Imagining Hope-filled Futures

on readings for January 23, 2022, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, C

Opening Prayer

Hearer of All

You hear the jubilation

Of the happy-hearted,

And the questioning

Of the confused seeker.

You hear the shout

Of the angry one

And the last sigh

Of the dying.

The ear of your heart

 Is always open to us.

Joyce Rupp, Fragments of Your Ancient Name, April 8

Opening question for sharing:

Where or when did you find sudden hope after despair?  Share only what you are comfortable talking about.

Scripture:

Luke 4:14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

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, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Background of the Gospel:

The writer of “second Isaiah,” the 2nd of probably two or three writers of the book of Isaiah, was writing to the people of Israel after most of them had been deported to Babylon after their country had been defeated.  They were enslaved, in a land of plenty, but having little or nothing.  The gods of Babylon seemed more powerful than the God of Israel.  They despaired.

The writer of 2nd Isaiah was proclaiming hope that the people would some day return to their homeland and to the place where they used to worship their God.  The writings were a glimmer of hope in a great darkness for these people.

In addition, there was in the message of Isaiah, a call for the entire people of Israel to stay with their God and become the light and hope of others.

Christians believe that Jesus was announcing himself as the bearer of this hope, this healing, this light from God.

(from Elizabeth Johnson’s book Creation and The Cross)

Meditation

(Use Relaxation talk)

Is there darkness or despair in your life right now?  Imagine solutions, surprising solutions to those troubles.  Think quite concretely.  What would ease the problem or problems for you?  You don’t need to know how the solution might happen.  You just need to picture a dawning of light and hope easing or even erasing the burdens you might feel right now.  Use all five senses in imagination to picture an answer to the problems, the despair or the burdens you feel right now.  What would it look like, taste like, feel, smell, and sound like?  Take your time to imagine miraculous easing of troubles, erasing of problems, joy overtaking despair.

          Towards the end of your imagining, have a conversation with God about what you’ve imagined.  What do you hear back from God the Father/Mother, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?  See if a thought, an insight, a memory, an image, a phrase, a desire, or a feeling comes to you.

Here are some thoughts on hope by other authors which might help you hang on to your image of the solving or erasing of your problems.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Emily Dickinson

Hope is the source and spring of all the alchemies of transformation, the greatest treasure of the heart and mind, the philosopher’s stone that transmutes agony and tragedy into new life. Never abandon hope, or you abandon your closest and most helpful guide, the Friend.

~ Rumi

Spirit of Holiness

Startle us anew with Your presence

That we may hear the melody of Your grace

Its promise to make all things new

For in each passing moment

Miracles are yet to be realized

Bringing hope from despair

Healing from life’s dispiriting moments.

Rev. Dr. Raymond Hearn

Closing Prayers

Spirit of Holiness,

Enter our loneliness,

Speak to us in recreating ways.

That our lost dreams may be found,

In our defeats, seeds of new birth.

 In our remorse, comfort,

In our wounds, healing,

In our sorrow, joy,

In our turmoil, peace.

Spirit of Holiness

Enter our lives with Your presence,

Overcoming our lostness,

Complacency,

Uncertainty.

Spirit of Holiness,

Empower us for the journey ahead.

Be our companion,

Our source of peace, comfort and healing,

Speaking to us in new and recreating ways.

Rev. Dr. Raymond Hearn, Reaching Toward Infinite Light

Today

Let me live today.

Let me be open to the miracle of this day.

Let me breathe the best of today.

Let me not miss the heart of today.

Let me find the gift of today,

 hidden like a jewel in rubble of care, duty, and detail.

Let me pause to hear

 the steady beat of the heart of God –

 hoping, aching, sorrowing, expectant, patient, despairing heart of God.

Listen, listen.

Do you hear it?

Ever so faint but steady, steady,

 rhythmic organ, strong muscle,

 thumping, beating, pumping, sustaining, encompassing,

 wildly dancing heart of God.

Let me live this day, aware, open, listening, breathing, alive.

The Reverend Virginia Going

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