“I hope the rain will stop!”
“I hope that my kids will behave this time.”
“I hope I finally get a promotion!”
“I hope that I’ll feel better soon.”
So what does “hope” mean in those statements? It seems that the speakers are dissatisfied with their current situation and “cherish a desire with anticipation” (that’s Merriam-Webster’s definition, by the way). In the musical “Annie”, Orphan Annie sang well about that kind of hope: “I just stick out my chin and say, Oh… Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow. You’re always a day away.” She hoped.
Now consider Fellowship Community Church’s mission statement: “We exist to be a community of hope in Christ.” As an affirmation of that statement, “Community of Hope” banners hang in our parking lot. Though they look nice, do you wonder what that phrase means? Could it simply be reworded, “We’re a bunch of discontented people”? I hope you laughed about my rewording just now, because “hope” in the Bible has a different, much more exciting, deeper, richer meaning. Merriam-Webster tells me that the “archaic” meaning of “hope” is trust. And check out the definition of “trust”: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone. For those of us at Fellowship, that Someone is Christ. That’s not future hope. Not just Annie’s “I love you, tomorrow” hope. It’s right now. Today. This minute. And synonyms for this kind of hope? Confidence. Certainty. Assurance. Wow, I like that! With the first definition, we were left uncertain and chewing our fingernails. But with this second definition, hey, our shoulders go back, our smiles grow wide, and our hearts beat steady and firm. We stride into 2019… with hope!
Let’s now consider Fellowship’s vision statement: “Fellowship Community Church seeks to help build communities that experience hope in Jesus Christ and share that hope with our neighbors here and around the world.” How does this work? Consider FCC’s Living Nativity. Don’t you love it?! Hundreds of us – all volunteering in the middle of a hectic month – happily get involved, from set-up and decorations to parking lot to costumes to cookies to tour guides to golf-cart drivers to clean-up. Community. Men play prophets. Angels soar. Young shepherds collapse on the ground. Children run to Jesus. Loud-voiced guys try to control their boat during a storm. And disciples gaze up at Jesus who rises into the clouds. Meanwhile, someone (okay, lots of people) push those behind-the-scenes buttons, check the loud-speakers, and propel that angel choir into the sky. And bless those helpers who secretly bring us hot chocolate, hand-warmers, and food.
One heart. One mind. Lots of hands. Community. A community of hope in Christ.
I played a new role at Nativity this year: Though in previous years I’ve been a marketer in Bethlehem, this time I was Lazarus’ neighbor by his tomb. As the sun set in the west, Linda (aka sister Martha) gathered us and helped us rehearse our event. I liked the emotional contrast of crying over Lazarus’ death - to laughing with delight as Chris (aka Lazarus) walked from the tomb smiling – to mystified amazement when Janine (aka shocked neighbor) realized that – oh my word!- Jesus Himself is Life! And I loved being there and celebrating Jesus together with 100s of people, dressed like, well, like Jesus. A community of hope in Christ.
We at Fellowship Community Church know Christ. And He knows us. Before He even created the world, He thought of us. On that first wintry Christmas morning, He was born for us. While we were still enemies of God, He died for us. To give us hope (that is, confidence and certainty) He rose from the dead. To give us a forever home, He went to His Father to prepare a place. To give us peace in the craziest of days, He sent His Spirit to live with us. Not tomorrow. Today.
We at Fellowship Community Church tell each other about His work. While sipping coffee with friends in the lobby or while praying together in our mid-week community groups, we hear stories of His forgiveness, comfort, provision, protection, and healing power. And we can’t keep it (read that, we can’t keep Him) to ourselves!
So – again, community- we invite neighborhood kids to Salao Soccer, and the teens lead sidewalk clubs in Trenton. Missions teams run clinics in Belize, and men invite their coworkers to join them in an Alpha class. Ladies gather and discuss Scripture, and we invite friends to Celebrate Recovery. Our worship team leads us in singing “We Won’t be Shaken”, even as our children joyfully dance-sing “Our God is a Big, Big God!” No activities are tangential. It’s all about Christ. Our hope (trust! reliance!) is in Him, and we want them to know Him too. He is strong. He is able. So we have hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Our Hope for the new year -and for life - is Christ! Happy 2019!
-by Shawne Ebersole