If life has a way of killing dreams, Christ’s resurrection has a way of bringing them back to life.
Life has a way of killing dreams, doesn’t it? You set out with high hopes – for your schooling, your career, your family, and your golden years. You have plans, aspirations, and expectations. But things don’t always turn out the way you expected. Plans fall through. People let you down. You let yourself down. Suddenly the life you’re living isn’t the life you dreamed of at all; or you find yourself in a place you never expected to be.
But we can have hope.
What is hope, anyway? Wishful thinking? Naive optimism? “Hope it doesn’t rain,” we say. “Hope the sermon doesn’t go too long.” (That is wishful thinking!) Emily Dickinson tells us:
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all”.
The dictionary tells us that hope is “a desire with the expectation of fulfillment.” So hope begins with a desire for something good, but then adds the element of expectation, of confidence. Without expectation, it’s just a wish. And wishes tend not to come true. When we hope for something, we’re counting on it.
But hope is more than a word – without it, we die. When a team loses hope, the game is over. When a patient loses hope, death is crouching at the door.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, survived years in the Nazi concentration camps. He noticed that prisoners died just after Christmas. They were hoping they’d be free by then. When they weren’t, they gave up. He learned that as long as prisoners had something to live for, a reason to press on, they could endure just about anything. But once they lost hope, they quickly died. Fyodor Dostoevsky said that “to live without hope is to cease to live.”
Bobby Knight has a different take on it. Bobby Knight is the legendary basketball coach who led the Indiana Hoosiers to three NCAA tournament finals; he was also famous for throwing chairs and chewing out officials, players, fans, and anyone in the vicinity. According to Bobby Knight, “hope” is the worst word in the English language. He says it’s foolish and lazy to tell yourself that “things are going to be all right.” They will only be all right if somebody steps up and does something.
Hope needs a reason. Something, or someone, that can get us to a better place. Without a reason, hope is just wishful thinking.
But for us, ‘hope is a who; hope is not a what, or a when, or a why. Hope is a “who.” Things don’t get better just because we want them to. They get better because somebody does something. Hope is always embodied in a person. Hope is a ‘who.” Somebody wise enough, strong enough, good enough, to get us to a better place.
And Jesus Christ is that someone. His resurrection proves that he is stronger than any setback, any failure, any loss, any disappointment – any fears. If life has a way of killing dreams, Jesus has a way of bringing them back to life.
That’s not to say we always get what we want, or that every bad thing can magically be un-done. Life doesn’t work that way. But it is to say that God can and will do something good with our future. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good – in this life, and the life to come. Wherever you find yourself in this morning, whatever pain, loss, or disappointment you may be dealing with, God can do something good with it, or in it. That doesn’t minimize the pain or loss or evil of it. It simply means the story isn’t over yet.
In this life, we can find joy, beauty, forgiveness, healing, purpose, restoration, and the reality of God’s presence in our lives every day. In the life to come, we can look forward to reunion with those we have lost, the restoration of all creation, and to eternal life with God and one another in worlds beyond our imagining.
Hope isn’t wishful thinking – it’s confident living. It’s facing the future knowing that God can and will do something good, in this life, and the life to come.
Probably, the most unnerving thing in all our lives is the fear of death – we don’t what is going to happen, It is a fear that we will go into “nothingness’, a big black hole. What we are now and will become will disappear like dust in the wind.
We hope that it will be like Heaven, where we meet with our friends and family who have gone before us. That we will suffer no pain, have no disabilities, have no reason for weeping and mourning.
Fear of death is a morbid, abnormal or persistent fear of one’s own death or the process of dying; a “feeling of dread, apprehension or anxiety when one thinks of the process of dying, or ceasing to “be”.
It’s a fear that somehow we will die before we have reached our hopes and dreams. . . that we will leave things unfinished. It can be irrational and often debilitating, keeping us from achieving our hopes and dreams.
But by Jesus” crucifixion and resurrection He conquered the most fearful thing of all – DEATH.
We have been promised by Jesus:
And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am. (John 14:3)
Death can no longer hold us in constant fear!
If you should find yourself in a tough place right now, have the courage to stay in that place and invite Christ to meet you there. If you know who’s dealing with pain, disappointment, or loss – share hope with them. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen to them. Be with them. Pray for them. And when the time is right, point them toward the resurrected Jesus. Because life has a way of killing dreams, but Jesus has a way of bringing them,
back to life!
Phillip Brook wrote his “Easter Carol” reminding us that death is no longer:
Tomb, You shall not hold Him longer,
Death is strong, but life is stronger
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and hope triumphant say;
Christ will rise on Easter Day.
While the patient earth lies waiting
Till the morning shall be breaking
Shuddering beneath the burden dread
Of her Master, cold and dead,
Hark! she hears the angels say;
Christ will rise on Easter Day.
And when sunrise smites the mountains
Pouring light from heavenly fountains
Then the earth blooms out to greet
Once again the blessed feet;
And her countless voices say;
Christ has risen on Easter Day.”.
Jesus Christ is the death of Death!
Let us rejoice and be glad!
 Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers”, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)
 Farley G.: Death anxiety. National Health Service UK. 2010, found in: Peters L, Cant R, Payne S, O’Connor M, McDermott F, Hood K, Morphet J, Shimoinaba K. (2013).
 Phillips Brook, “The Easter Carol”, Christmas Songs and Easter Carols (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1903)
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 16 April 2017