Our worship series theme for Eastertide is “All Things Green and Growing.” So in this springtime, we are looking for what is not just surviving but thriving, and how we can be a part of that.


Today’s sermon is in a way Part 2 of last week’s sermon—had too much else to say. Last week we talked about Isaiah 11, the peaceful realm, the wolf and the lamb trying to build peace. I focused on the profound conversation about racism in our midst that took place during the afternoon of the UCC’s Pacific Northwest Conference Annual Meeting the week before. I also referred to the message that our conference minister, Mike Denton, preached during the morning session of Annual Meeting. He said that hope is built. I said that peace is built, too. There was more to Mike’s message that I really wanted to unpack as a separate sermon. So today we’re going to explore in a dialogue format both what our greatest concerns are and what steps we see being taken—or are taking ourselves—to build hope, faith, and love.


What are your greatest concerns about the world in which we live today?


Here is what people had to say:

We don’t treat each other like humans. There is a lack of love and compassion for each other. There is a rise of vitriolic anger instead of discussion. The world is filled with suffering, and too much of it is caused by how we treat each other. We are losing progress on human rights.

War in Ukraine and ripple effects: fuel shortages in Europe, gas prices $5/gallon.

Climate change: wildfires, drought, flooding, extinctions, melting glaciers, etc.


Here are the issues that Mike Denton named in his Annual Meeting message. These are the ones that keep him up at night:

War with threats of nuclear weapons. Violent political acts. Climate collapse. The pandemic. Inflation. Continued individual, institutional, and systemic actions that deny the humanity of others through denigration, deprivation, and violence. Racism, heterosexism, sexism, ableism, classism, ageism, cissexism, and other forms of oppression spread and even seem to multiply.


Mike said, “[M]e speaking about hope today almost feels like inviting Eeyore to be your motivational speaker.”


He goes on to say,

We tend to look at these as separate issues or problems, but they are not. They are all part of a system of domination and control that consumes and consumes and consumes until there is nothing left to consume. Although we have beautifully diverse experiences and ways of living in the world, the means of oppressing people, exploiting the earth, and minimizing the value of life reflect a unity of oppression that include methods such as:

1. Naming a difference as separation and beginning the process of "othering."

2. Asserting the innate superiority of those with similar characteristics and the innate inferiority of those with "other" features.

3. Devaluing the gifts of the "other."

4. Suggesting the dependency and irresponsibility of the "other."

5. Naming "the other" as dangerous and needing to be “tamed” or “controlled.”

6. Building systems that reinforce, protect, promote, and rationalize these practices.

7. Eliminating any evidence to the contrary, whether present in a person, movement, science, religion, art, or other ways of knowing.

8. Continuing to feed the system of domination and consumption by othering new groups of people, new pieces of the earth, and naming new differences as separations.


And then we read 1 Corinthians 13. This is often read at weddings, because it’s about love. But this is a radical love, not a romantic love. This is love of God and neighbor and all of creation at a profound level.


But now abide faith, hope, love—these three—and the greatest of these is love.”


Mike says,

We’ve heard these words from this scripture so often that it’s easy to take them for granted, and we can’t. These ideas have been intentionally co-opted as weak, sentimentalized ideals—minimized to only apply to romantic love—because systems of domination cannot survive their persistent practice. Faith, hope, and love damn systems of domination because tapping into them makes us less dependent, less afraid, and less able to see the differences between us, the earth, and all creation.


Where faith, hope, and love abide, life blooms. [There is our theme of all things green and growing, of not just surviving but thriving.] As much as systems of domination may try to sentimentalize and diminish them, faith, hope, and love can overwhelm systems of domination. They can help us turn towards each other instead of on each other. They can help us participate in systems of liberation and recovery with a wisely-reckless, spirit-led, faithful abandon.


These three things are all connected like a vine, its fruits, and its roots. To talk about one is to talk about all of them….


Let’s unpack the potential of faith, hope, and love to transform our church, our communities, our nation, and our world. You are invited to weigh in on these questions:

What feeds your faith journey?


What helps you to build hope, to practice hope, and to feel hopeful?


What is the power of love to transform? To nurture and help to thrive?


Here is what people said:

Helping recovering addicts.

We think we can put faith into words. For me, it’s a feeling: life is worth living.

Finding what is life-giving.

Looking for opportunities to be grateful—evidence of love.

Fred Rogers: Look for the helpers.

I try to love everyone I come into contact with.

Let go of judgmentalism.

Start with acceptance, offer a place of belonging.

Practice faith, love, and hope by gathering in community, spiritual disciplines. What can I do with them to make the world better?

What feeds my spirit: seeing things grow, choral music, making art, new green leaves in sunlight.

Practicing hope: It is a given that we will all die someday, and that our sun will cease to function and our planet will no longer exist as we know it. We can have hope in our future anyway because we have faith.

My granddaughter is autistic. Her father always said that she will be fine—not normal like other kids, but she will be her own self and it will be good. The other day I was visiting and she was reading a book, something I didn’t know she would ever be able to do. Her father has always had faith in her, always had hope, and always loves her.

Hope is faith. Love is hope. It’s all bound together.

The closer we come to absolute love of another person, we generate faith and hope. We approximate God’s love.

A killdeer doe made her nest in front of our camper for five years in a row. She has faith that this is a safe place.

We can stay active in pursuit of faith without having all the answers.

Paul Tillich says, “You are accepted.” This opens us up to affirmation. Separation from God and from each other is sin.


Mike concluded his message by saying this:

Nurturing our faith gives ourselves and our communities access to the abundance of God, a practice we co-create through the experience of prayer, study, service, repentance, deconstruction, reconciliation, and action. When faith is a consumerist or consumptive expectation, it collapses in on itself. When it taps into the abundance of God, it becomes a celebration of hope and a feast overflowing with love.


But now abide faith, hope, love—these three—and the greatest of these is love. Amen.



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