Hope: The Light You Keep Lit Within

Hope: The Light You Keep Lit Within

Video of Live Service above.  Sermon text is below.

COVID Message #5- Hope: The Light You Keep Lit Within
Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29 Matthew 21:1-11  Romans 5:1-5

Because this feels like a completely implausible time to talk about hope—with mounting infections and deaths!—escalating global pandemic!—local epidemic!—and unraveling economic disintegration!—that is precisely what I want to talk to you about today—HOPE!

Actually, this is the best time to talk about hope.


Because hope never emerges when things are going well.

Hope doesn’t begin when things are hopeful!

Hope starts at the very moment when conditions feel hopeless.

That is what this morning’s reading from the Letter to the Romans said:

Trouble produces endurance.    Endurance produces character.  And character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint us.

In other words, hope starts with trouble.

Hope begins when the world has hit bottom.

Hope doesn’t arise when things are rosy and optimistic—

No! We generate hope when we are at our most pessimistic!—when we are collapsing inside from worry!—We are Beside ourselves!—Your way is cloudy!— as you wonder if there is any future at all!

Let me give you one simple example of what real hope looks like:

Robyn Davidson once walked 2,000 miles across the Australian desert to theIndian Ocean.

Robyn was accompanied on her adventure by her dog and four camels!

Why the 4 camels ?

Robyn had earned the animals while working at the cattle station where her father worked.

Why did she make this journey?

In the film made about her trek— Tracks –we learn that she did it to seek healing from past trauma and current inner turmoil.

When she was 11, Robyn’s mother had committed suicide.

Her father—a worker at a remote cattle station—sent her to live with his sister.

Robyn ended up in a boarding school.

She became self destructive, which included drugs.

Her survival-testing-journey across the desert was her desperate, hope filled way to make a new beginning in life.

At the end of her journey, she summed up what she learned this way:

“The universe has given us three things to make life bearable:



And dogs!…..

But the greatest of these……is dogs.”

Like Robyn—with her hope—and her dogs—we are all on a journey of new beginnings right now!—even though it feels like a dark ending.

And for many it is.

We do not know how our journeys together and separately will turn out.

Yet this is the ground on which hope must be born and kept alive!

Do you want to know what hope is!

Hope is the light you keep lit within yourself—while you walk a darkened road.

Have you ever heard the Spanish proverb “We make the road by walking.”.

Well, we will make the road ahead!—by walking together!—by light we keep lit within.

The light is inside!

You keep it lit!

You keep it lit by yourself!

And you keep it lit together!

Did you know that you can give hope to another person?

Because hope, like its polar opposite—despair—is contagious.

The great Howard Thurman wrote a book called Jesus and the Disinherited. Thurman wrote the book at the darkest hour of the Great Depression.

The question that is always at the center of the book is:  “What is the message of Jesus to those whose backs are against the wall?”

That is our question today, for our backs are definitely against the wall.

We learn the message of Jesus in today’s Palm Sunday story.

And the lesson is not so much in what Jesus said—but what Jesus did…..

Here’s what I mean: For many people, and especially for any of you children and youth who are watching and listening in this morning, the most wonderful part of the Palm Sunday story is that Jesus comes in riding on a donkey. It’s fun, isn’t it?

That’s the part of the story that really gets to you!

And, mind you, this isn’t just any donkey! This is a holy donkey!

Remember? How the story began?

When Jesus told two of his disciples to go into the city?

Go to the village ahead!

Find a donkey that has never been ridden!

 Untie it! Bring it to me!

Here is a donkey who has never been ridden!  That’s what tells you it’s a holy donkey! No one has ever ridden this donkey.

It’s a lot like the prophet Balaam’s donkey, in the Old Testament, who sees lethal danger right ahead on the mountain path they are traveling on, and the donkey stops and won’t budge, and no matter how hard Balaam beats him and tries to get him to move—that donkey, seeing an angel with a big sword right in front of him—will not budge. He takes all the punishment until, under one horrible blow, the donkey opens his mouth and says to his owner, “Why are you beating me? I am your loyal donkey. Don’t you see? Death lies straight in front of you, and I am preventing you from being killed by him.

That changes Balaam’s mind.

A talking donkey!

This tells you that Balaam’s donkey was a holy donkey!

And so was Jesus’ donkey!

And so when Jesus mounts the donkey who has never before been ridden, and rides down from the Mount of Olives, onto the main road leading to the Holy City, you can just imagine some of the people shouting—along with the “Hosanna’s!!”

Bless the holy donkey!  Bless the holy donkey!

 Because—at that moment—and this is the key—that donkey is carrying the light of the world…………….Jesus is the light of the world!

The donkey is carrying all the hope the world has in that hour.

That is how each one of you needs to think of yourself right now.

Like that little donkey, you are carrying all the light of the world, you are carrying all the hope of the world within you in this hour.

You are carrying the hopes of your family, you are carrying the hopes of your friends, your neighbors, your fellow church members, your brothers and sisters, your school friends, your work friends….you are carrying all your own hopes within you right now—

—as if there were a light you are going to keep lit—no matter what!— right inside of you.

I want to close with what I call a God story.

Lately, I have been a phone buddy to a young man who has a lot of problems. He started calling me because his mother, a long time friend of mine, told him it would be a good idea.

We have talked a number of times the past couple months.

And actually, although I think he forgot it because he was drinking too much, we met on the church front steps one day when he came by with a companion who regularly comes to our shower ministry. He helped clean up a mess someone had made by throwing chili all over the front wall.

Well, Phil, we will name him, tried to phone me a couple times Tuesday night.  I was already asleep.   When I woke up, I saw his name on the caller ID.  I texted him and told him I would call him later in the day.

Around 4:30, I called him. “Phil!” I said when he picked up.

“This isn’t Phil.” replied the voice. “This is Mike. My real name is Charging Eagle, and I found this phone in the grass last night. I’ve been waiting for someone to call. Want to come get it?

“Where are you?” I asked.

“My wife and I are here across from the Plaza Library.”

Soon I realized that the couple was at the corner there, begging from passing by car drivers. Many of you know where I mean.

I said I would be right over.

Sure enough, when I arrived, and he came over and gave me the phone—and I gave them a donation, I could see there was a reason why he was named Charging Eagle.

He was a handsome Native American man.

He and his wife thanked me.

I gently told him it would be good idea if he quit drinking.

His wife nodded in agreement.

I told him about the shower ministry and the Monday night AA meeting here at the church.

They both said a man had just told them all about it.

I wonder who that was?

I think it must have been someone who is keeping the light within—lit…..

Don’t be a Dope with No Hope!

You Will Be Tomorrow Where Your Hope Carries You by the end of today!…..

Just Keep Going!

The World is a Better Place with You in it!

Amen!      Rev. Scott Myers, April 5, 2020, Westport Presbyterian Church


May you be filled……..with hope… with love…with curiosity…with Christ

May you be emptied…..of despair… of fear……of apathy……… for Christ


In that hour, Jesus was personally resisting fear—and by that act, he created hope—for himself and for everyone who came into contact with him and within shouting distance that unforgettable morning.

This is why so many African American people have kept alive the resounding spiritual:

Ride on, King Jesus! No one can hinder me!
Ride on, King Jesus!

Let me tell you what he did.

Some of you know that I once imagined a contemporary Palm Sunday as an incident of Street Theatre.

Come with me now!

For this street theater, Jesus is cast as the son of one of the last Jewish couples living          in Baghdad at the time of the Gulf War in the early 90’s.

Deciding that they would not survive if they stayed in Iraq, Jesus’ parents fled toward the Holy Land at night—frightened, determined, leaving their shoe repair shop behind, Jesus’ mother eight months pregnant and wondering how it ever happened since she  and her husband had so little intimacy during the war years.

It was impossible to be a Jew in Baghdad in those days. You had to escape! Fast!

Now 30 something, Jesus makes a living as a carpenter around The Holy City

Mary Magadalene could be cast as an overworked server at a coffee shop.

Jesus meets her during a 15 minute break, as she sits at the coffee bar, drinking double espressos to stay awake for her shift.

She’s vulnerable, searching, grinding away to make ends meet.

The disciple Matthew could be the manager of some sort of loan sharking—pay    day loan— pawn broking—phone scamming business all wrapped into one lucrative hustle.

As he squeezes yet another $8.50 hour worker for a 35% interest loan to keep from being evicted from his apartment, Matthew is fed up with his well worn path of frauds & manipulations.

When Jesus says, “Follow me!” Matthew does so without hesitation…..

At a Passover planning meeting with the 12 disciples—under a fig tree on the Mount of Olives—Jesus suggests that the theme in this year’s Passover is to become Free from Fear.

He wants to encourage everyone in the Holy City city to become free of fear as well.

Jesus sends a cadre of disciples ahead to try to persuade all the people, neighborhood groups, businesses, schools and universities, and religious institutions in the city that the way to become free of fear is—to love one enemy—find one lost soul—forgive a single debtor—wash the clothes of one homeless person—welcome one fantastic failure—bless one immigrant without papers from another land—bless one person who is sick with a spreading incurable disease.

Soon, the idea begins to catch on!

Fear begins to subside as relationships begin to mend and grow throughout the city.

Teenagers gather on street corners, chanting in unison:

Don’t be a Dope with No Hope!

The World is a Better Place with You in it!

Just Keep Going!

You Will Be Tomorrow Where Your Hope Carries You Today!…..

However this growing revolt makes some other people very angry!

They determine to crush Jesus!

To reassert their authority, they decide to put on a show of force!

On the Sunday afternoon before Passover, they organize a Friends of Fear rally.

Publicity is everywhere—on television, internet, social media, billboards, signs in yards, even in religious institutions.

Be a true friend of fear!                                                                                          

Come to the Festival of Fear!

But Jesus is clever! He quickly organizes a counter rally & march!

The “King of Peace and Joy” is not a hoax-and-conspiracy-mongering politician—

Instead he’s a poor, itinerant healer who enters the city—not in an expensive limo, but riding on a donkey.

Crowds fill the streets celebrating an alternative vision of hope!

Bless the holy donkey!  Bless the holy donkey!

I imagined the 30 something year old Jesus as being born of a Jewish couple fleeing Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War of 1990.

We will become tomorrow where our hope takes us, starting today.

One Comment

  1. Janet & Peter Hughes

    Such a wonderful Palm Sunday Service Scott ! Your sermon hit home, as haven’t we all been taught since childhood, to “ let our little light shine!” How important it is now (and always has been) to keep our internal light on fire with Hope for now and the future.! Your singers and pianist are awesome by the way and the video is so well done!! We watched last week and will definitely be with you on Easter Sunday. Love to both you and Jeannie, Janet and Peter

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