Rev Linda Chester shares some thoughts.
‘Hope is sparked when something of eternity bursts into our fragile lives.
For a moment we lift our eyes from the problems of the world and glimpse things as they could be…as they will be.’
Andy Frost: Share Jesus International.
I think this is a lovely way to look at ‘Hope’, it helps us dare to dream what could be! It`s not just about wishful thinking, there`s an element of belief in what might be a reality. We catch a vision or picture of something beyond the present moment and the excitement begins.
In the dictionary, hope is described as, “an expectation of something we desire” or “to cherish the desire that something good will happen.”
Hope is a positive feeling of expectation, something we do often anticipate with excitement. We want to believe that something good and successful will happen, and, with a touch of realism I think it`s good for us to hold on to hope, without it we can quickly become despondent.
I know that at heart I`m an optimist, my glass is always half-full rather than half-empty, And I equally know how annoying that might be to friends at times!
Ever since a child, I`ve always dared to hope, and although there have of course been times of difficulty and disappointment, hope has helped to keep me going, even through difficult times.
Hope is so much part of my Christian faith I find it difficult to tease it all apart. I can`t think of hope without thinking about my faith, because faith is part of who I am. The whole Christian message is built around hope because into a human world spoilt by war, conflict, hatred, jealousy, greed, corruption, poverty and injustice, Jesus Christ was born to show that things can be different. There is light in the darkness. There is hope for the present and the future. This is in essence our Christian belief and message.
There are so many examples of texts and promises in the Bible which mention or give us hope. Since I was a teenager, verses from the letters of St. Paul have often spoken to me and inspired. His letter to the Church in Rome in AD 57 gives a statement of his faith as Paul prepares for his first visit to them. My favourite passage about hope is Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. We also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.” NIV
Although this past year has been very uncertain and isolating, and we`ve not been able to share in fellowship at our church building, I`m sure we can all see multiple examples of how God has moved people to reach out and help others. The weekly number of phone calls, emails and cards has certainly increased. I hardly ever walk the dog or queue in a shop, without someone calling out a greeting, or an encouragement. All of those working in the NHS in any capacity, neighbours, friends, those working in shops, or delivering our mail, papers, milk, food banks, taxis, public transport, emergency services, radio, television, petrol stations … the list is endless of people who have gone the extra mile over this past year to provide service and support to others. And I haven`t even mentioned those thousands of people working endless hours in laboratories around the world, to try and develop a vaccine. I`ve been greatly heartened and encouraged by the countless goodwill I`ve seen as people have worked so hard to use their gifts, time and abilities to help others improve their lot, or simply get through this dreadful time. The Holy Spirit has certainly been at work!
Of course there have been times when we`ve all been fed-up or longed to get back to “normal”, but that’s the very time when someone else, somewhere, has shown a spark or light, and the voice of prayer has never been silent; we`ve been aware of an unseen presence. This is the light and hope of faith.
As we move forward with vaccines and into Spring, we see the light and hope of creation, and the changing seasons over which we have no control; delicate flowers and blossoms which have survived, birds singing in the trees – all signs of hope. There is also the inner light that we need to continue to seek out, the light which draws us into inner stillness and an awareness of God`s constant presence. This is the light of faith bringing into our lives love, peace and hope, although it may be a light some choose to ignore.
And so, how do I see the future and what would I like to see in our church family, spreading out into the wider community?
We are still in a world-wide pandemic, we must continue to take care how we mix with others – I think key precautions of regular hand-sanitising, cleaning surfaces and door handles and some use of masks, are no bad thing for the future, even to protect us from coughs, colds, sore-throats, flu etc .I was speaking with a nurse at Poole Hospital only yesterday and she commented how interesting that the hospital had not received the usual number of people with flu, and neither has the hospital experienced Noro – virus this year !
Despite all the restrictions and uncertainties of this past year, we have survived. Our faith has survived. God continues to journey with us. Let us re-capture the joy and excitement of God sending His Holy Spirit to live and work through ordinary people to change lives.
In the Gospel of John 20:19-23, we read of the disciples gathered fearfully behind locked doors… but Jesus comes to them and empowers them with the Holy Spirit. Jesus believed in this mixed group of ordinary people; men and women, fishermen, a tax-collector, that they would be able to take His message into the world. They were open for the Holy Spirit to transform them into a cohesive group of men and women who were convinced of Jesus` teaching and the message of forgiveness, compassion and love. They complimented and supported one another with their different gifts and abilities, devoted themselves to scripture, prayer, fellowship and Holy Communion and boldly taught and shared as the Spirit enabled them. Acts chapter 2.
How we have missed meeting at church for fellowship, corporate worship, prayer, especially singing our faith. But let us at Broadstone Methodist Church emerge from lockdown stronger in our faith, eager to support and encourage one other, with an openness and anticipation to be led forward by the Holy Spirit to be the welcoming, loving, compassionate church in our community, the beacon of “Hope” we are called to be.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of scripture, we might have hope.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.