2016 Anglican Connection Lenten Series

by © The. Rev. John G. Mason

Reason for Hope: Finding Your Story in the Greatest Story Ever Told 

 

INTRODUCTION

Everyone loves a good story.  Millions have enjoyed J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and millions more, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The Bible has been described as ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’. Many would agree, but rarely read it or think about it. They have yet to see the depths of the epic and feel the riches of its narrative wash over them, bringing them new hope, vitality and joy.

Despite much political rhetoric, the reality is that our world is in short supply of real, substantial ‘hope’. The world, its leaders, and we ourselves are all too imperfect. Deep down we long for a better experience of life and a certainty about the future. The question is, ‘Where can we find it?’  

One of the great things about the Bible is that it offers us a hope that is supported by the evidence of history – evidence that has stood the test of time. In setting out the real state of human affairs the Bible holds out to us a hope that is real and substantial.  

But the Bible does something much more – it invites us into its narrative, beginning with the creating act of God and ending with God gathering us into a life of great beauty that stretches into eternity. It is the story of God’s action in cleaning up the mess we have made of the world and ourselves.

This series of Bible readings and reflections began as a series for the congregants of Christ Church New York City. The readings are selected from some of the peaks of the biblical narrative and, in a forty-day program, are designed to help us see our own place in God’s great story.  

The series is divided into four parts. Part 1, ‘Hope’s Promise’, introduces the grounds for hope for all men and women by exploring key chapters in the biblical narrative found in the Old Testament. Part 2, ‘Hope’s Fulfillment’, introduces us to the events surrounding the most amazing man who has ever walked on earth, showing us once and for all that God doesn’t forget his promises and that we have a very special place in His heart. Part 3, ‘Hope’s Practice’, explores the kind of life that God longs for us to live; while Part 4, ‘Hope’s Mission’, brings us to the privileged partnership we have with God in bringing others to the eternal delights and hope of his kingdom.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

In writing this series I am bringing together material I have developed over the years for sermons. In doing so I realize how much I have benefited from reading many commentaries and hearing the preaching of others, especially the good preaching that I have enjoyed in England. Inevitably ideas and phrases that I have read and heard and agreed with have become part of my own expression. To those writers and preachers, I acknowledge my debt of gratitude. My regret is that I did not always note who wrote or said what and therefore they remain unacknowledged in these pages.  

Added to my list of thanks are Brian Rumbold, my brother-in-law, who made helpful suggestions; Chelsea Schofield (neé Miller), former Research and Communication Associate, and now Susannah Black, have made constructive comments and edits. I am also grateful to Dr. Jonathan Smith who has also made helpful theological comments; thanks also are due to Ivey Rose Smith for her work in posting the material for daily access on the Anglican Connection website. Above all my thanks are due to my wife, Judy, my life-long partner and best friend. Having a natural and gifted literary flair, she has been a wonderful editor!

 © John Mason: October 2009; Revised, Lent 2016: New York City

40 Days of Spiritual Reflection

Day 40. Reason for Hope

Read: Ephesians 1:4-10 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in...

Day 39. The Foundation of All Hope: Good Friday

Read: Luke 23:39-49 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding* him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah?* Save yourself and us!’ 40But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And...

Day 38. The Assurance of Hope

Read: Luke 23:32-38 32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus* there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said,...

Day 37. Mercy and Hope

Read: Ephesians 2:1-4 1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived...

Day 35. The Example of Hope

Read: 1 Peter 2:11-12; 3:1-2 2 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your...

Day 34. The Light of Hope

Read: Matthew 5:14-16 14 Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your...

Day 33. The Prayer of Hope

Read: Matthew 9:36-38 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the...

Day 32. The Ministry of Hope

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of...

Day 31. Generous Giving

Read: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 1 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of...

Day 30. Money: A Resource for Ministry

Read: Luke 16:9-13 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10 ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very...

Day 29. Money Matters (2)

Read: Luke 12:22-34 22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow...

Day 28. Money Matters (1)

Read: Luke 12:13-21 13 Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard...

Day 27. Hope Revealed (2): Interpretation

Read: 2 Peter 1:19-21 19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all you must understand this, that...

Day 26. Hope Revealed (1): Doubts

Read: 2 Peter 1:16-18 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was...

Day 25. Transformed Relationships

Read: Colossians 3:12-17 12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has...

Day 24. Transformation

Read: Colossians 3:1-11 1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden...

Day 23. Maturity

READ: Colossians 2:6-7 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. MATURITY The Exhortation. Paul’s words...

Day 22. Growth

Read: Colossians 2:1-5 1 For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. 2 I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured...

Day 21. The King

Read: Colossians 1:15-22 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created...