First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Rev. Toby Jones, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

“Here Comes the Sun- A Time for Hope” January 31, 2021

     “Here Comes the Sun – A Time for Hope”
        Based on Genesis 9:8-16, Romans 8:18-25, & Hebrews 10:23-25
A Message Offered by Toby Jones to the People of CHXUCC, Jan 31, 2021

            In my almost 40 years as a gigging musician, I’ve played a lot of Beatles’ songs. And I’m quite certain that the one I’ve played more than any other in that time is “Here Comes the Sun.” I adore that song. I love everything about it, both instrumentally and vocally. It’s almost impossible to fathom that George could write a song like that, bring it to the Beatles, and then receive either a lukewarm reception or, worse yet, have it totally dismissed by both John and Paul. But that’s exactly what happened, and it happened time and time again to the youngest Beatle, the one who would come to be known as the “Dark Horse.”
            From George’s biographies, we learn that he wrote this song when he was supposed to be at a Beatles’ business meeting with the executives from Apple Records in April of 1969. He had had it with this band and being disregarded by McCartney and Lennon. The last thing he needed was to sit in a stuffy room with a bunch of men in dark suits signing mountains of paperwork. So George decided to drive 20 miles south to Surrey, to his friend Eric Clapton’s house. The two sat out in Clapton’s garden for a while, as George shared his frustration and despair with his compassionate friend. Eventually, Harrison asked Eric for one of his acoustic guitars and a strap. With Clapton’s ax over his shoulder, George took a walk by himself through that English garden and wrote “Here Comes the Sun.”
            Isn’t it amazing how often hope is born out of deep despair? Isn’t it incredible how light emerges even – and especially – out of the deepest darkness? I think of that expression: “It’s always darkest right before the dawn.” I love the first line of this classic Harrison composition: “Little darlin,’ it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…” That’s a pretty rich line, isn’t it? Remind you of any winters you’ve been through lately? How about the Covid winter of 2020-2021? – long, cold, and lonely. And then he follows it up with “It seems like years since it’s been spring.” Amen, George! Amen! It is as though he is singing right to us, isn’t it?
            But as this song continues, it moves from a place of deep darkness to one of incredible light. “Here comes the sun…here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right.” In the subsequent verses the “smile’s returning to the faces” and the “ice is slowly melting.” The sun is coming, and it’s going to be alright. It’s a song of hope, profound hope in the face of some serious darkness.

             I think “Here Comes the Sun” would have been a great song to use at the very end of the soundtrack of that story from Genesis 9 this morning. Noah and his family have been in that stinky ark for the duration of that 150-day flood. They had to be wondering if they’d ever see sunshine and blue skies again. And it wasn’t just the weather that was dark during their time on that animal-packed boat. Noah and his family spent that whole time trying to digest and come to terms with the fact that whenever the storm was over and the flood waters abated, there would be nobody left but them on the earth. Talk about darkness!
            But when the rains ended and the flood waters receded, Noah opened the cargo bay to hear these words from his God: “Never again will life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “Look up, Noah! I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.” Cue the music! “Here comes the sun, do-da-do-do…”
             Hope is a rare and precious commodity these days. The winter of our Covid discontent just seems to keep dragging on and on. And every time we get a glimpse of good news, it seems to be followed by more hope-dashing bad news. Yes, there’s a vaccine out…But nobody can seem to get it. We still can’t visit our friends and loved ones in nursing homes and care facilities. And so, we cry out in frustration and in impatience, “How long, O Lord! When will this awful time of Covid be over?”
               I’ve been scouring the scriptures for stories of hope, wanting to shed a little light on this present darkness. I’ve turned to Hebrews chapter 10, where the author says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who has promised is faithful…Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another all the more as we see the dawn approaching.”
               I’ve revisited Romans 8, beginning in verse 18, where Paul says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not even worth comparing to the glory that will someday be revealed to us.” Paul likens the suffering he went through and the suffering we are going through to “the pains of childbirth.” Horrible pain, as you mothers know…but pain that is but a prelude to a glorious new birth and new life. In verse 22, Paul writes, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time…For in this hope we were saved.” And I love this next part… “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait it patiently,” or, as one translation puts it, “we wait for it with patience and confidence.”
             That’s the challenge for us, isn’t it? Can we wait – with patience and confidence in God – for this long, cold, lonely winter to be over? Even though we can’t yet see the light of a post-Covid-19 existence, can we maintain hope, waiting with patience and confidence in the God of Noah’s rainbow? And for those of us dealing with even deeper and more oppressive darkness than Covid-19, can we maintain or work toward an attitude of hope in the face of things like cancer diagnoses, a child in trouble, addiction, or the death of a long-cherished relationship? This is not a question to be answered lightly or flippantly. Cheap hope or false hope can be worse than no hope at all.
            So where does genuine, authentic hope lie? How do we tap into it? Well, folks, for me, I turn to the life and path of Jesus. I look at the journey he took – not just the pieces of it – but his journey in its totality, from cradle to grave and beyond. I think about the things he went through, particularly the moments of fear and questioning – his tearful prayer in Gethsemane, his weeping at the loss of his friend Lazarus, the betrayal of Judas, the fleeing of all his supposed friends, and, of course, the cross itself, from which he uttered that cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” I think of all that Jesus faced, of all he endured, the fact that he didn’t dodge or avoid any of what it means to be human. That gives me incredible hope…that and the fact that he came back from the other side of the grave to tell us, to make sure we knew, that here comes the sun, that it is going to be alright, that there is light at the end of every dark, human tunnel.
             So many songs sing of and have brought me this kind of hope. Certainly, “Here Comes the Sun” is one of them. But there’s one particular song I’ve asked David Bowen to sing for us this morning. It’s a song that grounds my hope in the reality of Jesus and his journey. The words of the refrain go like this:

     “Because he lives I can face tomorrow; because he lives all fear is gone;
           Because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.”

Now, the song itself is powerful, to be sure. But there is even greater power for me in the fact that it just so happens that it will be David Bowen who will sing it for us. David, himself, has battled a great many health problems, including some that make it very hard for him to sing at all, to draw the necessary breath to make music with his wonderful voice. And, of course, as most of you know, David’s beloved bride Tina has been journeying with a very pernicious form of cancer for a long, long time. Their journey, their love, their attitudes, their perseverance gives me hope. And I know that David’s singing “Because He Lives” will touch your heart and give you hope too. David, take this sermon home, will you, brother?