The Church Holds My Hope
By Bruce Lindgren of Independence, MO, USA
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. —Hebrews 11:1 NRSV
I grew up in a time when the church was triumphant. In the U.S., those who had served their nation abroad during war returned home to those who had served their nation at home. Their victory, after years of economic depression, faced forces still debated to create a huge economic surge that lasted for most of my youth.
A good number of people struggled with the effects of war, though often silently and outside the line of sight of most of their friends and neighbors. Still, a tide was carrying us ever forward and ever upward. The church was a beneficiary of all this victory and success.
Those who had survived war and economic depression found meaning and support in the church. My church community built a new building in an up-scale part of town, and its walls almost immediately began to burst from the numbers of families and post-war baby boomers who filled it every Sunday.
I have always loved the church. Born into a large, loving extended family, my church family extended ever further. I felt supported and nurtured, accepted and challenged by the message and the people.
Several years ago, I ran across a column by Don Landon in an old issue of the Herald from the height of the church’s success. He raised an impossible possibility. Perhaps, he suggested, the success the church has been enjoying may not always be with us—so, what then?
Lately, news from the church has often been more depressing, not just for my church but for most churches. Attendance is down. Money is scarce. Southern Baptists, for example, are recalling large numbers of missionaries because they can no longer afford to pay them. So—what now?
As I have thought about this, my response must be the same as it has always been—I love the church. I love that my grandchildren feel at home in the most diverse community they know. I love that the church continues to be an avenue out of malaise and despair for many. People have given up on the life that TV tries to sell them. I love that there is a message proclaiming hope amid disappointment. Not a hope that shields its eyes from difficult problems, but a hope that finds it possible to overcome trying times.
It is difficult to see how finances can get back to what they once were. Hope is not to see the future clearly; it is to catch a glimpse of what it could be.
Prayer for Peace
Ever-present God, we glorify you when times are good. We take comfort in your compassion when times are trying. When it would be easy to despair, thank you for those who choose to share hope.
Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices
Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. The practice of discernment invites us to orient our lives toward God and God’s vision for us and creation. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities in the day before you. Take these choices into prayer, asking God for wisdom and insight about what matters most.
Today, God, when I hear discouragement, I will draw attention to your vision of peace.