Lent #2: Abundance of Hope (with Faith Sharing)
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Today we have a faith sharing from Gioia K. She wrote it out and asked me to read it to you. I will begin with a short reflection on our Scripture passages this morning and then read Gioia's faith sharing to you.
I love talking to you all about your faith. I love learning what you are thinking and how God is moving in your hearts and what God is doing in your lives. Last week we talked about cutting something out of our lives during Lent. We talked about turning away from something so that we can turn towards Jesus. And someone came up to me after the service and said, “I know we always talk about giving something up for Lent, but can we add something to our lives during Lent?” Absolutely! We can add something to our lives during Lent that helps us turn to Jesus. So we can either give up something that prevents us from turning to Jesus or we can add something that helps us turn to Jesus. So this person who came to speak to me is going to add to their life during Lent doing something nice for others everyday. That’s a great spiritual discipline to do during Lent. And I would encourage all of you to think about what God is calling you to do. Is God calling you to give something up so that you can turn to Jesus or is God calling you to add something to your life to help you turn to Jesus?
Today I want us to think about adding something to our lives during Lent. Today I want us to think about adding hope to our lives. Jesus’ parable, that we read this morning in Matthew 20 about the Laborers in the Vineyard can be read from several different perspectives. You can read this from the perspective of those who came to work early. At the end, they feel that it’s not fair that others get the same wage that they do for less work. You can read this from the perspective of the landowner. The landowner is generous with all the laborers, and says in verse 15, “Are you envious because I am generous?” Or we can read this from the perspective of those who worked only one hour. That’s the perspective that I want to focus on today. Because this parable is a parable of hope, but we don’t recognize that unless we read this from the perspective of those who only worked one hour.
The laborers in the vineyard are day laborers, and that way of life is really difficult: it’s very stressful. Each day they go out looking for work and they don’t know if they’re going to get hired. But each one has a family at home that they are supporting and they need that day’s wage or their family will go hungry. Sometimes there aren’t enough jobs, but those day laborers will stay in the spot where they can be hired waiting, hoping that someone will hire them. So it says in verse 6, “And about 5:00 he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one would hire us.’” It’s not because there is something wrong with them. It’s because there weren’t enough jobs and they have been standing there all day waiting to be hired. Can you imagine what must have been going through their minds all day? I am sure they could not stop thinking about their hungry children and the prospect of coming home with nothing to give them. They probably lost all hope.
And then, here comes the landowner, who is God, who sees that they are at their wits end. They are without hope. Just when they thought that all was lost for that day, the landowner comes and hires them. And not only that, but gives them a full day’s wage. What a miracle. Imagine the relief. Imagine the flood of gratitude they must have felt. Imagine the abundance of hope.
That’s who God is. God is the one who comes to us and brings hope when there is no hope, who makes a way when there is no way. In the kingdom of God the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Just when we think all is lost, God comes with a miracle.
That’s what we saw this morning in our passage from Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego should have died in the fiery furnace, but they didn’t. They knew that God could save them from the fire, but they also knew that the miracle that God brings is not always the exact one that we hope for. They said in verse 17, “If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.” And then they continue in verse 18, “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” They knew that God could save them, but if God chose not to for whatever reason, But If Not, they would not turn their backs on God. And we saw, God did save them from the fiery furnace.
This phrase But If Not, is quite famous because at the battle of Dunkirk in World War II, the English were cornered. They sent a distress message across the English channel: “But if not.” People in England received this message and realized that their soldiers were trapped and they hoped for rescue from fishing boats, sailing boats, any boats, but if not, they wouldn’t betray the cause. The people of England rescued them.
I recently learned that a member of our congregation was there, at the battle of Dunkirk, as a civilian. Gioia K. shared her experience of abundant hope when it seemed like all was lost and she has given me permission to read it to you.
She is from a part of Switzerland where people spoke German, but her father got a job with General Motors and the family moved to Belgium. That’s where her story picks up:
“The war started for me on May 10, 1940, when I was six-years-old, as I woke up to very loud and strange noises. Going to my parent’s bedroom and finding them looking out the window and my mother crying. ‘The war has come to us,’ she said. This was the aerial German attack!
“Four days later, my mother was just doing the laundry, my father phoned that we would have to leave for Paris with some important papers from General Motors (his employer). These papers contained the plans for vehicles of war that they did not want to fall into German hands. We had one hour for leaving the city, as all bridges were going to be destroyed due to the approaching German Army with their tanks. The streets were full of cars and people fleeing south towards the French border. It took a long time to travel to the border because the streets were just packed. While we were traveling in our car, my mother sewed the plans into her clothes. Finally we were within sight of the border. Suddenly a woman knocked on the car window. She was carrying a pile of boxes and saying that these were sugar cubes, and only one box would be allowed to be taken into France. We eagerly bought one from her which we could later use instead of a meal....
“All roads toward Paris were blocked, so we found ourselves on the northwest side of France. Suddenly we were stopped by the English Army which took us to an old big school building. They told us that a very big battle will be starting soon, and no civilians were to be on the streets. This was the battle of Dunkirk.
“Soon we heard a lot of artillery, and it seemed to go on forever. I cannot remember how long it went, but for me it seemed very long (remember she was six). Finally, the doors were opened and we were liberated...by the Germans! My father did some negotiating in German. With our Swiss passports they let us go on, but most other people were Jews and we never found out what happened to them. It was terrible that we could do nothing for anyone else; that bothered my father very much.
“After a few days still trying to find a road to Paris, we started to really be hungry. No food could be bought, and even the farmers had nothing left as the armies had pilfered everything. We kept on going south and landed in Bordeaux, where we got stranded as there was no gasoline to be had.
“My father was going to the German Administration daily to try to get the permission to go to Switzerland, but without any success. Many weeks later he was suddenly imprisoned, as they claimed he must be a spy. Mother and I learned that he was held in a big camp, and from there weekly transports were being sent to Germany. We were terrified, and we felt like all was lost. But then a real miracle happened.
“A new commander came to the camp. He asked for a list of all prisoners, and found K., Joseph (my father’s name) and remembered him from school in England! He and my father were in school together for one year in England and he remembered my father’s name! He provided us with travel documents and two 45-gallon barrels of gasoline, and we were on the way to our homeland, to Switzerland with those secret papers that were still sewn into my mother’s clothes.
“Everything went fine, at every checkpoint the German soldier just saluted and let us pass. This went on until the Swiss border, but there was no way we were allowed to cross.
“My father kept asking every day, and we were getting desperate. Then he got contacted by some people of the French Resistance. They told him if we would take a wounded and very sick young man with us, they would show us a way over the border, secretly, in a dark night. Of course my father agreed. I remember being in the car with this wounded and sick soldier. We were escorted by someone who walked ahead of our car on foot. And we were shown a path through thick woods and hills. After what seemed like forever, the man who walked in front of our car suddenly came to the window and said, ‘You are now in Switzerland.’ We were safe and those precious plans from General Motors were safe, too.”
When Gioia told me this story, I felt like I was watching a movie or something. I was gripping the arms of my chair in suspense! I am so glad that she was willing to share this story with you because I think it is such an encouragement to all of us. Sometimes we think that God coming at the last minute, just when we think all is lost is something that only happened in the Bible and doesn’t happen in our lives today. Just as God came to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, so God came to Gioia and her family, and made a way when there was no way, just when they thought all was lost.
We know that things don’t always happen this way. Even Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that; they said God could save them, but if not, then… What we learn from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, what we learn from Gioia is to live with abundant hope because we never know. Jesus encourages us to live with abundant hope, because the kingdom of God is like a landowner who hires some day laborers at 5:00 and pays them a full days’ wage, just when they thought all was lost.
This is what the Kingdom of God is like. Just when we think all is lost, God will come to us at 5:00 and hire us for a full day’s wage. Just when we think all is lost, God will come to us in the fiery furnace and rescue us. Just when we think all is lost, God will deliver us and the secret papers safely to Switzerland. Just when we think all is lost, let us hope in God. Let us live with abundant hope. Amen.