Psalm 103 & 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
January 22, 2017
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about hope and healing.
One of my favorite writers is the late Maya Angelou. You have likely heard her poem “Human Family” in the recent Apple commercial. It goes:
I note the obvious difference
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.
Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.
The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.
I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.
I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.
Mirror twins are different
although their features jive,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.
We love and lose in China,
we weep on England's moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.
We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.
I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
Another great quote of hers is: “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’…There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” ~Maya Angelou
Love. Our Psalm this morning is a hymn of praise and might have been sung as a song of thanksgiving by one who has been helped by God. It speaks of God’s steadfast love for us.
But what does it mean to love yourself?
Might it be a contentment in your soul, in your own being? A deep peace within ourselves? God has steadfast love for us; God’s love will never let go of us. God’s love for you and me is a deep love that goes deeper than any of our earthly relationships can imagine. I believe that it is through God’s steadfast love for us that we are able to love ourselves.
Yet, loving ourselves can be hard and often much of our pain comes out of a lack of self-love.
God forgives our iniquities and diseases, God is merciful, slow to anger and compassionate towards us, so why do we not treat ourselves the same?
If God, who created us out of dust, who breathed life into our very being, can love us unconditionally and love us through all our flaws and imperfections then why can’t we?
Why do we hold ourselves back?
Why do we hold onto past mistakes, past failures and insecurities?
We do it because we do not love ourselves and are unable to see even just a glimmer of hope.
Just prior going down to the soup kitchen on Wednesday night I had spent 15 or 20 minutes listening to a woman and how she had no hope. She had no hope of getting out from under the dark cloud that is homelessness. She said once you are sucked in there is no way out.
Still holding on to the weight of that conversation and feeling her sense of hopelessness, I walked down the dark dingy stairs to the basement where the soup kitchen is held. Everything seemed brown and dark that night. Even though there were light green and yellow round table cloths covering the 12 tables, and a smattering of Christmas decorations still adorned the hall. The hall had a slight smell stale alcohol, an overpowering smell of dirty clothes, and the taste of destitute.
I sat at one of the round tables and wondered “where is the hope here?”
We hear and use the word hope a lot. I hope you get better. I hope the weather cooperates. I hope for a brighter future. Hope. But what is hope? In Hebrews 6:18-20 we are told to “Seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus is a forerunner on our behalf.”
The anchor symbol for hope in this passage has no scriptural basis but was common in Greco-Roman culture, just as we too are familiar with anchors today. Anchors are a stronghold for a boat. They are dropped down to hold a boat in place. In the same way, “hope provides present stability and assurance in the storms of life in that it follow Jesus.”
Hope is not some pie in the sky wishful thinking. It is a concrete, heavy, iron clad urging and prayer. Hope requires more than just one individual. Hope is a calling out to Jesus to be our anchor and for God to calm the storm.
Hope is a powerful light. Hope can plant seeds for growth. Hope is seeing a box of matches and knowing that with one small movement you can spark a fire.
Yesterday and Friday I witnessed hope. Seeing people gather on the common, hundreds of thousands of people all standing in witness of hope for a better future. All working within our free democracy, expressing their feelings and beliefs. These individuals gave me hope. Hope that people do care, hope that we can come together and heal.
Hope is a vital step to healing.
Healing, my friends, is not curing. Being healed and being cured are two very different things. Healing is a state of peacefulness, a state of spiritual well-being. Healing starts with loving yourself, just as God loves you.
Healing is looking in the mirror and smiling, thanking God for this one wild and crazy life. Once we are able to love ourselves then we can begin the journey of healing.
To feel God’s healing grace we must also have hope. The hope and faith as Paul writes to the Philippians that “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (4:13). All things: you can love yourself, you can love your God and you can love your neighbor.
Loving and consoling each other is healing. Our scripture this morning from 2 Corinthians states: “the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4 who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”
God is here with us, consoling us, caring for us…so if we love ourselves, have hope and faith then we will know and feel God’s consoling love. This healing love we will know deep in our hearts and will witness in those around us.
We each are agents of healing. We are called to console one another in hard times and when we do, we are acting as the hand of God. Showing the love, grace, mercy and healing power of God.
Healing is a team sport. Healing starts with the self, moves to hope and faith and invites God, through other individuals into our suffering. The woman who is experiencing homelessness is lacking hope. It is my job to console her and help her find hope.
Jesus exemplified caring and consolation, he was always with people who were suffering and now the Holy Spirit is here among us and working through each of us to console those who are afflicted and healing those who are open.
We all struggle and need healing, for as Maya Angelou said “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike…We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
May you love yourself, for our God in heaven made you and knew you before you were born;
May you have even just a spark of hope and faith; and
May you receive and offer God’s consolation and healing.
 Hebrews. Victor C. Pfitzner, (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: 1997), 103.