Pastor Tom Sorenson
May 5, 2002

Scripture:

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

      As Christians we have a hope. We have a hope that the world cannot give us. Indeed, we have a hope that the world cannot understand. The author of the letter known as 1 Peter told the first century Christians to whom he was writing, and he tells us across the centuries, to be prepared always to give a defense of that hope that is in us to anyone who demands an accounting of us. So this morning, in this brief communion meditation, let me try to do that. What is the reason for the hope that is in us? How do we know that our hope is not in vain?

      Before we can answer that question I think we have to understand clearly just what the hope that is in us is. Just what is it that we are defending? It is, I think, most basically the hope, that in the faithful rises to the level of knowledge, that Godís loving presence is with us always, in this life and beyond this life. It is, in other words, the hope that in and through Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior, we are reconciled to God and to one another now and for all eternity. It is the hope, the faith, indeed the knowledge that God does not abandon us even in our darkest hours, indeed even in our death.

      So what is our reason for the hope? How can we explain to the world how we can continue to live in that hope that seems to the worldís jaded eyes to be not wisdom but foolishness? Our defense consists, I think, of at least these things. First, we know that our hope is justified because when we live in that hope we find meaning in our lives and strength to face whatever life brings, because once we experience the life of faith we canít imagine living without it. Living in Christian hope is for us the only way to live. Our experience of faith shows us that our hope is grounded in the reality of Godís love.

      And then we have the testimony of Scripture. Todayís passage from John is a particularly good example of how Scripture gives us hope. This passage comes near the beginning of a long talk that Jesus gives to his disciples on the night of his arrest. Here, Jesus knows that he is about to be handed over to the authorities, who certainly will have him killed for preaching Godís truth so faithfully. He knows that his followers will feel abandoned, will feel lost without him. And so he promises them, and he promises us, that his death is not the end of his presence, and of Godís presence, with us. He tells them, and he tells us, that he will send us another "Advocate" to be with us forever. The word translated in our reading this morning as Advocate can also mean Helper or Comforter. This is Christís promise to us of the unending presence with us of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit is the presence of God. And it is the presence of Jesus Christ continuing in the world after his departure from the world. Holy Scripture promises us Godís continuing presence with us, and on that promise our hope is founded.

      And we know that our hope is justified because we have the sacraments of the church. This morning we celebrate the Eucharist, Holy Communion, the ancient sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. Now, it is possible to get really theological about this sacrament, to talk in highly technical and obscure language about what it is and how it works. Some of you who are getting to know me better are probably afraid right now that Iím about to start doing that. Fear not. I once heard a Catholic priest do that in a homily to a church full of seven year olds taking their first Communion. I know you arenít seven year olds, but Iím still not about to make that mistake here. I suspect that most of you know better than I do that none of that matters. What the sacrament is and how it works remains in any event ultimately a mystery, one of the great, life-giving mysteries of the Christian faith. What matters is just this, that we know that in this sacrament we experience and participate in the real presence of Jesus Christ alive and present among us here, this morning, in this beautiful little corner of Godís vast creation. This sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace. Through the created elements of bread and wine we participate in the continuing presence with us Jesus Christ, Godís only begotten Son.

      Friends, sometimes when I participate in this sacrament the knowledge of what we do here nearly overwhelms me. My sense of Christís real presence in the sacrament, of Christís giving to me here through this sacrament an infinite grace of which I feel so unworthy, sometimes makes it almost impossible for me actually to take the elements. And yet, I know that God gives us that holy presence, that infinite grace, as Godís free gift and that God really wants us to have it. In this sacrament the reality of Godís continuing presence with us is so strong, so overwhelming, that there is, at least for that brief moment of participation, no doubt that our hope is justified. Our hope for today and for eternal life is grounded on Godís continuing presence with us, and it is in this sacrament of Communion that we receive and feel that presence in the most intimate and powerful way.

      So in our sacrament this morning let us enter deeply and prayerfully into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. For when all is said and done, His abiding and unfailing presence with us is the reason for our hope. Amen.