A Reflection Nine Years in the Making
Last month Hope of Christ Church celebrated our ninth year in worshiping our Savior and serving each other and our community. This means we are now in our tenth year of worshiping together as one Body of Christ. It is exciting to begin thinking about how we will celebrate ten years next March.
I saw on Facebook, shortly after our anniversary came and went, a “memory” posted by a friend of and supporter of Hope of Christ. I usually enjoy seeing those Facebook memories either from my own account or from others. It is fun to recall the past or see the things that struck us funny or worth posting about all those years ago. This particular memory was a picture of the majority of the Hope of Christ congregation at our one year celebration. As I looked at this picture, however, I must confess that I was not filled with sweet nostalgia. My first look at the picture filled me with sadness. But the more I looked at and thought about the picture the more I was filled with hope and a new sense of faith in Christ and his promises.
As I looked at the picture I could not help but see a lot of pain and suffering and loss and struggling. I see a family that will be forced to do the unthinkable in one month and say goodbye to their daughter not even four months old. I see a man who will bury his mother without any assurance of her salvation. I see two families who will watch their daddy walk away from them, from their mommy, and from God himself as each of those men pursues lust and selfishness to the extreme. I see families who will leave Hope of Christ with tears as God moves them to new places for their journey to continue. But I also see families who will leave, not because God is moving them away, but because tastes and wants will move them to walk away from friends and vows. I see a man who, in three years, will accuse me of stealing from the church and another man who, in one year, will tell me I have no business being a pastor. Other than my own family, there are only two families in the picture still worshiping and serving at Hope of Christ. Interestingly, neither of those families were part of the launch team, which means my own family is the last family still in the church who helped start the church. People who study these kinds of numbers tell church planters to plan on losing the entire launch team within the first five years. We made it almost nine years.
Seeing all of that in a single Facebook memory, how can I possibly see hope in that picture? I see hope because I see in this picture of pain and suffering and loss and disappointment a picture of God’s faithfulness to his children. I see the family who had to say goodbye to their daughter surrounded by dear friends who have become family who will weep with them and bear that unbearable burden with them. And I see that same family who knows real loss and can help others with the losses they are sure to face in this fallen world. I see families to whom God is remaining faithful even if the husbands/fathers are not. Though men (and women) disappoint and abandon, our Savior never will. Though there be husbands who will sacrifice others for their own wants, we have a Savior who died to self and sacrificed himself to secure our marriage to Him. Though I see a picture mostly of people who are not at Hope of Christ anymore, God has remained faithful and there are so many, many families who, though they were not around for the one year celebration, are with us today and committed to the work to which God has called us. I also see in that picture many young people who have grown up at Hope of Christ and have now declared their own faith in Christ and are serving faithfully in the church and growing in their understanding and application of God’s amazing grace.
So much of the New Testament is written to help us remember the words of our Savior, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world.”
The church has always been made up entirely of sinners and sufferers. Not two categories of different kinds of people, but rather two titles that we all share. All of us are sinners. All of us are sufferers. We have a Savior who suffered for us, suffers with us, and bore our sin in his own body on the tree so that we could be healed by his suffering. In these last nine years, I have been asked often, “What exactly is the hope of Christ?” Our hope is not that we will never suffer again or be sinned against, but that we have a Savior who is himself our Hope and Comfort. He is our Rock and an ever present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way or the mountains be thrown into the heart of the sea. No matter how much chaos or turmoil we are called to face in our own lives or in the fellowship of the saints, we will not fear because God is with us. And he who began the good work in each of us will remain faithful and will complete that work he has begun. This is good news indeed!
So, Happy Anniversary, Hope of Christ. I am delighted to be with you and am eager (though admittedly a little anxious) to see what God will do in and through us in the next ten years.
Enjoy the journey!