• Dr. Bruce A. Havens

Finding Hope

Updated: Oct 13


a message by the Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens

Arlington Congregational Church, U.C.C.

October 11, 2020


Psalm 106

1Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

2Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all his praise?

3Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.

4Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you deliver them;

5that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory in your heritage.

6Both we and our ancestors have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.

7Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wonderful works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea.

8Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, so that he might make known his mighty power.

9He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry; he led them through the deep as through a desert.

10So he saved them from the hand of the foe, and delivered them from the hand of the enemy.

43Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes, and were brought low through their iniquity.

44Nevertheless he regarded their distress when he heard their cry.

45For their sake he remembered his covenant, and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

47Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

48Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. And let all the people say, “Amen.” Praise the Lord!



We live in a time when the false gods of hopelessness are shouting their lies. They tell us the future is terrible. They tell us we cannot change things for the better. They tell us to worship them by giving in to their despair, their anger, their rage, their hopelessness. They want us to sacrifice to them, to offer ourselves to them, our hearts, our souls, our lives.


The God we know through the Scriptures, through Jesus Christ, through the testimony of prophets and apostles is a God of hope. The God of Jesus Christ is a God who gives new life, who brings strength to the weak, healing to the sick peace to the tormented, and liberation to the oppressed. Jesus demonstrated the power of God to break the chains that led to the hopelessness of a people who had been living under the oppression of foreign rulers for centuries. They had been powerless to find freedom and every attempt only resulted in worse suffering. But the God of hope did not give up or give in. This God still rules today. The false gods of hopelessness may be loud, but they are powerless, unless we believe that in God we can find hope.


This Psalm proclaims that hope: it calls us to praise and celebrate because God is good. It calls us to remember God’s “mighty deeds,” and God’s “steadfast love.” It does not do this without recognizing the realities of their world and of ours. It speaks about the ills of people and of the world. It tells us that

6Both we and our ancestors have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.

And the Psalm reminds us that God’s people were bailed out again and again by the steadfast love of God, yet they continued to fall into their old ways of injustice and iniquity. But the Psalm never lets us forget that when we turn back to God we will find hope.


This morning the UCC Calendar invites us to observe this as “Disability Awareness Sunday.” I have always liked the word “diversability” more than “disability,” ever since I read it somewhere years ago. The word diversability to me takes my mind off the things we cannot do and looks to ways we can celebrate what we can do. It is not to downplay or dismiss the challenges we all face at different levels, some much more than others. It is to remind me to think about the possibilities, the hope, we can all have “no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey.”


This Hebrew Psalm knows that we, as humans are “disabled.” We are often unable to do what is right even when we know what is right. We cause others to suffer. We ignore the needs of others when we have more than enough. We allow abuse, and prejudice, and selfishness to rule in our communities and in our world and claim we are powerless to change it. We deny the power that our God gives us to live hope and give hope to others. It reminds us that God sides with those who suffer and are treated unjustly.


Some of you might remember the story of a Biblical character names Mephibosheth. For several reasons, I shall refer to him as “Bo.” Bo was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of Saul the King of Israel. David succeeded Saul when there was a battle with their enemies and David too was involved in seeking to overthrow Saul. But Jonathan was killed too and David’s sorrow was great. Most new kings in that time would have wanted to kill any offspring of the previous king for fear they might mount a “counter coup.” But David asked if there were any of Jonathan’s family to whom he might do “some godly kindness.”


He was told the only one was Bo. Bo was what we might call disabled. When his father and grandfather died his servants panicked and ran from the King’s home, taking Bo with them. They feared what was the norm – that the new King would kill any family of servants of the old regime. They packed up young Bo but in the rush his maid dropped him and his feet were broken so badly that for the rest of his life he could not walk at all, or maybe at best very little. In most cases Bo would have lived as many do with disabilities – out of sight, out of mind, ignored or worse virtually persecuted for being “different.”


Truth is, aren’t we are all Bo?  “After all, our mental or physical health disables some of us.  Bad habits, bad memories and bad ideas about life disable others.  His adultery will largely disable even David. But he adds, God doesn’t ask any of us, ‘What are you good at?’ Nor is God obsessed with the things that disable us. No, God asks the same question David asks about Mephibosheth: ‘Where are you?’ Because God wants to bring you and me into God’s own home.


So King David does three remarkable things.  He restores to “Bo” all the land that he’d confiscated so that Jonathan’s son can have a steady income.  David also restores to him a permanent seat at his royal table.  And the king turns Bo from someone whose disability makes him think of himself as a “dead dog” into one of his own sons. In that way, David acts a little bit like God.


After all, God also does extraordinary things for us.  God doesn’t just give us everything we need – and often even more.  God doesn’t just give us a place at God’s family table.  No matter how we think of ourselves or how others think of us, God also adopts you and me into God’s own family. The Hebrew word for that “godly kindness” that David sought to show Bo is hesed.  It’s usually used to describe God, and is translated as “unfailing kindness,” “faithfulness” or “steadfast love.”


More than 53 million Americans live with some kind of disability.  That means that as many as one in five of us struggle every day with disabilities that we can see. Many more struggle with unseen ones. At the same time we can be sources of hope and “hesed,” godly kindness or steadfast love, to others by looking for what people can do – their diversabilities- and at who they are – beloved children of God – even as we are also beloved children of God.


I believe this Psalm stands as a reminder of what brings hope. It is to:

1Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all his praise? 3Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.

I believe that is giving praise we can overcome all things. I believe that in giving praise to God. I also believe that when we do we will see life differently. And I believe that giving praise in the midst of this pandemic is more important than ever. At our Florida Conference Annual Meeting, held on Zoom these past few days, they shared a witness to the power of praise to help us get through these disabling times when many are feeling powerless or forgotten or overwhelmed. Let us give praise to God, but let us also give praise to lift up God’s children who do so much with their “diversabilities.”

VIDEO Praise Song for the Pandemic


1Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good; for the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever. 2Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all his praise?

AMEN.



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