Hope without Hype: How to Find Stability in Shifting Sands
One thing I learned from this pandemic is that we live in a world of shifting sands. I was abroad for a mission trip for a few weeks but when I returned to the United States, the country has been shut down and my church has disappeared. Of course, I am exaggerating; our church has not disappeared, but we just could not gather anymore for the time being.
The truth is things has change drastically overnight. I could not see our church members. Sophie and I could not even visit our parents. Recently, a couple of friends and relatives have passed away, but the families and friends could not attend the funeral service.
Last Thursday, I officiated a funeral of a founding members of our church. She is a lovely lady, 101 years old, with a lot of great reasons to celebrate her life, but only the closest family members and friends were able to be there with one of them holding a cellphone live-streaming the funeral for other family and friends to watch from a distance. That was sad.
The cemetery director asked me, “Is this the way we are doing funerals from now on?” My immediate answer was, “I hope not, and I am sure things will be back to normal soon.”
However, his question hits home. Don’t we all have a similar question? Will life be ever the same again? Even if it returns to normal, we might not feel the same again after experiencing a nightmare of stepping on the shifting sands once.
Hunkering down for a couple of weeks might be mentally tolerable because there was a deadline telling us that it would not be long, but it has been extended ever since. As of today, it has been over five weeks of social distancing. Our hope tends to wane as times stretches longer.
We need hope to cope. The problem is, how do we know the difference between a well-founded hope and a wishful thinking? In other words, how do we have hope without hype?
When I told the cemetery director that I am sure things will return to normal soon, did I say it will confidence or did it hype it to comfort him?
There was a couple of disciples of Jesus who felt the bottom had fallen out of their hope when Jesus was crucified. They were not part of Jesus’ inner circle—not part of the twelve disciples. They heard about the empty tomb on Easter morning, but they thought it was more hype than hope.
They were leaving Jerusalem that evening with their dying hope. Maybe they wanted some fresh air or a quiet place to mourn the tragic loss of their master. Jesus joined them on the road and restored their hope.
We can learn from this story how Jesus restore their hope without hype, how Jesus taught them to find stability in the world of shifting sands, and how to look up when the bottom fell out.
Now, let us read about this fascinating story that took place on Easter evening. It is recorded in Luke 24:13–35, which is the lection for this Third Sunday of Easter. Luke 24:13-35. Listen to the Word of the Lord.
Now on that same two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.
21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”
25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Now, let us unpack the lessons of hope from this story. I put them together using the word HOPE as an acrostic to help you easily remember these principles.
1. Humble Myself
The two disciples felt hopeless, but they were at least humble. A stranger joined them on the road, but they did not recognize it was Jesus. It could be because it was getting dark in the evening and Jesus did not reveal himself to them.
When the stranger (Jesus) rebuked them saying, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared,” they humbly listened.
Humility is the foundation of hope because when I am humble, I acknowledge I don’t know everything. When I am humble, I don’t try to control everything. When I am humble, I am curious about how things will turn out.
Our anxiety rises when we think we know everything, so when things are happening against our knowledge, we think it is a hopeless situation.
We become depressed when we feel things are out of our control, but we forget that we cannot control the shifting sands.
We would miss a chance to see the light at the end of the tunnel when we lost the childlike curiosity that comes from humility.
When we are humble, we can maintain our sense of humor. Humility, humor, and human, came from the same Latin root word “humus.” A humble man can laugh at himself. We need some laughter to be human. Losing a good sense of humor is a sign of losing hope.
Jesus said we must be like children, or else we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Children are humble, they are humorous, they are full of hope.
So, let’s humble ourselves and heed what Jesus has to say.
2. Observe the Scriptures
The Bible says, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:27).
The Bible is the book of hope. Jesus was pointing out that the reason they lost hope was because they lack the knowledge of the Bible. Had they studied the Bible carefully, they would not be surprised by what happened.
They would not have doubted when the women and the other disciples told them about the empty tomb and the message from the angel.
As for us now, things such as the pandemic is expected to happen. Jesus said in Matthew 24, when the disciples asked him what to expect before the second coming of Christ:
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” (Mat 24:6-7 NKJV).
The reason I quoted from NKJV is because it included the word pestilence. Other translations put pestilences in the side notes or end notes because some ancient manuscripts mentioned it and others did not.
Pestilences mean deadly diseases such as epidemics, pandemics, and plagues, including what we are facing right now. Jesus warned us that these things are expected to happen.
Let’s pay attention to the second sentence, “See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” Jesus was saying, “Make sure you don’t get frightened by these problems. You must maintain peace.” Peace was the topic of last week’s message, and you can review it from the website if you need to.
Then he said, “for all these things must come to pass.” I like this expression, “must come to pass.” This is good news sentence. The pandemic will not come to stay. It will come to pass. So, don’t let your heart be troubled and don’t let your mind be affected by it.
Observe the scriptures and you will find that all evil will come to pass, and Jesus will write the last chapter of the universe.
Jesus did not reveal himself to these disciples because he wanted them to have a more mature faith. Just as he said to the doubting Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).
Touching Jesus’ scars gives us only a small picture of God, but observing the scriptures gives us a huge picture of thousands of years of God’s grand scheme of things.
3. Provide Hospitality
The Bible says,
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:28-31).
It says the two disciples urged the stranger “strongly” to stay with them. They enthusiastically provided hospitality even thought they themselves were travellers.
We must remember that hospitality is a hidden commandment in the Bible. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was burnt down because they violated the hospitality code. When Jesus sent out the disciples to the villages to heal and to share the good news, he said that those villages that did not provide hospitality will suffer worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.
I know, it is almost impossible to provide hospitality when we are social distancing. However, hospitality can be done in many ways.
For example, this week, our Session has approved a donation of $15,000 to the local COVID-19 relief fund in partnership with Paramus Rotary.
We will provide PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) where needed. We will provide meals to the healthcare workers and frontline responders who are being fed poorly at certain places, such as the veterans’ homes, that we have been told.
We will provide food and other necessities for the women’s shelter that have been in short supply.
When you provide hospitality, you will end up entertaining angles. In the Old Testament, when Abraham invited the three travelers to his tent and provided them hospitality, they turned out to be the Lord himself with two angles.
Just imagine how happy these two disciples were when they discovered their guest was their master, Jesus Christ, himself when he broke the bread with them.
Provide hospitality and you will end up entertaining angels who deliver hope to you making you realize that God is at work.
You might even end up entertaining the Lord himself. At this time of social distancing, don’t you want to dine with Christ?
Remember this hidden commandment of hospitality. You will be blessed for providing it.
4. Evangelize Hope
The two disciples did not just keep the good news to themselves. The Bible says,
They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Their hearts were burning by the enlightenment and the opportunity to dine with the risen Lord. It was late at night, but they could not contain themselves but got up and returned to Jerusalem to tell the good news—to evangelize hope. Then they heard that the Lord had appeared to Simon as well.
When you evangelize hope, you hear more hope because the Lord of hope does not just appear to you. You will hear more good news when you share the good news. It is like burning coals kindle up one another.
As I share my word of hope with the cemetery director, both the funeral home staff and cemetery stuff attested that they have not seen an unusual increase of deaths so far. The number of deaths is within the average of the previous years.
See, their information gave me hope in return. The pandemic we are facing may not be so bad after all, at least not as bad as it was predicted. Maybe our social distancing has been overdone. Maybe there is too much undue fear.
We must, of course, listen to the authorities, and follow the laws and guidelines. At the same time, we must also share good news based on facts.
So, go and evangelize hope. The word “evangelize” came from the same root word as “angle.” You are an angle when you evangelize hope.
So, there you have it. The secret of HOPE:
• Humble Myself
• Observe the Scriptures
• Provide Hospitality
• Evangelize Hope
Let us practice these principles to maintain hope without hype.
May God bless you all!