As I write, the count is 59 dead and 527 injured in Las Vegas; Americans are still without water, food, or medical supplies in hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico; and thousands will be rebuilding their homes for years to come in Houston and other places in the Gulf Coast. Yet in these days, when the images of violence of Las Vegas and Charlottesville grieve our hearts; when the images of Puerto Rico, Houston and the Gulf coast ravaged by hurricanes sear our memories, I still find hope in Jesus. Jesus who came saying:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…” (Luke 4:18)
Jesus who came saying:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)
I wonder, how many of us are comfortable saying, “Repent!”? Repentance was on my heart last April when I visited the African American History Museum. How could we have treated people that way? It is heart-rending to face this history of ours: it breaks our hearts, and it breaks the heart of God.
And yet…I have hope: hope for the church and hope for the world. Why? Because the Word of God promises:
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”” (Revelation 21:2-5)
Before he left, Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphaned, but would send us the Holy Spirit, to guide us, to give us power to enter into the Kingdom of God, to give us the moral courage to act in the face of evil. Where do I see signs of hope, signs of the Holy Spirit moving amongst us?
- At Arlington Temple UMC, a formerly homeless woman offered her testimony on “Being God’s people in the world” as she joined the church. (Read that story here.) Because God’s people at Arlington Temple offered her a relationship, and nurtured it over a long period of time, this woman became part of their community of faith and found a home.
- At Galilee UMC, a woman talked about the guidance counselor at a nearby elementary school who called and asked for help. A recently divorced father was struggling financially, and his children were going home after school without any adult in the home. Could the church possibly help this family by enrolling them in their after school program? Otherwise, the counselor might have to call Child Protective Services, and who knew what would happen then. Because of Galilee, this family is still together.
- At Sleepy Hollow UMC, a couple felt inspired to knock on 50 of their neighbor’s doors, introducing themselves, and seeking to build relationships so they could share Jesus.
- At Bruen Chapel, a couple who are passionate about teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at the church invited five members of the ESL class to their child’s birthday party.
- At Clarendon UMC, Tracy McNeil Wines is inviting the entire congregation to read Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute—a book about conflict. Clarendon is home to people of widely differing political convictions. At Clarendon, I see a church asking “How can we be united in Christ, when we hold such different convictions? How can we be a Christian community?”
- First Vietnamese American UMC was so moved by the victims of Hurricane Harvey that they immediately organized a car wash and raised $5K. Many other churches in the District are collecting flood buckets and making donations.
- I caught Dave Norman, pastor at Crossroads UMC, on the day of the Las Vegas shooting: he was busily arranging the sanctuary for an evening prayer vigil so that people in the community could gather and raise their dismay and pleas to God in solidarity with others.
At our September District Committee on Ordained Ministry, I found hope in three young adult ministry candidates: a Korean American who went to Liberty University; a Methodist “pastor’s kid” just returned from a year in England studying Methodism; and a student body president from Messiah College who grew up in an evangelical branch of the Methodist movement. They were asked: “Given everything that is going on in the world today and in our denomination, where do you find hope? Why would you, as young adults, spend time and money going to seminary and seek to become Methodist pastors?”
- One looked to history, saying the church could not have survived for 2,000 years without being “elastic.”
- One grounded his hope in trusting in God.