All Saints
Christ The King

Books of the Bible
Lenten Series
Christmas Dramas


Series A - Matthew
Series B - Mark
Series C - Luke
Series D - Other

To contact
Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Abounding in Hope

Advent 2A    Romans 15:4-13    

The basis of the sermon for today is one verse from the epistle lesson. From the Apostle Paul and Romans 15: 13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.”  May you be filled with hope, overflowing with hope, abounding with hope.”

When I was a young man growing up in high school, I thought that I was quite a basketball star. I used to play on our local high school basketball team called the Jackson Blue Jays. Now, our team had a fabulous record the year that I was a senior. We were 24-3, and I was known, so I thought, as the “defensive tiger” of the team. I thought that I could play defense like nobody else. If there was a hotshot on the other team, I was the one who guarded him. I thought that I was the defensive star of our team, at least, so my girlfriend would tell me. Well, full of such shallow confidence, after our fabulous record that year, I went onto college and decided to go out for freshman basketball. I made all the cuts and I was doing pretty well, and I got to play occasionally on the freshman team. But something started to happen inside of me. I thought that I wasn’t quite good enough, that I couldn’t shoot as well as the other fellows, and that I wasn’t as tall or fast as they were. I started to lose my confidence and started to think, “Ah, there is no hope for me in the future. I can make the freshman team, but when it comes to the varsity, I don’t have a chance. I am not good enough.” And so, I quit. Now, I don’t recall telling my parents that I quit. I don’t recall telling my old girlfriend that I quit. I don’t recall telling the coach that I quite. But I do remember telling my older brother Lee, my hero, that I quit. I remember his words to me from so many decades ago, “Eddie, you are a quitter. You are a quitter because you could have made the team.”  What my big, hero brother said to me stung. His words stung because down deep inside I thought his words were true. Those words, instantly spoken in one moment, stayed with me for the rest of my life. I never wanted to be called a “quitter” again. No matter in what circumstance I find myself as a human being, I don’t want anybody to say of me, “That man is a quitter.” But I must admit that every time I went to a college basketball game at my alma mater, I felt a little sorry inside because I knew that I quit … too soon. I sensed inside that I could have made the team, but I had given up hope. You see, I quit … too soon.

There is a book by Victor Frankl, the Viennese psychiatrist, from the last generation. His book is entitled, FROM DEATHCAMP TO EXISTENTIALISM, and he tells of his life in the death camps and concentration camps of Germany during World War II. For those prisoners in those death camps, it was awful. Rats, freezing weather and freezing rain, and freezing fingers and freezing toes, freezing warehouses and freezing outhouses, and  beatings from the guards. The only hope for the prisoners, according to Victor Frankl, was for the Allied forces to come and set them free. And for some unknown reason, that hope became connected with Christmas. The prisoners in one particular camp started to believe that freedom was going to come on Christmas. And so these prisoners clung to life. They struggled with their freezing feet and freezing toes and freezing hands. They struggled with their frost bitten bodies. Why? Because they had hope. They had hope. They were waiting for Christmas. They were waiting for freedom. They were waiting for release. And finally, Christmas Day came. And. Went again. There were no Allies. There was no release. There was no freedom. And there was no hope fulfilled. Immediately, on the days afterwards, before the New Year came around, slowly, one at a time, there was first one suicide. Then two suicides. Then three suicides. Pretty soon, people were sleeping through meals and sleeping through exercises and many people were slipping into their deaths. And by New Year’s Eve, many from this camp had died. Six months later, when the Allied forces finally did come to bring freedom to this concentration camp, half of the prisoners had died. Most them them died during that Christmas season, after Christmas Day. Many of them had died because … of the loss of hope. They had given up … too soon.

Like many of us, we quit to soon. Like me on a basketball team, we quit too soon.

Many people today are talking about a new era in Western civilization, a new era of despair, giving up, of hopelessness. A large segment of the human race has begun to give up hope. People’s confidence in shaping their futures has been eroded. Prior to this time, that is, from 1850-1950, that was the century of hope. Those were the decades of hope. We built the steam engine, the railroad, the car, the airplane, the rocket, and medicines were created and hopes were high and the frontiers of America were being broken. Those were the good year of progress, the good years of self confidence, the good years of the future. Those were the years that we knew that we could solve the problems of the future. Even the Civil War and World War I and World War II did not damper this “promethean attitude” that we can conquer any problem that lies before us. … But not today. We live in a new era, with a new sense of despair, a new sense of hopelessness, where we are not so sure that we can solve those major global problems.

Hopelessness? Tell me, how are we going to feed eight billion people? The world’s population has doubled from two billion to four billion people in the past twenty years, and we know that at the same rate of growth, that the world population will be six to eight billion in a few years. And many people feel hopeless. They throw up their hands and want to quit and say to themselves, “Who can stop it? There will be billions of starving bodies in twenty years. Who can feed them?”

Hopelessness?  Do you feel confident that you can stop the arms race that is spiraling into nuclear proliferation? Who doesn’t have the nuclear bomb? Israel has the bomb. China has the bomb. India has the bomb. Pakistan has the bomb. People are selling bomb equipment on the black market. So many nations have the bomb, and although the fears have lessened of nuclear incineration of much of the globe, we sense that the world has a date with nuclear destruction. Albert Einstein said that we have a date with our nuclear destiny. There is that sinking feeling that we can do nothing about it. What can you do to stop the sale of all those arms to Third World countries who do not have enough money to feed their own people but enough money to buy expensive military equipment? Do you feel that you can stop the spiraling of weapons throughout the globe?

Hopelessness? Teenage suicide. The number one killer of teenagers today in the Western world is suicide. Teenage suicide is growing at an alarming rate. Teenagers, of all people, being filled with hopelessness. Teenagers, of all people, having the feeling that the future is not worth living for. We have a new teenage disease abroad today and it is called hopelessness. It translates into suicide among teenagers, a group of youth who are supposed be imbued with hope.

Hopelessness? How do you feel about the tide of divorces that are sweeping our nation? How do you feel about this national epidemic of divorce? So many of our friends and your friends are getting divorces after ten, twenty, thirty, and forty years of marriage, and couples feel that there is a hopelessness for them. That there is nothing that they can do to improve their relationship. That there is not hope for change. That there is no hope for significant change. Tell me, now that 50-70% children born today here in America will not be raised with their original brothers and sisters, what can we do to stop the spiraling divorce rate? What can we do to stop the tide of divorces in our society?

Is ours an age of unbridled optimism? Do people sense that they have within themselves the abilities and resources to solve the problems facing the world? Do we have powers within us to stop the population bomb, the escalation of militarism, the spiraling divorce rate? Do you feel real confident about stopping these issues? Is ours the age of the god of Prometheus, the god of progress? No. Ours is the age of Sisyphus, the god of futility, the god of despair, the god of “we can’t do anything about it.”  Ours is the age of hopelessness, and we have the attitude, “I quit. I give up. I can’t do anything about it, so I quit.”  Perhaps we quit too soon.

The sign above the entrance to Dante’s hell says, “Abandon hope all you who enter here.” For Dante, hell is a place with no hope. Enter hell and give up hope. That is what it is to enter hell. To enter hell is to give up hope.

It is with this mood that we approach the book of Romans and we hear those words from Romans which say, “May the God of hope give you joy and peace in believing that you will be filled with hope, that you will be abounding with hope, that you will be overflowing with hope for the future.”

What do these words mean for you? What does it mean for you to be abounding in hope? Flowing over with hope? Being filled with hope for the future? What does that mean for you?

In the Book of Hebrews, we hear God’s Word which says, “With strong encouragement, seize the hope set before us.” In First Peter, God says, “We have been born to a new and living hope through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the prophet Zechariah, God says, “Return to God, you prisoners of hope.” You are imprisoned by the hope of God.

What does it mean for you today when the Apostle Paul writes, “May the God of hope give you joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope?”

The Biblical word, “hope,” means to trust that God’s future is for us. Faith means to trust in God in the here and now; but hope means to trust in God’s future. To realize that God is in control of all of future history and is in control of your personal history. To realize that God will not desert us in the decades, the centuries and the millenniums ahead of us. That whether our future means death or divorce, separation, moving or joblessness, or whether our future means marriage, babies, new homes and new jobs, no matter what, our future belongs to God. That God in his power and purpose will not desert us in the days that lie ahead.

I ask you all a question: Has God taken care of you in the past? When life has been really crummy? When life has been very difficult? Every one of you has had very difficult experiences in the past. Has God taken care of you in the past?

Has God taken care of you today? Is God taking care of you at this very moment today? And some of you are in great pain? Some of you are living in tumultuous marriages and is God taking care of you? Some of you are dying and is God taking care of you right now?

Well, if God has so faithfully taken care of you in the past….and if God is so faithfully taking care of you in the present, certainly, will not God take care of you in the future?

Of course, God will.

So we are absolutely convinced of the power of hope. We abound with hope. We are filled with hope. We are overflowing with hope that the God who has taken care of us in the past and today will indeed take care of us in the future. Therefore, we are not afraid. We are not afraid of the future, no matter what the future may bring. We know that the God of our past is also the God of our future. 

What does it mean for you that the God of hope will give you joy and peace in believing and that you will abound with hope? What does that mean for you?

It means that God gives us the resources, the internal powers, to live with all circumstances of life. I love that passage from Ephesians where the Apostle Paul says, “The same power that raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, that same power is inside of you,” allowing and enabling you to do things that you never thought were possible. The same great power that raised Jesus from the dead is inside of you. This power inside of you gives you a driving hope to make the future a better place, to make your future a better place.

Let me give you examples of people who have a passionate hope for the future. My first example is Dr. Bill Foege. He is a physician who graduated from Pacific Lutheran University and he was head of Disease Control for the United States government. His job was located in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Bill Foege and his partners agreed that they were going to erase small pox from the face of the earth. Small pox. Theirs was a driving hope. And they didn’t quit. They didn’t give up. They didn’t crack, but they persisted. And today, there is not one case of small pox any place on earth. Why? Because certain people had a passionate hope, a driving hope. They believed in the future and they believed that God would help them in the future.

A second example. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a hope for racial equality. He had a hope that blacks and whites could sit together in the front of the bus. He had hopes that blacks and whites could eat together in the same restaurant. He had hopes that blacks and whites could intermarry. He had hopes that blacks and whites could be part of the same society. He didn’t quit. He didn’t give up too soon. He didn’t say, “O, this is impossible.” O no, not at all. He paid the price with his life. And today, because of that driving hope, life in the United States is so much healthier because of racial integration and because he believed in his dream. 

Third example. Her name was Anne Sullivan. Anne Sullivan was her name and she had a driving hope that a young girl by the name of Helen Keller who was deaf and blind would be able to read, write and communicate. Anne Sullivan had a driving hope to take this little monster of a girl in Helen Keller, this little spoiled brat, this little undisciplined little girl, that Anne Sullivan was going to teach her to read, write and communicate. Anne Sullivan did not give up hope. She didn’t quit. She didn’t give up hope and say, “This is an impossible job. This is an impossible task.” No, not at all. And now, Helen Keller has become indeed a legend.

What I am saying is that we Christians have a driving hope. We have a living hope. We have a hope for God’s reign of justice, love and peace for this big world of the earth. We also have a hope for God’s reign of justice, love and peace in this little personal world of ours.

I love what Soren Kirkegaard, the great Danish philosopher, said about hope. Kirkegaard’s definition of hope was “hope is the passion for the possible.” Hope is the passion for the possible.

Bill Foege had a passion that smallpox would be eliminated from the earth. Martin Luther King Jr. had a passion that blacks and whites would live together as equals in our society. Anne Sullivan had a passion that young Helen Keller would learn to read, write and communicate. Theirs was a passion for the possible and it happened.

Don’t quit too soon. Don’t give up hope too soon. I have known many men and women in our congregation who have not given up hope, that their marriages could be restored. I know all kinds of men and women in our congregation who did not give up hope. I know all kinds of parents in our parish who did not give up hope on their kids. When their kids were all strung out on drugs and were rebellious and surely, these parents did not give up hope for the possible. I know mothers and fathers who have not given up hope on a child become an adult who has wandered away from Jesus Christ and is no longer walking with Jesus Christ. These parents do not give up hope on their children? Why? Because of a God given hope.

When the God of hope lives inside of you, God gives you peace and joy in believing, and we abound in hope.  We are filled with hope, we are overflowing with hope, we are imbued with hope. Why? Well, that’s just the way God’s people are.

In the earlier service today, there was a man here from the Philippines. Dave Head, a member of our congregation who works on occasion with World Bank, was over in the Philippines, and he was trying to help restructure their Department of Agriculture. A friend of David’s from the Philippines was sitting here during the first service, and he asked me to say something about Mrs. Aquino, the great president of the Philippines. He told me that she had a passionate hope that the Philippines would be a democracy, that there would be a restoration of a solid government in that country, that it was not easy for her. Her husband was killed. Her family was injured. There were all kinds of pressures on her. But that little lady, a great lady and devout Roman Catholic, she didn’t give up hope. She didn’t give up faith. She had a hope, a driving and passionate hope, that a just society could be established in the Philippines. That is what a man from the Philippines told me after the previous worship service. 

That is the way it is for those of us who are prisoners of hope, using a phrase from the prophet Zechariah.

We Christians are people who have hope, hope for this world but also hope for the next world. We have the absolute sure and certain hope of eternal life.

Let me tell you a story. I went over to see Rueb Goetz this past week. He was supposed to come home from the hospital on Monday. He had a quadruple by-pass. Rueb was told that it was possible that he could die during a particular test before his by-pass surgery, but his doctor assured him that he thought the test would be safe. But in the process, Rueb’s heart stopped and they had to pump his chest and shock his heart and Rueb came back to life. The doctor then said that he was going to change Rueb’s medication and then Rueb would take the same test the next day. Rueb was thinking about that and was very apprehensive. Rueben went through that test with flying colors. But whether Rueben would have lived or died, Rueb knew that his future was assured. That is what he told me. We have a sure and certain hope that today we will be in paradise with God, whether we live or die in an exacting test or in surgery or anyplace else.

By far the greatest hope that God has ever given to us is that glorious promise that we shall live with him for all eternity. We live with that sure and certain hope of the resurrection.

We Christians have hope: hope for our future in this world here on earth and hope for our future in the next world in heaven.

I ask you a personal question: what does it mean for you when you hear the words, “May the God of hope give you joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, be filled with hope, be overflowing with hope for the future?” What do these words mean for you in your situation today? Amen.

Back to Top