I have always believed that God gives the preacher the message first because he or she needs it the most. The Word of the Lord does not come to us out of thin air, but from a Holy God to an unholy person with strengths and weaknesses; vices and virtues. Sermons are developed in the crucible of human experience with its kaleidoscope of feelings and needs. God addresses the needs of the preacher so that he or she can preach to the needs of the members. Therefore, many of the meditations were sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit, developed from my experiences and preached to the people of God.
My thirty-seven years of pastoral ministry have been filled with blessings and burdens. I have pastored United Methodist, Disciples of Christ and Baptist Churches. I have known the blessings and the burdens of the ministry. Some Churches have affirmed me in ministry and showering me with love and respect. Other Churches ignored my teaching, ridiculed my preaching and rejected my ministry.
There have been Sundays when I was fired up and eager to preach His Word to a spirit-filled congregation. Also, there have been Sundays when I felt sad and dragged myself into the pulpit to preach to empty pews and disinterested members. It was during those difficult days, I needed a Word of hope for my weary soul. Fortunately, the God of Hope never disappointed me, His Word always inspired me to keep “pressing on.” As God gave me hope, I gave hope to Gods’ people.
Hope is vital to human survival let alone success. Our souls desperately need hope. It does not matter who you are, what you do, or how long you have been in the Church, you need hope. I have seen faithful members of my Church looking helpless and hopeless as they did the work of the Lord. They were “lukewarm” in their worship and service to the Lord. Consequently, they were going through the motions, lacked motivation and desperately needed hope.
I have pastored single mothers struggling to raise their children and working two part-time jobs, who needed a word of hope. These hardworking sisters were overworked and overwhelmed with the pressures of life. They needed a word of hope to keep going.
I have listened to retirees and seniors express their boredom and emptiness. They have nothing to live for and have stopped dreaming. They feel unwanted and unappreciated. They needed a message of hope that would motivate them to create new meaning and purpose in life.
The bereaved person who is experiencing the sting of death, lacks hope. Their grief and loss has drained them of joy. Some of them are so depressed that they find it hard to get up in the morning. Death has robbed them of the will to live. They need a message of hope to resurrect their broken spirit.
Some people feel that life has treated them unfairly. They are the victims of abusive relationships, impoverished communities, devious friends, corrupt leaders, unrequited love and tragedy. Consequently, some are angry and frustrated. Others feel sad and pessimistic. All of them need hope.
I have been a hospice chaplain who served terminally ill patients who struggled with their faith in God. Their debilitating illness drained them physically and spiritually. They prayed that the God of hope would answer their prayers and heal them. Hope was medicine for their soul.
I have counseled members who were attempting to control their loved ones from abusing drugs and alcohol. Many expressed rage, frustration, sadness, bewilderment and hopelessness. For them, life was a rollercoaster ride with its unpredictable twists and turns eroding their peace of mind. They wanted the ride to end with their loved ones healed and sober, but every day it continued, and they lost hope.
The struggling student yearns for hope. They hope to fulfill all their assignments, pass their exams, graduate on time and receive their diploma. Unfortunately, it is not easy to graduate and achieve academic success. Peer pressure, temptations, difficult college entrance exams, high tuition cost, and the rigors of academia can be overwhelming. Every student needs hope to graduate, get into college and graduate from it.
The married couple who feels like their marriage is ending, needs hope. The thrill is gone, and they have become insensitive to each other’s needs. Moreover, the arguing, fussing and fighting has made it hard for them to find a reason to stay together. They need hope that will inspire them to be more loving, forgiving, patient and kind.
The hard-working person who is struggling to make ends meet, desires hope. Their meager income cannot keep up with the excessive cost of living. They work hard, burn the midnight oil, go the extra mile and still feel poor, powerless and hopeless. They hunger for a hope that will change their harsh reality.