There are some things that frustrate me. You know what I mean? Things just that just make me want to groan in agony.
You want to know what frustrates me? That we spend so much of our time belittling someone, because they do not look like us or share our same opinions, or they go about things in a different way than we would like. That frustrates me.
When I look at all the violence that exists in our world. When I think about the violence that exists in our streets. That frustrates me.
When I think about the drug problem in our Commonwealth. When I think about the struggles families experience trying to make ends meet or get out of debt. When I think about how families spend so much time in the rat race of schedules. That frustrates me.
When I think about the state of the church and the statistics that show the decline of Christianity in the United States. When I think about the fact that for someone to be considered an average attender in worship that they only need to be in church two times a month. When I think about the fact that people think they no longer need God or church. That frustrates me.
These are some of the groans of my heart and soul. My hunch is that we all have various groans of our soul. They may be similar to some of the groans and frustrations of my own soul. They may even be something different. We may be frustrated about something that is going on in our life. Something that we see that is not as it should be, whether in our lives, our communities, or even in our larger world.
Have you ever wondered why these things that we notice in the world frustrate us? It’s not because we find them annoying or disconcerting. It is not that we want to be left alone and be protected from these things that frustrate us. There is something deeper going on.
Our groans are a result of our recognition that the world is not as it should be. Our groans and frustrations are because we see how the world is and we know something is not right. Our frustrations show that the world is hurting and in need of hope.
It is hope that we have come to claim on this Pentecost Sunday. Today is the day we remember and celebrate the birth of the church. We mark this day as the day that the Holy Spirit breathed a new life into the sadness, fears, and concerns that the disciples experienced as they waited in the Upper Room for the Advocate that Jesus promised them. We gather today, this Pentecost Sunday, yearning for new life to be breathed into us in the midst of our groans and frustrations. We want a hope that, as Paul describes for us in Romans 8:22-27, comes with us and goes with us in our frustrations, and that allows us to live and share grace and peace with the people around us.
To desire hope, we need to understand what hope is all about. Hope is about trusting and belief. It is about seeing something that is not physically present in front of us and knowing that it is as there as anything. Hope is about believing better days are ahead of us, even to the point of our frustrations.
See, we are not alone in claiming hope. That is because we are not alone in our groaning about the world. All of creation groans with us. We like to think that it is only humanity that groans at the state of the world and experiences frustrations, but all of creation groans with us. Creation is as frustrated as we are with the state of the world, because it has been impacted by the sin of the world just as much as we have. Creation knows that the world is not as it was created to be and should be, so it groans in frustration.
But note what Paul says about these groans. He says that they are like the groans of childbirth. Groans that recognize the pain of the moment, but look forward to a better day ahead when the parents can hold that precious new life in their arms for the first time. That joy and better day takes away all the pain and agony of the present groaning.
That is similar to our groaning about the frustrations that we experience in the world. We are looking ahead to a better day. We know a better day is coming. That is because we have already experienced a taste of the better day that is to come. That taste of the better day is through our salvation in Jesus Christ’s love. His act of grace in redemption gave us the taste and the hope of the better day when all of creation – all of us – would be restored and brought back into the designs that God intended from the beginning of time. Christ’s salvation is the act of renewal for our souls and redemption of our lives. It is the promise of a new day that is coming.
We claim hope that, even in the frustrations of life, a new day is coming and a new day has already arrived. Every day we live with this tension of rejoicing in the hope of our salvation – the first fruits of Jesus’ death and resurrection – while awaiting the fuller redemption to come. We call this the here/not yet tension of God’s kingdom. It’s here, but it is still to come when all of creation is redeemed.
We live everyday in the midst of the frustrations of the world being not what it should be. We cannot run from them. We have to embrace them. How do we live in this reality waiting for the better day? We can only do it through the Holy Spirit’s leading.
The Holy Spirit comes and breathes new life into each of us. The works of the Holy Spirit are many. The Holy Spirit is the teacher who teaches us what it means to follow God’s love and Christ’s truth. The Holy Spirit is the comforter who offers God’s grace and peace in times of trouble or difficulty. The Holy Spirit comes as a defender who shields us and guides us to follow the ways of God.
One of the most important roles of the Holy Spirit is an aspect of each of these works in that the Holy Spirit comes and walks with us. The Holy Spirit enables us to live with hope even in the midst of a frustration of a world not as it should be and our lives not as we wished they were. The Holy Spirit comes and breathes into us the comfort, truth, and joy of God’s love by interceding for us and giving us the ability to express our deepest frustrations – our deepest concerns for the world – while embracing what God desires for us in the present moment.
The Holy Spirit comes and allows us to anticipate the redemption of the world when “Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.” We need the presence of the Holy Spirit and the reminder of that hope to come, because it can get lost in the moments of the day. The truth that a better day is coming can get lost when we think about the issues that plague our lives and world, and we get caught up in thinking that everything is lost and unable to be restored. Hope reminds us that nothing is too lost for God, and everything can and will be restored as God intended. The Holy Spirit comes with us and reminds us of that truth, even when it seems impossible to believe in.
Even more, and perhaps most importantly for us today, the Holy Spirit comes and enables us to be a church that lives in the “not yet” by sharing hope with our community. We are called to take the hope of a better day to the people of our neighborhoods. The Holy Spirit has breathed life into us that calls us not to keep this hope of a better day to come to ourselves, but to share it with the family grieving over the loss of a loved one, the family that is struggling to make ends meet, the single mother or father trying to find a way to provide for their children, or the person who believes there is nothing left in this world for them.
What good is our hope of a better day if we do not share this hope with the world? We have a hope, and this hope is called to be shared with the world. We might say it is too intimidating or difficult to share this hope, but the Holy Spirit will breathe into you the words and the actions to live into, just as the Holy Spirit breathed a new life into the disciples at Pentecost so many years ago. We can share hope with the world, because the Holy Spirit comes with us and teaches us how to be a people of hope.
I have hope in that I do not believe that what is present in front of us is the final story. I do not believe the frustrations that we experience on a daily basis will ever have the final victory. That is why I have hope today.
I know it is easy to give up and to think that what we see in the moment will be the way they will always be, but a better day is coming. A better day for our families, our communities, our churches, and even for people we may not even know yet. A better day of redemption, of Christ’s love being fully revealed and experienced, of lives being restored to the ways God has always intended.
We are called to claim this hope today through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit and share that hope with the people who need it. On the church’s birthday, on this Pentecost Sunday, let us go out into the world and be people of hope who, through the Holy Spirit, tell the entire world that no matter what frustrations they are experiencing today … it is not the final story.
Hope is here, and hope is on the way.