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 20. Prayer for the New Community

Read: Colossians 1:9-14 9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord,...

Day 19. A New Community

Read: Colossians 1:1-8 1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the...

Day 18. Empowered to Speak

Read: Acts 2:36-42 …Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what...

Day 17. Commissioned to Speak

Read: Acts 1:6-8 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive...

Day 16.  Hope’s Foundation

Read: Luke 24:36–49[1] 36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do...

Day 15.  Hope’s Enigma

Read: Luke 23: 32–43[1] 32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When 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.  34 Then Jesus...

Day 14.  Hope and Grace (Part 2)

Read: Luke 15:25–34[1] 25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the...

Day 13.  Hope and Grace (Part 1)

Read: Luke 15:11–24[1] 11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son...

Day 12.  Hope’s Key

Read: Luke 9:18–27[1] 18 Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20...

Day 11.  Promise and Fulfillment

Read: Luke 4:16–21[1] 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place...

Day 10.  Another Promise Fulfilled

Read: Luke 2:8–14[1] 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to...

Day 9.  Great Expectations

Read: Luke 1:26–38[1] 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings,...

Day 8.  A Promise Fulfilled

Read: Matthew 1:18–25 18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and...

Day 7.  Hope’s Dream: The Glory to Come

Read: Isaiah 60:1–12 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 3 Nations shall come...

Day 6. Hope’s Comfort: Restoration

Read: Isaiah 40 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries out: “In the...

Day 4.  Hope’s Seal: Covenant

Read: Exodus 24:1–18 1Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship at a distance. 2 Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not...

Day 3.  Hope’s New Dawn: The Promise

Read: Genesis 12:1–3 1Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I...

Day 2.  Hope Dashed: The Broken Image

Read: Genesis 3:1–7, 14–17 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the...