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“Fear or Hope?”

Sermon: “Fear or Hope?”

Rev. Glenn G. Grant

Kirkridge Presbyterian Church

Transcription from March 2, 2022-Ash Wednesday

Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.

When I was preparing for tonight's message. I had absolutely no idea what would be going on in the news. And yet you listened to that passage from Joel and pair that with our news reports right now. And it seems like it could have been written to us today.

But is the passage, a passage of judgment and something to be afraid of, or is it a passage that should promise us hope? And that is something that I want us to focus on throughout lent is turning fear into hope. Over the last few years, we've had a lot to fear. We've had Coronavirus, we have invasions, we have people turning against people and unfriending people because they have a difference of opinion.

And it's nothing, but what seems to be evil divisions that are creeping in, and the message from our reading this evening is that God wants us to tear our hearts and not our clothing. To open our hearts up to God's will and to God's word, to restore who we are in God's sight. Now notice it doesn't say that God's going to restore us.

It says that we need to restore who we are in God's sight. And there is something about all of this that if you watch the news reports, there is a lot of fear, but by the same token, there is also hope. When you see the interviews with the people of Ukraine. They're afraid of what's coming, but none of them, none of them are saying that they don't have hope for Ukraine's future.

They all say that this will not end. that their hope will continue on, that they as Ukrainian people will continue. In a way that is something that we all need to think about. Just driving up here this evening on NPR, they were doing a story of the writer who has had multiple health issues going on in their life. One of which was a very severe concussion. It left her with symptoms for over two and a half years. Until she finally got into a program. I think it was at the university of Southern California medical center, where she got a therapist who told her that instead of running from the things that were the triggers for her symptoms that she needed to go towards them. And when she started to do that, the symptoms abated.

Now think about that and what it means for us. If we, instead of running from things that people tell us, we're supposed to be afraid of. If we go towards them, if we go toward the, and we have because then we feel like we are doing something positive. As long as you're running from things you're going in a negative direction. But when we start going towards the thing that we're told, we're supposed to be afraid of, then we have hope. And that is exactly what Joel was trying to tell.

The people of Israel are instead of running from the day of judgment, turn and run towards God, go towards God and you'll have hope.

Our Introit this morning create in me a clean heart. O, God. Also, our call to worship comes right out of the songs, create in me a clean heart, O God, you know, we, we ask God to do that and we ask God to restore our salvation, but in reality, God can only give us what we need to do the job ourselves.

God can only do or can only give us the tools to do the job ourselves. We are the ones that have to do the work to restore our relationship with God. We are the ones that have to create our clean hearts in ourselves. Yes. With God's help, we're the ones that have to do the work. You know It's one thing to say, you know, uh, it's really bad to just totally see someone as not worthwhile because they don't agree with you. It's another to say, you know what? I don't agree with them. They don't agree with me, but they're still one of God's children just as I think I am.

You see, one is expecting the other to do all the work and the other is working on yourself.

So in all of these times, every time you hear someone saying something really bad about someone else, think about it. And what in yourself do you have to work on to create a clean heart What do you have to work on in yourself? Lent is a time when we are to reflect and restore and turn back towards God. It's a period of repentance and repentance means turning back towards God.

So let us think about all those things that cause us to turn away from God. And as you’ll see if you go through our daily devotionals, you'll find frequently that I remind you that the word that we translate most often as fear in the scriptures at the time, those were written means awe. Don't stand in awe of those who can do bodily harm, stand in awe of the one who can make you.

No, there's, that's a big difference from being afraid or fearing in our current understanding of the word. So what does it take for us to turn or turn back to God, work to restore our own clean hearts, and stand in awe of God. And when we, as we discover those things, then we start realizing that all of those things that we're afraid of really are signs of hope, really are signs of hope.

And that's a hard thing to get past sometimes. Because it's really hard when someone is threatening you. It's really hard to look at that and see it as a sign of hope. How was that hope? How was that hope? Hope is in how we respond. The hope was in how we let that determine our actions, who we are, what we're going to do in response.

So create in us a clean heart O God. Renew a right spirit within us renew that hope, that seems to have been lost over the last couple of years in the last couple of weeks, restore that hope that is promised to us in Christ, restore that hope that this whole season is all about. If it's not about hope, then what difference does the crucifixion and resurrection make?

So create in us a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within us. And the first action to make that happen is to admit that there are things in ourselves that we need to correct. That's what repentance is. Admitting to ourselves, that there are things that we need to correct that we need to make right. And that's why in the church, we take the symbol of mourning, ashes, ashes. That thing that for thousands of years long before Christ ever came to this earth. Ashes have always been a sign of mourning what has been instead of what should have been and is a sign of repentance. Remember Job dressed in sackcloth with ashes.

It goes back thousands of years. And so we take those ashes as a sign of doing away, it's what is left of what we need to do away within our life. And when we mark ourselves with ashes, it is a sign that we are attempting to start that path to renewal, to repentance, to restoring a clean heart. And it's a self-fulfilling act.

No one can do it for you. It's something each and every one of us has to choose to do on our own, even though we started in corporate activity.

So as you come forward in a little bit, I'm going to invite you to come forward and take ashes and you'll have an opportunity either to actually take ashes themselves and put them on your forehead or the back of your hand. Or are there pieces of fabric here with Ash crosses on them, that you can take. Which way you choose is up to you.

But when you come to do it, do it because it is the beginning of your work to restore a clean heart. And that process then culminates when we get to celebrate. The resurrection together. Amen.

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