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Hope

This past week I had the pleasure of being with the Rural Ministries Rural Mission Hub at Scargill House in Yorkshire. Nestled in the hillside of this beautiful part of the world, the retreat centre and their live-in, praying community played host to this group of ministers, pioneers and missional leaders from around the region. The day included prayer, reflection, sharing stories and thoughts, discussion, eating together and some solo time to walk around the stunning grounds, dodging rain showers and spotting the retreating deer!

 

As the day drew to a close, a few folks were expressing some frustrations and difficulties they were experiencing in their contexts. I closed with a question… “where are you seeing hope right now?” 


There was a mixed reaction to the question. There were a couple of quick answers, some thoughtful glances out into the distance, and also some quite blank faces, perhaps wrestling with the question.

 

It is an important one for us as followers of Jesus. There are many reasons for us to lose hope. A quick scan of your daily news feed is enough to expose you to the barrage of bad news out there in the world. Sometimes, as we journey through life with those we love, there are more stories and experiences of loss of hope.

 

Looking around our church communities and our towns and villages, you may be forgiven for not being able to notice any hope there either, but, my friends, it is there. It may be hidden deep, but the candle still flickers on through even on the darkest of nights. The battle of everyone is to not lose heart.

 

The human heart is made for something altogether more beautiful, and that heart is the wellspring of life within us. There is a depth within us that holds firm to the often-missed whispers speaking to the forgotten places - “overwhelming goodness is coming”. This is where you will find your hope, as deep calls to deep.

 

Hope, the anticipation that goodness is coming! It is one of the central themes throughout the Bible. The Hebrew Scriptures had two words that we translate as hope - Yakhal and Qavah. Yakal is simply to wait for; Qavah also means to wait, but with particular emphasis on the tension that is found in waiting, like that of a stretched cord or guitar string.

 

One of my favourite Psalms is Psalm 27. This ends with the encouragement to wait for the Lord. There’s two lines where it says this. In Hebrew writing this is like using bold or italics or underlining. And yet its interjected with another crucial encouragement…..to stand firm and be courageous or another translation is to take heart.

 

In the waiting it is so easy to lose heart, to lose hope. I’m left considering the importance of this line in Psalm 27 but also to ask how? How do we wait patiently and not lose hope and our hearts?

 

The theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, talks about looking backwards in order to move forwards. It’s only in looking back will we make sense of the journey and be able to move forwards. Perhaps the hope comes when we remember that Jesus is faithful and true, that he walked out of the tomb on Easter Day and into a resurrection life and a new covenant. Let’s keep looking back to the wonders we’ve seen and witnessed, to the promises we’ve received, and let’s allow those to shape our expectations of the future.

 

So, when our hearts become weak and fail us, and they will, let’s remember this, “my flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73)

 

Springtime reminds us of the deep longings, once dormant in winter, begin to see budding and new life, desires we each have whether we can articulate it or not, for the goodness of a restored and renewed existence. All life and all things made new. We are made for Eden, so do not be disheartened. Jesus has overcome, we get to play a part in the renewal that started 2000 years ago in a tomb in the Middle East. That’s when the Kingdom began a new advancement through our world, when this carpenter literally flipped human existence and understanding on its head and forged a new way of grace, peace, love, understanding……and hope.

 

Hope found a way.

 

Hope carves out the foundations for us to grow in love and faith.

 

This spring, hope reminds us that Jesus began something that shattered all previous beliefs about God, humanity and our place in the story.

 

Hope keeps us walking narrow way. Following the still small whisper amidst the barrage of voices and distractions. And leads us into a glorious future.


Jon Timms Director: Scotland & North of England


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