Harold and I walk into an expansive fitness center. “Wow,” we say. Large signs – “Performance”, “Motivate”, “Achieve” – hang from the walls. Banners list the benefits of connecting with a personal trainer. On a wall-TV, experts recommend best routines for this “fitness journey.” My head swivels right to left and back to center.
One muscular manager steps out from behind the front desk and hands me a schedule of classes. He then confidently motions us to walk with him around the facilities. He proudly points out rows of earnest exercisers, every level, every age. I see a couple men pass each other and pause to talk. The manager pulls my attention back with his comments. “When you come in, you know what to expect. We’ll supply everything you need to accomplish your goals. Assessments. Group fitness classes...” As we walk past floor-to-ceiling glass, we see a group of glistening women stepping in synch. Music is pumping, and the coach shouts, “Hey, I didn’t design this to be easy. But it’s so worth it!” Our tour guide tells us, “Instructors will give you everything possible for the best outcome.” We next walk past a snack-bar – One man is gulping down an energy drink, and he nods at us. Our tour guide says, “We recommend these health drinks too. And have I mentioned our website and podcasts? Knowledge builds motivation, you know.” Okay, I’m impressed. Harold’s grinning and nodding. The manager next pulls out gym membership papers and hands Harold a pen…
“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.