Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"When You Wish Upon A Star"

Colossians 1: 1-14

Psalm 46: 1-7

This morning, I’d like us to begin by focusing our attention on two particular little words; words

which are often used interchangeably in our present generation’s looseness with the English

language.  Those words are hope and wish.

      What comes to mind when we think of the word wishWish list?  Wishing well?  “When you

wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are?  Some of us may wish we knew then what we

know now.  Some might wish that I preach a short sermon today. Two of my favorite little scenes in

the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” are when George Bailey – in both his youth and early adulthood –

walks up to that cigar lighter in Mr. Gower’s Drug Store and flicks it while making this wish:  “I wish I

had a million dollars.”  Both times, it lights.  And do you remember George’s reaction?  “Hot dog!”

      The thing about wishing, though, is it usually involves a desire for something largely unattainable,

like George Bailey’s million dollars.  A wish list most of the time lists those things we really don’t envision

ever getting our hands on.  On my wish list, for instance, is a class A motor home, and a condo on a Carolina beach,

and a McIntosh MA5300 integrated stereo amplifier, none of which I expect to realize in this earthly life. 

We toss our coins into a wishing well, but we usually don’t believe we’ll get what we wished for. 

We may wish we knew then what we know now, but we can never go back.  We wish upon a star,

while the distance between it and us represents the seemingly vast gulf between our dreams and our realities. 

And your wish for a short sermon this morning?  Forget about it.

      On the other hand, when we hope, we have a degree of confidence that what we hope for will

happen.  Hope has been defined as cherishing a desire with expectation of fulfillment.  Unlike the

wish which has its basis in dreams or fantasy, hope is grounded in trust and reliance.  And unlike

wish, there is good reason for hope.

      That’s why in terms of our relationship to Almighty God, we don’t speak in terms of wish.  We

speak in terms of hope.  We can count on God because God is dependable, and unlike the things of

this fleeting mortal life, God is not changeable.  To hang our ultimate hope or place our ultimate

trust in money, or in a job, or in physical beauty and/or physical health, or even in other people in

our lives, too often leads to disappointment.  People move away, or pass away, or simply do not

follow through on promises.  In spite of America’s obsession with optics and power, physical beauty

fades, and physical health wanes.  As we well know, money and jobs can be lost in a season, or in

a heartbeat.  When we think about it, life is like standing in the middle of rushing water.  Much of

what surrounds us in one moment is gone in the next.  To find stability in the midst of such constant

change, one must drop an anchor.  For we who profess our faith in the Lord, the anchor we drop is

hope in God, and trust in God’s constancy and reliability. You’ll notice that people without an anchor

of hope feel defeated even when they win.  People with an anchor of hope feel victorious even

when threatened by defeat. 

        This morning, we read words of a letter from Paul to a church which was founded under his

direction, but which he had never personally visited.  People in Colossae knew of Paul because of his

ministry at Ephesus about one hundred miles to the north.  His purpose for this brief letter – which

we believe he wrote from prison – was to respond to reports that the church was being infiltrated

by false teachers.  The exact nature of the heresy they were spreading is not spelled out within the

letter.  But it appears they were challenging the supremacy of Christ as the Son of God, while setting

human traditions and rituals over the authority of Christ.  In effect, these false teachers were

 encouraging the people to anchor their ultimate hope in things of the world rather than in things of

the Kingdom of God.  The result within the church was confusion and discouragement; not knowing

what to believe or who to trust; not knowing where to drop a firm anchor. 

      There seem to be parallels in the present-day church where there is much confusion and discouragement. 

Threats to the orthodox teachings of Christianity are eroding the ways we think about God and our relationship to God. 

The supremacy and authority of Christ are being called into

question by those who want to move Jesus from the center to the periphery. In some ways, the

Christian doctrine is being diluted to Christian philosophy, and faith in Jesus Christ replaced by

speculation about Christ.  Politics and political personality cults are infiltrating the church causing

great division and stress; ultimate loyalties shifting from Almighty God to flawed human leaders. I

read of one large congregation in the southwest which has divided over masks and distancing, so

they now have multiple services – some with safety protocol and some without; clearly a problem of

flawed pastoral leadership.  The upshot is that folks don’t know who or what to believe, or where to

drop their anchor.  There’s been an unprecedented chipping away of hope replaced by universal

fear and dread of what lies ahead -- for our church; for our society; for our very civilization. 

      Paul wrote to assure the members of the Colossian Church, and to assure us, all we who are the

“saints and the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are on the right track, and should

not be influenced or dissuaded by challenges to our faith.  A hope laid up…… in heaven….. hope in

the word of the truth, the gospel” is where we drop our anchor and where we secure our faith. 

Paul’s assurance is that such hope will not disappoint.

      There seem to be two things which mark the psyche of America in 2020.  One is widespread and

growing distrust – of leadership; of institutions; of science, of each other.  A second is an equally

widespread and growing sense of hopelessness.  We may wish things would get better.  That our

government would become functional and effective.  That our political divisions would be healed. 

That this ghastly pandemic would be brought under control.  Yet there seems to be such a vast gulf

between our wishes and dreams, and our reality; like when we wish upon a star.  Even so, Paul

counsels us to not give up, but rather to continue to “live into hope,” and to hold fast its anchor. 

For our hope lies in our relationship with God through Christ.  It’s when we believe in God, and know

that  we belong to God, that we can firmly anchor ourselves. And such hope and such security brings

changes to our lives which are remarkable.

      For example, hope in God enables us to look ahead.  It’s tempting to look back and lament:  See

the mess we’re in; the bad choices we’ve made.  We’ve done this, and we can’t undo it.  We wish we

knew then what we know now.  That expresses the mood of those who are without hope.  Such

hopelessness was articulated in the words of 19th century Irish writer Oscar Wilde:  “We did not dare

to breathe a prayer, or give our anguish scope.  Something was dead in each of us; And what was

dead was hope.”  No, Paul instructed those Christians at Colossae – and instructs us Christians in

Massillon, USA – to look up and ahead, not down and back.  Paul writes, (Jesus) has rescued us from

the power of darkness [that’s the past] and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in

whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins [that’s the present and future].  Think about

this:  God put eyes in front of our heads and pointed our feet forward, perhaps to suggest that we

ought to spend more time looking and moving into the future with hope rather than looking to and

dwelling in the past with regret.  Paul wrote elsewhere:  “Forgetting what lies behind and straining

forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal.”  Sure, any of us could look back and sigh if

 we choose, while wishing our life away.  But hope in the Lord prompts us to look forward with a

smile. 

      Moreover, hope in God gives us the will and the wherewithal to keep plugging away.  It enables

us to hang on and to tough it out.  Hope increases and enlarges our endeavor.  We are willing to try

when there is reason to try.  In such hope, the very things we thought were impossible become

accomplished.  Hope changes our outlook.  That may be the most important and necessary thing of

all.  It isn’t what comes to us in life as much as how we handle what comes, anchored in God’s help.

      Finally, hope stirs our excitement.  What a difference it makes in our lives when we live with the

attitude which declares: Something good is coming!  Beyond is better!  Sooner or later, this ghastly

pandemic will be brought under control.  Eventually, under strong leadership, our government will

again become functional and effective, and our political divisions will be healed, or at least we’ll be

able to civilly and constructively disagree.  In all these things and more, we look forward, not to a

wishful end, but to an endless hope. 

      When the Christians in Colossae needed something to uplift their spirits, and when we need

something to uplift ours, Paul reminded them and reminds us of our ultimate hope; our anchor.

We’re experiencing difficulties, struggles, stresses.  Paul says that in spite of them, we are blessed;

blessed because, as he writes, “You have heard of this hope before in the word of truth, the gospel

that has come to you.”  We need not wish upon a star, makes no difference who we are, when we

can ground our hope in the love of God, and in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.