First Lesson: Genesis 18: 1-15 (21: 1-7)
Responsive Reading: Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19
Second Lesson: Romans 5: 1-8
Matthew 9: 35- 10: 8 (9-23)
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” - Romans 5:3-4.
Jose Luis Martin Descalzo tells the following story. Anne was an elderly widow. Anne had been a widow most of her life, Anne’s husband Frank died at war four months after their wedding day. Anne doesn’t have much left for her life with Frank other than a fading photo, and a pension of one hundred dollars a month. Anne had been surviving on this sum of money year after year. One time, Anne receives Frank’s pension in the form of a one-hundred dollar bill. Anne is excited rarely seeing such money up close, Anne felt like for just a few moments like she had won the lottery. Anne stared at the one hundred dollar bill but quickly grew nervous. “What if I lost it?” The next morning, Anne’s worst fears become realized. Anne goes to buy some vegetables at the local market after mass, where her hundred dollar bill is nowhere to be found. Anne did what we would do if we lost something. Anne re-walked her route to mass and the market. Anne combed her house inside and out. Anne still could not find the one-hundred dollar bill. Anne was so desperate that she went back to the church combed the pews; she then searched every couch cushion within her home. Anne was still broke. Anne had no idea, how she was going to live these next thirty days without her hundred dollar bill. Anne had little to sell, except for family heirlooms. Anne’s head hung low for the rest of the day. The next morning, everyone Anne saw seemed to be a suspect: the widow down the hall, the two rowdy girls who lived upstairs, the communist butcher downstairs, and Fred who in Anne’s mind was probably cheating on his wife at the end of the hall. Anne was quick on this day to find suspects for her missing $100 bill. What happened to Anne, we will get back to her story in a little bit.
Today’s Second Lesson comes to us from Romans 5. The Apostle Paul is the author of Romans. Paul started off in this world with seemingly everything. Paul had grown up in a household that was both well off and devoutly religious. Paul was educated at a top-notch school. Paul seemed like he was destined for all sorts of great things in this world until he converts to Christianity. Paul’s life then seemingly began to fall apart. Paul had family disown him; Paul had friends leave his life. Paul ended up shipwrecked. Paul was arrested and beaten for his confession of faith. Paul’s story in many ways was not rags to riches, but rather seemingly riches to rags.
How did Paul keep going with all this going on his life? Paul continually looked forward.
Yesterday, Grandma’s Marathon took place down in Duluth. 26.2 miles. I’ve got a friend named Josh. Josh was a good athlete in high school. He was all-conference in hockey and a good cross country runner. Josh one time decides to run the Chicago Marathon. Josh would seem to be the perfect candidate to do so, he was lean, fit, and had been running for years. Marathon day takes place, it didn’t matter how fit Josh was miles 20, 22, and 24 were going to brutal like nothing he had ever done. Josh described it as such “You can never prepare for those miles.” You need to keep looking ahead towards the finish line. The finish line is a marathon’s runner hope that it will all be worth it.
Paul’s approach to his suffering was different than many peoples. Paul wasn’t going to look for the easy way out a new job, a new place to live, or a new wife. Paul instead saw his suffering as pointing to hope that was to come.
When I was at Luther Seminary, I had a classmate named Brian. Brian had cerebral palsy. Brian didn’t look like the rest of his classmates. Every step around campus was a struggle for Brian. Speaking wasn’t always easy for Brian because of his ailment. The thing about Brian though was when he did speak he had a conviction and passion about his faith that I saw in no one else. Brian was evidence that God can bring good out of what might appear to be the most hopeless of our situations.
For the reality is we will never be able to control the world around us.
Jackie Robinson began his Major League Baseball career in 1947. Roy Campanella began his career in 1948. Campanella quickly became one of the best players in Baseball. Campanella was an eight-time all-star, three-time league MVP, and a World Series Champ. One night in January 1958, Campanella’s life would change forever. Driving home, Campanella hit a patch of ice, skidded into a telephone poll, the car flipped, and Campanella’s life was seemingly over with a broken neck. Campanella like all people would was struggling with the meaning of this event. One day at physical therapy, he saw a plaque upon the wall which spoke to him.
The plaque read the following:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey…
I asked for health that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity that might do better things…
I asked for riches that I might be happy,
I was given poverty that I might be wise…
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God…
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things…
I got nothing I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blessed!"
Roy Campanella spent the rest of his life confined to a wheelchair, yet Roy Campanella continually was able to cling to hope not found in the present, but rather in what would lie ahead. Paul’s point for this morning is that endurance in tough times is never easy. Paul says we cling to hope because “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Christ clings to us regardless of our achievement. Our Lord promises to come through in the end, regardless of what we see on this day.
Florence Chadwick was famous for being the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1950. Chadwick’s next big goal was to swim 21 miles between Catalina Island and California. No one had ever done this swim before. Chadwick set out on July 4th, 1952. Chadwick’s swim was a nationally televised event. Chadwick’s swim was not easy. Several times during it rifles in support ships had to be blasted to fend off circling sharks. Sixteen hours into her swim, Chadwick couldn’t see the shore. The fog had blinded her. Chadwick was numb and declared that she could not go on. Florence Chadwick was ½ mile from the shore. Chadwick afterward could only say “If only I could have seen land, I know I could have made it.”
Chadwick’s statement expresses how we often feel as Christian people; we need proof of God’s active intervention in the world so that we can keep pressing forward in the face of all obstacles. What Paul is saying to us today is our proof that land lies ahead is the Cross even while we still sinners. Paul says our land is not our own goodness, but rather the promises of Christ’s forgiveness given unto us. So that when life knocks us down as in the case of the Apostle Paul, we know that will not stay down forever.
What ended up happening to Florence Chadwick, two weeks later she set out to swim Catalina to California again, she swam it faster than anyone ever had before.
The message of our lesson for Today is this. Hope can be found in unlikely places. Whatever happened to Anne who had lost her hundred dollar bill. Anne stewed about her apartment angry at how the world had wronged her. Finally, Anne hears a ring of the doorbell. As Anne approaches the doorbell carrying a prayer book she slips and out of the prayer book falls a one-hundred dollar bill. Anne quickly came to realize that all her suffering and anger, had been her fault.
Anne’s day though was not over. A knock came at her door. It was the widow from down the hall; she had found a hundred dollar bill on the stairwell that must have belonged to Anne. Next came the two rowdy girls from upstairs, they had also found a hundred dollars on the stairwell that must have belonged to Anne, next came the Butcher then Fred then neighbor after neighbor, all had found Anne’s money. Within a day, Anne’s whole perspective on the world had changed. The story that Anne had about the world around her was wrong. Hope had come from out of the hopeless. Resurrection in Anne’s life had seemingly come from the grave.
The point for this morning is this. We will times when our situation might seem hopeless; Paul certainly could have felt this way sitting in a prison cell. There might be times when we feel like life has us running in the 18th, or 20th mile with the marathon finish line never to come. Yet, it is in these times of seemingly hopeless diagnoses like those given to Brian and Roy Campanella that we see God’s blessings unfolding in unexpected ways. Rest assured as in the case of Florence Chadwick; the shore is closer than you might think. Once you get to shore, you might even find a missing one-hundred dollar bill. Amen
 Martin Descalzo’s story comes from his book Reasons for Hope found on pages 1-4. The following story was found on Leon Stier’s Email Mediatations website on June 12th, 2017.
 Romans 5:1-8.
 Molin, Steven. “Road to Character” Sermon Writer. 2002. Web. June.12th.2017.
 Molin uses similar analogy in “Road to Character’ sermon.
 A similar analogy can be found in Ed Markquart’s sermon “Suffering produces Endurance, Character, and Hope.” Found on the Sermons from Seattle website (Series A) on June 12th, 2017.
 “Roy Campanella.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 7th. May. 2017. Web. June 12th.2017.
 Stories for Preaching. “Roy Campanella”. Web. June 12th, 2017.
 Romans 5:6.
 “Florence Chadwick.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 16.Feb.2017. Web. June.13.2017.
 Llewellyn, Tony. “Sermon Illustrations: Hope”. Hot Sermons. Web. June.13th.2017.
 Romans 5:8.
 Llewellyn, Tony. “Sermon Illustrations: Hope”.
 Stier, Leon. “Suscipious.” Email Mediations. 3.June. 2017. Web. June.12.2017.
 Stier, Leon. “Suscipious.”