Bringing the community Hope

When beauty contestants are interviewed on stage, the quintessential answer is that they hope for world peace., yet the world remains in turmoil and wars rage.

At this time of the year we are reminded that the one who came in peace – in fact the prince of peace – broke into our world 2000 years ago.

Today I am not talking about peace, but focussing on the concept of hope. I am not talking about some hope in the never-never – not the misuse of the word hope when people really mean I wish for - but hope in a solid reality.

Our hope as Christian is on the real and tangible solid ground of faith, like I spoke about last week – faith built on the solid rock of Jesus.  We have hope in the truth and promises of the God who loves us.  We, as Christians have a hope that is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).  It is a hope closely aligned with faith…a faith that cannot be moved by circumstances or what the eyes see because we believe God, the maker of all things.

We echo the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 3:2 Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” 3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 4 I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 6 I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.

The Psalmists’ hope is our hope. We do not focus on a hope is a hope for the future but also have a hope for the now.  It is a trust in God to deliver.

Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills—   from where will my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord,  who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 He who keeps Israel  will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper;  the Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;  he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep  your going out and your coming in  from this time on and for evermore.

The Old Testament prophets proclaimed that God was the hope of Israel, Paul in the New Testament announces that Jesus Christ is our hope ( 1 Tim 1:1 ). Sour Christian hope is in God the Father ( 1 Tim 4:10 ) and in Christ ( Eph 1:12 ).

What are we hoping for? Something large like world peace? More likely it is a self centred hope -  a hope that my mortgage will be paid off, that my money worries will be dealt with, or that this will happen to make me more prosperous or beautiful or intelligent.  But that is not the hope that God offers us. His hope and our faith is that God will be my anchor in the storms of life – not a hope that there will be no storms, but that God will support me and encourage me through those storms.

That is why Paul could write, when asking God to remove his trial: 2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.…

His hope and his faith rested on the assurance that God was with him. So is our hope, our promise.

Hope is the response to the promises of God. Abraham serves as an example here. Even though he was very old and childless, he had confidence that God would fulfil his promises that he would be the father of nations. "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed" ( Rom 4:18 ). Like Abraham, we can trust in God's promises and "seize the hope set before us" ( Heb 6:18).

The Scriptures hold the promises of God that engender hope ( Rom 15:4 ). As I said last week, we need to dwell on those words in ourder to grow our hope and faith.

The Holy Spirit is also a source of hope, for his power causes hope to abound ( Rom 15:13 ).  God through his spirit can achieve what we cannot. The promises hoped for are realised by the actions of the Spirit.

Finally, hope comes as a gift from God through grace ( 2 Th 2:16).  We do not deserve the promises, we do not deserve that they apply to us, but God through his grace and mercy applies those promises to us.

Such hope leads to joy ( Rom 12:12 ) boldness ( 2 Cor 3:12 ), and faith and love ( Col 1:4-5 ). Hope also gives us comfort.  That hope allows us to encourage one another with the knowledge of the resurrection ( 1 Th 4:18 ). Though boasting in our works is disallowed, we may boast or exult in hope of sharing God's glory ( Rom 5:2 ; cf. Heb 3:6 ).

All of these are promised in Scripture. We have a secure hope in their realisation.

Looking to the future, we look expectantly in hope for the return of Christ, we have a sure hope that when we see him we shall become like him, purified "as he is pure" ( 1 John 3:3 ).

But in the here and now, hope stimulates good works. Following his teaching on resurrection of the dead, Paul exhorts his readers to do the Lord's work abundantly since such "labour is not in vain" ( 1 Cor 15:51-58 ).[1]

Biblical and Christian hope does not mean living in the clouds, dreaming of a better life. It is not merely a projection of what we would like to be or do. It leads us to discover seeds of a new world already present today, because of the identity of our God, because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This hope is, in addition, a source of energy to live differently, not according to the values of a society based on the thirst for possession and competition.

In the Bible, the divine promise does not ask us to sit down and wait passively for it to come about, as if by magic. Before speaking to Abraham about the fullness of life offered to him, God says, "Leave your country and your home for the land I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). To enter into God’s promise, Abraham is called to make of his life a pilgrimage, to undergo a new beginning.

Similarly, the good news of the resurrection is not a way of taking our minds off the tasks of life here and now, but a call to set out on the road. "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? … Go into the entire world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation… You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:11; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8).[2]

That is why our motto for the church is to bring the community new heart.  We bring hope to the people who live without hope, those who live in this suburb, in this city, in this nation and in this world.

We show that what the world is does not have to be, that there is more to life than we can see, that what can be done is more than we could do in our own strength.  We give courage to dream big, we give authority to dream big, we give the means to bring about those bigger dreams.

 

It is not about us empowering but the God who lives within us empowering both us and the people around is

Our mission statement Follow Jesus, grow in wholeness and bring others to Him speaks of that hope we have, the means to achieve that hope, and to help people achieve that same hope.

We give hope by introducing people to Jesus – that is called evangelism – telling them of the hope that we have ourselves.

But also we are involved in social action, because hope in a future without a hope in the present is unrealistic.

Our definition of community ministries (social ministries/social action) is : “that set of activities whose primary goal is improving the physical socio-economic … well being of people through relief, development and structural change.” (Ron Sider 1999).

“If we are sent in the same way as Jesus, then our mission in the world includes both evangelism and social responsibility.” (Ron Sider 1999)

We give hope to people and bring Christ into the lives of people around us by walking with them in relationship.

We are not the church that just meets in Glengarry, we are not the church to Glengarry people, we are not the church for Glengarry people, we are the church living with the Glengarry people.

We do not just save souls, we are concerned with the whole person – physical, relational, emotional, situational – whare tapa wha, the wheki are our models of salvation.

This church has a reputation of being there for people in need, of extending hope to those who are at the end of their own string. 

In 2017 we are facing new opportunities to show that hope, some of those plans are already in the pipeline, others are still a germ of an idea in your heads.  Let God show you how we can be the hope for people in this city, and ask God for the courage to step out in fulfilment of that hope seed.



[1] http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/hope/

[2] http://www.taize.fr/en_article343.html