How good are you at languages that are not English: Today I want to take you to three phrases of our faith – that are in a foreign language.
The First is in Italian.
These words are used by Dante Alighieri in his poem called “Divine Comedy” – which was completed in 1320.
In his poem these were the words written over the gates of hell –
“Abandon hope all you who enter here”.
This poem expresses the ideas of the Medieval Church of the 14 Century: put more simply: if you did not belong to the Christian Church when you died you went to hell – where there would was no more hope for you.
There are still many Christian who cling to this idea 800 years later. That some people have no hope of salvation and they might as well give up now.
My task today is to say to us that this is simply not true: There is never a moment when we abandon all hope: And I know this because Jesus went to the place without hope – and Jesus redeemed it.
And here I take us to the second bit of foreign language:
Here are the words of Jesus on the cross:
eli eli lama sabachthani
We read the translation in Matthew 27:46:
My God, My God – why have you forsaken me?
Here is the place where Jesus abandons all hope:
Here is the moment that the image of Dante becomes real: Jesus has entered that place of no hope – he is using an ancient prayer of desperation – Psalm 22 - and those standing at the cross hear him literally enter the gates of hell.
But here is the good news of our faith: not even the gates of hell could hold him….
Do you remember the Creed we say:
I believe in ….. Jesus Christ…
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven,
This is our faith: that nobody should abandon hope, because on the third day Jesus bursts the gates of hell and offers hope to all who trust in him
Nobody should believe that they are forsaken by God.
Because each person is God’s, and no matter how far you have strayed, God keeps loving you.
It is time to teach the last word:
At the end of 1 Corinthians St Paul Uses a word that is written in Aramaic: “Maranatha”
A statement of faith – and a cry of hope:
Translated as “The Lord has come – and may the Lord come”.
Today I am inviting us to replace our despair with hope – to learn the word “Maranatha”
Invite Jesus into our lives
Choose to live your life in the shadow of the teachings of Jesus
Instead of despair – speak this word each morning: Maranatha.