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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

Hopes and Dreams
July 7, 2010

Recently my Bible reading guide took me on a journey through Ecclesiastes, where I came upon this gem: “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7) The Message puts the last phrase, “God takes pleasure in your pleasure.”

I have been thinking about this from the perspective of mid-General Assembly, where it is far from clear what the church is going to do. Indeed, it is equally unclear what the church’s pleasure may be, for the pleasure of some is felt as a curse by others. God may approve and even delight in what we are doing; but as of yet, we have no idea what we are doing. We muddle along in a middle zone between where we are and where we long to be. Our aspirations are fickle and vary from person to person, from one group to the next. And in the middle of all these varying, competing, and even conflicting longings, God comes to us as one who is committed to fulfilling all hope. Ours is “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13) – not just of some hopes, but of all hope.

Even before we know our deepest hope, God is committed to fulfill all hope. General Assembly is a time of stirring up the pot of our many hopes for what the church might look like. Frankly, it is quite a cauldron, with myriad ingredients, some of which seem hardly capable of blending with others. Throw all the hopes of the church together in one crazy stew and you get General Assembly. Here we give heart and soul and strength to see our hopes for the church brought to fruition, and to tear down anything standing in the way.

As the various choruses of hope arise around us at GA, many of which sing out of sync or out of tune with one another, I wonder how the God who fulfills all hope, who takes pleasure in our pleasure, will create concord out of all our discord. How is it possible that God will fulfill all our hopes, will approve what we do, if we have such varying and even conflicting hopes and aims?

Augustine said that our hearts are all restless, our hopes all remain unfulfilled, until they find rest in God. All human hopes are ultimately nothing less than hope for full communion with the Holy One who is our Maker, Redeemer and Destiny. “You are the hope of the ends of the earth,” the psalmist declares (Psalm 65:5) – not just the hope of the orthodox, or of the oppressed. I submit that the hopes of folk here at GA, for which all are working so hard, and which in so many instances seem to work at cross-purposes with one another, are nothing less and nothing more than this: We all hope and long for God alone.

In Christ, we are united by the Holy Spirit to the Triune God. Jesus is the answer to our hopes that remain restless until they find rest in God. Jesus comes not to dash hopes, but to clarify them and to fulfill them.

We don’t need to curse the hopes of others in order to see our own realized. Let us set our sights beyond the hopes that divide us, to that one hope that lies within all of us – Christ within us, the hope of glory. Dare we trust that all other hopes ultimately lead all of us to this one Hope?

Irrepressibly hopeful,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Presbytery

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