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I wanted to talk about figs today.
Specifically, the figs in my yard.
Or rather, in the church yard.
That actually belongs to the neighbor lady.
And about hope, and peace, and all that stuff.
But that will have to wait two weeks till next time.
Well, maybe not the hope part.
I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately.
Not the college. Although the start of the school year does bring me fond college memories. No, the other kind of hope.
What is it? An emotion? An attitude?
Just looked it up and Merriam-Webster calls it a “desire” or “expectation.”
I like that definition better than “emotion” for some reason.
A desire and expectation.
I suppose it’s because of Romans 5:1-5:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
All that stuff that eventually results in an expectation, a hope; that’s something that resonates with me.
Maybe also some of Romans 8 too, 24-25:
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
I have a lot of hope right now. Not necessarily so much patience, but a lot of hope.
Just about ten years ago, in a little white church (color of the building, that is), Crossroad Chapel to be exact, then on the corner of Lincoln and 12th Street in Holland, Michigan, surrounded by a sanctuary full of the children of God—congregants from that wonderful nurturing church home and new ones from upstate New York, family from Ohio and Pennsylvania, beloved friends from across west Michigan, and august members of the Classis—with the delicious lingering aroma of a decisively Mexican food bouquet wafting in the air, remnant of the noontime potluck feast and foreshadowing of the fiesta meal to take place following this worship celebration—I kneeled, and with the hands of the elders laid solidly upon me and the prayers of the faithful assembled was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. Then, I stood and with tears in my eyes and resoluteness in my voice declared the following:
I, Thomas Craig Goodhart, in becoming a minister of the Word of God in the Reformed Church in America, within the Classis of Holland, sincerely and gladly declare before God and with you that I believe the gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and as expressed in the Standards of the Reformed Church in America. I accept the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and life. I accept the Standards as historic and faithful witnesses to the Word of God.
I promise to walk in the Spirit of Christ, in love and fellowship within the church, seeking the things that make for unity, purity, and peace. I will submit myself to the counsel and admonition of the classis, always ready, with gentleness and reverence, to give an account of my understanding of the Christian faith. I will conduct the work of the church in an orderly way and according to the Liturgy and the Book of Church Order.
Trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for strength, I pledge my life to preach and teach the good news of salvation in Christ, to build up and equip the church for mission in the world, to free the enslaved, to relieve the oppressed, to comfort the afflicted, and to walk humbly with God.
I ask God, and you His servants, to help me so to live until that glorious day when, with joy and gratitude, we stand before our great God and King.
That was ten years ago just last week—or really, a week and a half ago, that I observed that day, that event!
Didn’t actually observe it, to be fair.
It was a busy two weeks, a full two weeks. Lost a dear friend, a best friend, to cancer. Hosted out of state guests. Entertained a four-year old nephew. Participated in an important meeting with denominational muckety-mucks. Prepared for the transitioning of the church from the summer time into the “program” year. And did the regular work of ministry: sermons, funerals, counseling, teaching, visiting, building maintenance, etc… busy weeks.
In the midst of all that my ten-year ordination anniversary passed me by and I’m only now really able to give it much thought.
And when I do, I have hope.
Oddly enough, probably more now in my mid 30’s than I did then in my more youthful 20’s.
Yes! More hope now.
Which maybe means I expect more, have more expectation. Or desire. And maybe even more patience. Not sure about that one. But definitely more hope.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being a bit curmudgeonly at times.
Certainly get discouraged.
And often feel simply tired.
And even quite angry and disgusted at the state of affairs in the church and world and at ministry itself.
But all in all, mostly hopeful.
Not entirely sure what that’s about.
But ten years after I first read the Declaration in becoming a Minister, those words find greater resonance with me now than ever.