Each Sunday as part of the benediction I encourage, or call upon, everyone to, “bring hope to all”. What is it that I mean?
Really I think there are a lot of possibilities, well at least a few, and I will attempt to talk about them here today.
First, in the purest Christian sense, there is the hope that we have to offer people through the teachings of Jesus known to us through the Christ-Spirit that is alive in the church today. There are teachings that admonish us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and to quench the thirst of those in need of a cool glass of water. There are the teachings that call upon us to, love our neighbor and if she asks for a jacket give her the shirt as well. The once thirsty person will feel new hope when the thirst is quenched. The once hungry person will feel new hope when fed. The person whose clothes are in tatters will feel able to walk the streets again when given that new set of clothes. Our neighbor in despair may find hope in the assurance of love from a stranger and if walking shirtless the shirt and jacket will restore a person’s dignity and provide hope that society cares.
I was on a mission trip to Kentucky several years ago and several of the high school age students that were on the trip were concerned that the poor who we were serving, were not spending their money wisely; they were buying “junk” food instead the healthy nutritious things, they had a trampoline in the yard and an x-box in their home. The youth in my church felt these were extravagances they could not afford (the kids in my church thought the trampoline and x-box were luxuries anyway). The counselor from the mission organization through whom we were working put it this way, “It is not up to us to pass judgment on the way locals spend their money. Our role here is to make sure the people in this part of our country know that people on the ‘outside’ of Appalachia care. There is hope if one person cares.”
She went on to say, “We bring hope, and if the hope we bring leads to one person seeing that life can be better. If one person can see that people on the outside really care, then we have made a difference in the life of one family. Then we have brought them hope.”
Here, in Sturgeon Bay, between Sundays, we are not typically running into those who need food, clothing and shelter, although it does happen. What we offer others is the spirit of community and that too speaks to people that we care. The hearty greetings for one another, even if it has been only a few weeks, the heartfelt embraces when someone returns after a winter away, the smiles, the laughter, and the joy; all of it speaks of and to people with love.
All of it brings hope to others.
The joy we share, the laughter we offer, the words of welcome are as food and drink to hungry thirsty spirits and it clothes those we know in love and hope. When we bring that spirit of welcome to all we know, we bring hope to all we know.