At Asbury United Methodist Church, where I serve as pastor, we have a mission statement – or mission driver, as one friend likes to call it. The statement which drives our work is this:
Helping people experience the HOPE of Jesus Christ.
I like that phrase. I think it captures the truth of who God would call us to be as the church, as disciples of Jesus Christ. But I also realize it can be a bit nebulous – difficult to grasp what is meant by the word “hope.” So, I figured it might help if I were to give my thoughts on what hope looks like to me. I at least figure it can’t hurt.
The first thing that comes to mind for me is that hope looks like non-hopelessness. I know, I should not define a word simply by its negative. But here’s what I mean: hope is about being able to get up in the morning and believe that it could be a good day. It’s not “hoping” it will be a good day, it’s believing it could be. The reality is it might not be so good, but if a person can begin their day believing it could be a good day, well to me, that’s hope. That encompasses a lot of different life-situations: struggling marriages, financial uncertainties, issues of having food to eat, etc. If in any of those circumstances a person can get out of bed and believe it could be a good day, then that’s hope.
Hope also looks like the hand of a neighbor. I mean neighbor in the sense Jesus used the term – one who shows mercy to another person. When we reach out to offer a hand up or a shoulder to lean on we act as a sign and symbol of hope to others. When we invite a hungry family to eat with us, when we take a co-worker to lunch and offer a willing ear to listen to their struggles and help them think through their next steps, when we go to a school and help mentor students and love them in simple ways – in those times we help paint a brighter future and we offer hope.
For me, hope mostly looks like a quiet moment of prayer with others who know Jesus. Hope is knowing the truth of God so deep within me that even the worst of days cannot take away the belief that this is not all there is. Hope is deeply spiritual work. It seeps down into the core of my being and never lets the burdens of life take hold of me. Hope is the presence of God so rich within us that it brings with it a nagging desire to give up what we have because maybe by doing so we can help others know what we know.
Hope is realizing that the unwavering peace I have found in Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure I have ever known and if I keep it to myself it will melt away. Hope cannot be deeply personal without being broadly distributed. And hope cannot be adequately shared unless it is deeply embedded.
My hope is found in the knowledge that in Jesus Christ I am more fully alive than I could ever be on my own. My hope comes from knowing you can’t hurt me so much I cannot forgive you. My hope comes from realizing that if I were to lose all my worldly possessions this very day I would still be a rich man. My hope comes from the belief that even though I messed up yesterday, or even if I mess up today, all is not lost and I can be a source of hope to others.
What does hope look like to you?
Holy high-five to you,