Historical Markers: Expectant Hope

Last week we talked about entering new situations, or venturing into unknown places, with faith. Fearless faith.

And this week many of our kids are starting school…

We’re going to bless backpacks today, and when we talk about being blessed we don’t mean #blessed. Like, the pictures you see on Facebook or Instagram of fancy meals or luxury vacations.

Because for some of y’all, these #blessed backpacks are going to be going to middle school. And we all know how middle school is…

So if we’re blessing backpacks, and faithfully entering scary situations, how do we do that?

I think we have a pretty good model in today’s Gospel reading…

We’ve got Mary bursting out into song, exclaiming all the great things God will do.

But we’ve also got a teenage girl whose fiancé who initially wanted to divorce her. Whose family wanted to disown her. Whose community likely wanted to stone her.

Her situation couldn’t have been more scary.

A teenage girl sent away to live with a relative in another city like so many pregnant teens. How could she say, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”?

Mary knew that her hope wasn’t in her circumstances.

Her hope wasn’t in her status.

Her hope wasn’t in anything she did.

Instead, her hope was within her.

It just so happened that Mary carried God within her.

You may have heard Mary called Theotokos, or God-bearer. Mary, for those nine months, carried Jesus Christ…carried God…in her body.

So her hope rested on something inside of her.

And I think there’s something we can learn from that…

Today’s historical marker might be familiar to some of you.

St. Mary’s Mission was founded in the 1870s. On July 30, 1886, Bishop Alexander C. Garrett laid the cornerstone for the first church building, which was destroyed by a tornado in 1894. This building was completed in 1911, and St. Mary’s became a parish in 1914.

Then it goes on to talk about the building. And that’s where this historical marker is wrong.

St. Mary’s isn’t the building.

St. Mary’s isn’t the building destroyed by a tornado in 1894.

St. Mary’s isn’t the building completed in 1911.

And St. Martin’s isn’t a building at the corner of 1709 and South Pearson.

Buildings are important, yes. And there are emotions and memories and all of that tied up in buildings.

But our hope, our future, our work in the kingdom of God, isn’t a building.

It’s what’s inside.

You’ve probably heard this rhyme before…”Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.”

The church isn’t the building. The church is what’s inside.

The church is the people.

In 2008, when our diocese split, St. Mary’s was the only congregation that shared space with its non-Episcopal counterpart. And after 12 years, it found a new home in a converted bank.

I love what St. Mary’s says about themselves on their website: The church is wherever we are, just as God is with us wherever we are. In good times and in bad, through tornadoes and human-made destruction, the church, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church continues to celebrate God’s love and to be Christ’s voice, hands, and feet in the world today.

God is with us wherever we are.

That’s our hope. That’s our only hope.

And as followers of Jesus, we are marked by this expectant hope.

Maybe you can relate to Mary’s situation – not necessarily because you are pregnant – but because you’re struggling with something.

We all come here today bearing a burden.

Sometimes it might feel as heavy as a backpack loaded down with hate and failures and brokenness and fear and any number of things.

The world keeps piling things into the backpack, until we can hardly carry it any more.

But we aren’t made to carry this backpack.

We’re made to carry Jesus Christ inside of us.

What Mary did is what you and I are meant to do, every one of us, every day, no matter where we are or what the circumstances.

We are called to carry Christ into this world. We are Christ-bearers.

We are like chalices, empty vessels willing and ready to be filled with the life and love and hope of God.

Not because of who we are. Not because of what we’ve done.

But because of what we have inside of us.

Because of the hope we have inside of us.

Like Mary singing about what she knows God will do, we carry that same expectant hope of what God in Christ is doing in and through and around us.

A hope that sees hate and meets it with love.

A hope that sees failure and meets it with opportunity.

A hope that sees brokenness and meets it with wholeness.

A hope that sees fear and meets it with faith. 

A hope that sees death and meets it with life.

If that isn’t hope, I don’t know what is. And that’s a hope that our schools…our churches…our world is longing for.

And that hope is exactly what we carry within us every day.