February 16 - 22, 2009
'You Gotta Give 'em Hope!'
A full week after I saw the excellent movie about the life of '70s gay activist Harvey Milk, I find myself repeating his signature line, "You gotta give 'em hope." Milk was speaking of a very different issue and context, but giving people hope sounds like advice pastors and congregational leaders can use as our world continues to slide deeper into this economic hole.
Amid deepening gloom, our neighbors, friends and congregation members really do need to hear the clear message of the only certain hope there is -- hope through God. They will come to our churches to hear this in all the many ways our ministries have to offer.
The economic downturn will certainly open opportunities to preach. Our culture, the richest the world has ever known, has long relied primarily on its wealth and power, and not the power of the God Most High. As Americans learn the hard way the illusory security that wealth and power provide, they will certainly question those worldly idols they have trusted so long. They will be open to hearing about real trust -- in God.
As a pastor, I find funerals an ideal opportunity to preach hope in Christ. People's hearts are breaking, they are asking the hard questions about life, they are wondering what it's all about. Into their breaking hearts the Holy Spirit has an opportunity to apply comfort, meaning, answers and assurance. The Gospel that mourners hear at a funeral can keep them from despair. The very thing that's needed today.
It is the devil's will that we fall into despair, and so lose our faith. But over and over in Scripture, our God promises to stand with us, to pour the Holy Spirit into our lives and broken hearts. Despair, though tempting, is not an option.
For my own spiritual well-being, I am finding comfort in the Psalms, which are all about trust in God. Psalm 62 is especially helpful. The first two lines strike with power:
My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
What a great phrase -- "I will never be shaken." And so is, "You gotta give 'em hope."
-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
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New This Week:
Who Locked the Gates?
For a lot of unchurched people, congregations place a very high bar for admission, despite what church leaders say and believe. Unfamiliar habits, customs, prayers and liturgy can be daunting for a visitor. “It has got to be about as uncomfortable for many of them to come and feel connected to what we are doing as it would be for us churched folk to show up at a Hindu shrine and be expected to jump right into the ritual.” Click here for “Who Locked the Gates?” >From the Alban Institute.
Giving and Doing Thanks
This letter on gratitude to his flock, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk describes the foundation of stewardship. “The important thing is being thankful to God - in thoughts and words, in attentiveness to God's care for us, in confidence that even crosses are gifts, in daily responsiveness to God's action in our lives, and, of course, in stewardship, in doing thanks.” Click here for “Giving and Doing Thanks,” from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Lectionary Reflection: Keep on Listening to Jesus
The Transfiguration offered the disciples a rare, privileged glimpse into the divine nature of Jesus. But the Gospel raises questions whether they were really in tune with what was going on. Perhaps we, too, could do a better job of paying attention. Click here for “Keep on Listening to Jesus,” the latest essay by SOLI columnist Sharron Reissinger Lucas. Click here to read her archived columns.
Greening the Church: Witnessing to the Gospel Through Care of Creation
There are a lot of things a congregation can do to make care of creation a part of its ministry. Saving energy and promoting “green” initiatives not only provide cost savings, they also help Christians understand and live out their responsibility to take care of God’s earth. Click here for “Greening the Church,” from The Epistle, a publication of Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.