November 2020 Connection

Exercising Hope: For All The World to See

For the third month in a row, I wanted to use my column inches in the Connection newsletter to continue sharing my reflections on the mission and vision statement of Grand Blanc UMC: “Friends in Christ Exercising love, hope and grace to enrich all lives.” So far, I’ve written about “Friends in Christ” and all that it means to take seriously our call to be neighbors, brothers, sisters, and friends in the broad and limitless family of Jesus Christ. Last month, I reflected on a connecting word in the statement: “exercise” (everyone’s favorite word, right?). I hope you’ve had the chance to read these articles, but if not, don’t bother looking in the NY Time’s Best Seller list. They’re not there. But they are on our website (grandblancumc.org), just waiting to be read!
 
For this month, I want to look at another way that this congregation is committed to exercising as friends in Christ (remember, exercise is like practice. We actually have to do it to get better at it): Exercising hope.
 
Hope is one of those words that we use all the time in so many different contexts: “I hope the Lions can keep the 24 point lead in the 4th quarter” (they won’t); “I hope the power doesn’t go out” (it’s allowed to flicker at most); “I hope my candidate wins!” (If it’s November 3rd when your reading this, did you remember to vote?); “I hope my paycheck is big enough” (if you’ve never thought that, consider the privilege that carries with it). The list of “hope” statements can go on and on, and they are all correct uses of the word “hope.”
 
So, what does it mean for a church to exercise hope? Well, to answer that, we first have to answer a similar question: Is it the same as believing in hope? To some degree, it is the same, or at least related. When we say that we “believe in hope,” especially in the context of our Christian faith, we are announcing that we believe that Jesus Christ represents and is hope for all of us. He’s hope for all who feel broken and lost. He’s hope for all who discover that one cannot physically lift him/herself up by their own bootstraps (think about it – it makes no sense). Christ’s redemption is hope that we don’t need to live as slaves to sin, but are freed from the chains that have become rusted-shut around our limbs. These are all things that we believe and hold true as faithful Christians. And so, if that’s what it means to believe in hope, what does it mean to exercise it?
 
Remember in the last article how I talked about exercise being a routine of practice in an effort to be more perfect (or at least better)? To exercise love is to take what we believe about love, and make it part of our every day lives of how we treat one another, care for one another, and value one another. We work at it, and work at it, and work at it more (in other words, we exercise it) until loving our neighbor becomes second nature to us.
 
Well, the same thing is true for exercising hope. It requires us to live our lives hopeful that Jesus’ promise of redemption was sincere and true. It’s taking leaps of faith in ministry, believing that we might come alongside God in our discipleship and become the answer to someone’s hopeful prayer to be fed, loved, housed, clothed, valued, taught, healed, and so much more! It’s believing that we can go through a virus-filled storm and come out of the fog having become stronger. It’s stepping out onto the waters of uncertainty, trusting that Jesus will reach out for us when the waves begin to consume us.
 
You see, exercising hope is doing all of these things, and putting it on display for all the world to see that belief in the hope God promises is not a fool’s errant, but rather our moment of grace realized. So, the next time, as a member of this church, you are faced with the invitation from Jesus to step out onto the water or gather the loaves and fishes, believing it to be enough, believe in hope enough to do it.
 
Don’t look now, but you just got stronger.
 
Peace, my friends!
Pastor Brian
 
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