At a gathering of pastors and associates in ministry that took place at St. Mark’s this week, our Bishop asked us: “What gives you hope?” The responses from the group were a strong witness to the fact that hope thrives, even in times of fear and uncertainty. Some talked about the hope they experience when they see the faces of people who are filled with God’s Spirit. Others talked about the hope that comes from seeing the compassionate response of helpers in times of tragedy or loss. One person talked about the surprise of finding hope in the most difficult year of his life. It came as a gift, he said, from the God who enters our darkness and walks with us into the light.
As we enter these last days of Advent, I am wanting to pose the same question to you. What gives you hope? In addition, I am encouraging you to share your answer with one or more people in the coming days. Deep down, this is something that we are all needing right now. We are all needing to remember and share our stories of hope, because they stand as a strong anecdote to fear.
For his part, Bishop Rick Jaech shared the hopeful story of two young men from Sudan who are currently starting a Lutheran church and Community Center in their home country. They are from two ethnic groups that have been historic enemies, and they each know the ravages of war. At a younger age, they both fled their country in fear for their lives and became part of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” who depended on the hospitality of any country who would take them in. They both ended up in the United States, and over time, they each found warm and welcoming Lutheran congregations in the towns where they were placed. Now, after graduating from two different seminaries of our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, they have heard a common call from God to return to their native land and serve as ministers of the Gospel.
“Hope does not disappoint us,” St. Paul says, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) That story, and your stories, are testimonies to this truth. Thanks be to God!
Pastor Jan Ruud