June 2017

Greetings Gayton Road,
Lately we have been journeying together through the letter of 1 Peter. Addressed to a persecuted community, the letter of 1 Peter speaks the language of hope. For 1 Peter, we Christ-followers see not only reality but divine possibility. We live not in the present but in the future. For this reason, the letter calls us strangers and sojourners.
This present world is not our home. Our home is the kingdom that we pray will come on earth as it is in heaven.
But what exactly is hope? In one of our recent Sunday School classes, we were reminded of a common sentiment in our present world: “Hope is not a strategy.” I wonder how 1 Peter would respond.
As a child, my greatest fear was getting lost. I have three vivid memories of getting lost: on a mountain in New Mexico, in a leafy forest in Illinois, and in the hills of North Carolina. In each case, I was hiking with a friend. I remember the strange progression of feelings. First, denial. Then, swelling dread. Finally, the unavoidable and terrible truth: we did not know where we were.
Faced with the unknown, we kept on walking. In each case, we eventually stumbled upon a clue or a hint to our surroundings: a creek that would take us to the river, the sound of other hikers, a glimpse of civilization in the valley below. From these clues, we formed a strategy. We calculated roughly where we were; we decided which direction to walk; we planned out how much longer the journey would take and conserved our energy.
“Hope is not a strategy.” To be sure, this is true. But it is an incomplete truth. For there will be times when we do not have a strategy. In those first terrifying moments when I was lost, I had no strategy: no sense of direction, no idea of where to go next, no plan at all. I simply walked. Hope is what kept me walking when I was completely lost.
Hope is not a strategy. It is what sustains us when our strategies fall apart. It is what keeps us walking when we have no strategy.
In a couple of weeks, we have a board meeting to discuss our church’s “strategy” for the next year. (All are invited—please come!) At the moment, there remain several gaps and questions. You might say that we don’t have a complete strategy. “Perfect,” 1 Peter might say; “then there is room for hope.”
Hope, perhaps, is how we welcome God. Hope is what invites God to lead us into view of a clue or a hint.
Hope is the infinite foundation upon which our frail, finite strategies rise and fall.
As we approach a conversation filled with gaps and questions, let us journey together on the firm ground of hope.
Who knows what clue or hint we might see? Who knows where we’ll end up next?
Yours,
Jonathan