It might seem a strange question to ask, how much hope, but it’s an honest one that I’m posing to you. I’m asking this considering fears around amounts of money (we ended the year in the black! Let’s celebrate!), numbers of people in the pews (those numbers seem to be on the rise!), and kids who come up front for our excellent children’s sermons (did you see the dozen kids who came up on New Year’s Day for the children’s sermon? It was amazing!). I’m asking because I think it’s easy for any congregation to lose hope for any variety of reasons. I’m asking because there are all sorts of reason for us to have hope.
Did you hear that? There’s all sorts of reason for us to have hope.
Or, rather: There’s all sorts of ways in which hope has ahold of us!
Since hope stems from God’s love for us – for us! – then hope abounds in our life together. This is where Paul is driving us, to see the horizon of hope that sprawls out before us. A new horizon is both scary and exhilarating, both grief producing and liberating, both unfamiliar and yet, somehow, also familiar. Whatever the horizon shows us, the ground underneath us, God’s love, unites us and provides a steadiness upon which to rest as we consider the view before us.
When Paul writes, hope does not disappoint us, he is not suggesting that hope somehow makes us immune to trials and temptations. Of anyone, Paul is sure to know something about hope deferred, about brokenness and failure. Not only on the Damascus Road, but in other experiences in his life—even life after the encounter with Christ on the road—does Paul have familiarity with the struggles associated with hope. Though Paul thought that Christ would come back in his lifetime (he was banking on it, in fact), he continued, day by day, to do the work of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in the face of a world hostile to that kind of news. He was beaten and imprisoned, and eventually, killed for the work he was called to be about. Though he struggled, he did not lose hope.
We are called into hope, and, to be honest, hope is hard work. For so many reasons, people can easily throw their hands up in the air in frustration and want to walk away. This is not a hopeful stance; in the face of such things, the community is called to lean into the hope we have in Jesus Christ. When someone walks away from hope, the community is to reach out in hope. If those to whom we reach out do not rest in hope, we are called to reach out to them again and again and again and again.
And what of the hope that has a hold of us? What do we do with it? We share it with others, and, boldly, we share with others the reason for our hope. And when we are unclear about why and how hope is present, remember this: We are children of God, each named and claimed through the waters of baptism, each called and sent to share the love and hope of Christ with the world. We have something of real worth to share with the world. We have hope. Those three words are radical to a world that has lost all hope.
Together, by God’s grace, let’s not only lean into hope but also share it with others.
In Christ’s Love and Grace, Pastor Paul Lutter