Dearest Hope Family,
I will admit freely that I do not have the thickest skin. Sadly, I can take offense easily. Even something like a 140 character tweet will do the trick.
James K.A. Smith, who visited our city and gave some fantastic, formative lectures at the Forum on Faith and Culture, blasted out a series of tweets that brought some angst into my life and my sense of vocation. He asserted, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that it remains perfectly content to traffic in cliché. The same tropes, the same books, even, get written over and over again. If C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, even (sadly) Flannery O’Connor and T.S. Eliot, were never trotted out again it would still be too soon.”
His words strike close to home this week.
We are entering into a new series of sermons aiming to revisit our stated vision, mission, and values as Hope Church. These anchor points root us, shape us, direct us as God’s people in this particular place at this particular time. But we have covered this ground before.
Is it worthwhile returning, again and again, to the heartbeat of Hope? Is this just a cliché we are settling for, some pastoral gimmick to fill the space of some sermons?
This is always a worthwhile enterprise! We are aiming for reflection – to bend ourselves back, to pay attention to what we hold dear and what we have agreed that God is calling to us be and calling us to do in this city, this neighborhood, with these fellow congregants. We return so that we do not assume and trivialize. Not merely navel gazing or repeating, louder and with more emphasis. Not microwaving leftover truths. Not rehashing tired themes. Or, worse, remedial work because we are too thick headed and slow to get it right the first time around (or even the second time around).
Rather, new seasons, new dynamics, new brokenness, new liabilities, and new opportunities demand and allow for us to engage novel experience, application, embodiment, and appreciation of old truths.
The words historic, unprecedented, and “new normal” all ring in our ears constantly these days. I, for one, cannot wait for historic and unprecedented to be used for something good soon enough! The winnowing and revealed weakness, the confinement and foreclosing of options invite us to find renewal in what has not changed. To return to the bedrock of our identity and activity as God’s people.
God never tires of telling us again (and again and again) who we are and who we are becoming as His redeemed people, His saints at Hope.
Remember G.K. Chesterton’s superb reflection upon monotony?: “A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”
Let’s get our fingers back on the pulse of Hope’s heartbeat so that, assured of the life of the Gospel coursing in our veins, we can engage the world with the renewed dignity that comes only through Christ, the dignity that our world is craving so desperately right now.
Peace of the Risen Savior,