Summary: People all around are drowning in a sense of hopelessness. Christ offers the greatest hope we will ever need; our task is to share that message of hope in the communities around us.
I have this little feature on my cell phone where I get pop-up notifications of breaking news from a couple of different news outlets. Most of the time, these pop-ups make me cringe; probably because a lot of them have to do with campaign politics. But the thing is, when it’s not about campaign politics, it’s almost always about some tragedy somewhere in the world. Let me read to you some of the notification headlines that popped up on my phone this week:
• BREAKING: American University in Kabul under attack
• WATCH LIVE: Death toll rising after massive earthquake in central Italy
• WATCH LIVE: CDC warns of second Zika transmission zone in South Florida
Here are some other headlines I ran across this week:
• On cue, hurricane season heats up
• These are peak times for divorce
• Pokemon Go-playing driver kills woman
I’m sure you get the point. Even amid many wonderful things that happen in our world, like the recent show of athleticism and sportsmanship at the 2016 Summer Olympics, we are still bombarded with negative news nearly every day. And the thing is; it’s not just that it’s negative news; it’s flat out bad news; discouraging and terrible news. This is the reality that we live with every week, and sometimes every day. And I haven’t even gotten to the news that strikes home; a dire health diagnosis for someone in our family, the unexpected death of a loved-one, a child who has developmental delays. Even as some of us are trying to simply process the chaos in the world around us, many others are trying to manage the chaos at home.
With this reality in our lives and in our world, it really is no wonder that humanity clings to hope with all we’ve got. And in those times when we may be feeling hopeless, what we long for above all else is hope. Ken once reflected that this world needs Christ because without Christ there is no hope, and what is life without hope? Without hope there is no purpose, no joy.
This morning, we continue to explore the four guiding principles of HOPE Point @Wesley Memorial: Rooted in Christ. Grounded in Hope. Growing in Grace. Giving in Love. And this week we are going to really dig in and explore what it means to be grounded in hope. Last week, if you remember, we talked about being rooted in Christ, and we remembered the fact that when we sink our roots deep in Christ’s love, we are connected to life-giving waters, and we are strengthened to endure everything that life sends our way. But the thing is, the other truth about having lives that are rooted in Christ is our troubles are not suddenly wiped away. We still have to face the tough realities of life in this world today. We still have to deal with the challenges brought about by the natural world and a sinful and mortal humanity. And the fact is, a lot of times those challenges leaving us feeling hopeless.
Right now, over 40,000 families are displaced from their homes because of flooding in Louisiana. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a flood-ravaged place, but it is devastating. When I was in college, I was helping to lead a youth group one summer. We took a week-long mission trip to rural Virginia, where we were replacing siding and roofs for disabled or widowed persons. Then, just a couple of days in, we got a call from UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Just on the other side of the mountains, in West Virginia, there had been terrible flooding and they needed teams to come and help.
Very, very early the next morning, I loaded up a van with a bunch of teenagers and drove across the mountain. As we descended the mountain into a river valley, I’m not sure I can describe the devastation we saw. Everything was covered in mud. Everything. Tree trunks were scattered all over the place like toothpicks. Homes were completely pushed off their foundations. As I surveyed the devastation, I remember thinking over and over again, “Where do we even start?” Not only was I completely overcome with a sense of helplessness, I also felt hopeless. In fact, I think that was the most profound feeling of hopelessness I have ever experienced. And I wasn’t one of the hundreds of people in that little valley who had lost not only their home, but their whole town. But let me tell you what happened, our little mission team walked into the home of one woman, everything on the first floor of her home was caked in mud. And we just started cleaning. And as we cleaned, I watched that woman’s whole demeanor change. Suddenly, she had a reason to hope. “We even take pride in our problems,” Paul says, “because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”