizing on our fear, first several presidential candidates made statements about barring Syrians from entering the US, then governor after governor made a statement that because of what the terrorists did in France they will accept no Syrian refugees into their respective states. Maybe I am odd and unable to comprehend complicated issues but I find this a bit irrational. To me it is a most interesting leap to bar Syrian refugees, since to date, what we know of the terrorists is that almost without exception they were born and raised in Belgium and in France and citizens of those countries One was born in Morocco). If we were serious about addressing terrorism, what we should be doing is not barring Syrians from entering the US but we should be barring the Belgians and the French. It is interesting that not one politician has yet proposed this action. This last week I also heard that a national figure is proposing to document Muslim people.

Now I am not the best historian, but I vaguely remember learning that around 70 to 80 years ago there was a country that also chose to document some of its people.

In that case it was not Muslims but Jews that were documented.
You see, more often than not our fears cause our understanding of reality to be a bit skewed. Plus, when we allow our fears to guide our way, we are lead to dark places. As a minister of the gospel, I am here to offer a different way, a way based on hope and not fear. A way that leads us not to a dark place but to a place filled with hope and light.

On this Thanksgiving Sunday, I want to offer a challenge to those who would build a world based on fear. I want them to look to our ancestors, the very pilgrims upon which the holiday of Thanksgiving is built. They were a people of hope (Note they were also refugees). They too were living in a dark time and often in fear of their lives. But instead of letting their fears over take them, they chose to live a life of hope. They left that dark place of fear and chose instead to live a life built on hope. As Americans, we are inheritors of that very hope.

Their lives were steeped in the scriptures and in the prophets. They like the prophets before them had a vision for a new world. In Daniel, we read of his vision of a new world where the son of God will come in on the clouds and usher in a new world. In the book of Revelation, we read of John’s vision of a new world ushered in by Christ. Today, I join with Daniel, John and the Pilgrims in dreaming of a new world built not on fear but on hope. A hope that is built on the love that Christ modeled.

As I consider this great nation, I consider another great American, a visionary who had a dream, Martin Luther King. He too, like Daniel and John had a dream for a new way of living. As I consider our time and our future, like Martin Luther King like John and like Daniel, I too have a vision and a dream for the future. As I consider the current issues of racial violence in this nation and the acts of terrorism around the world, I have a dream that one day all people, regardless of race or religion will one day know within their heart, truly know to the depth of their being, that they are a child of God. And if they know this of themselves, then they will recognize it in their sister or brother, be they black, white or brown, Christian, Moslem or Jew. And once they recognize the holy in the other then violence toward the stranger will cease.

I have a dream, that one day Progressive and Conservative Christians will join with our Muslim sisters and brothers to proclaim a message of hope so that no one will ever grow up in a time and age where there is no hope. To this end, I recall a very wise retired army general who after the events of 9/11 remarked that there will be no peace until someday we figure out why it is that young men in the Middle East are growing up without hope. Now we must add young men in Belgium and France, and dare I say in Toledo, are growing up without hope.

I have a dream that one day, no one will live in fear, that fear will have no power over them. My dream, my life’s work is to build a world that is grounded in hope. This is my dream. Like the Pilgrims before us, I invite you along on this journey to a new world, a world where fear has no power over us, a world full of hope and light.

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