Part one, part two, and part three ask the question, “Why the church?” If the church is full of sinners, and there are plenty of other Sunday morning “sinner-included” options, why do we commit to showing up from week to week?
The Church is a Place of Hope
In 2007 my wife and I were pregnant with our first child. We had gone on a missions trip and after we returned, Jackie began to have complications with the pregnancy. Eventually, we ended up being admitted to the hospital. We were being told she would need to finish the pregnancy under care because there was something wrong. While Jackie stayed at the hospital, I began to settle back into a routine of school in the day and work in the evening, returning at night to the hospital at the end of my work shift. One night not long into the stay, we were having some problems. The doctors assessed the situation and said words the words we’ll never forget, “We’ve got to go, you’re having this baby.”
Jonathan Silas Hauer was born later that morning. At 28 weeks he was 3 months premature. The events took us by complete surprise and Jonathan’s condition was seriously compromised.
We hurt. We already had so much love for this child. What kind of life would he have? Would he even make it?
We were confused. How did this happen? Was it something we caused?
And all of a sudden, we felt very alone. As much as friends and family want to comfort and help, and we have some great friends and family, when something of this magnitude happens, only the person or people going through it fully know what it’s like.
Those first days a section of the book of Isaiah stood out in an unusual way to us. We both had been reading the same thing on our own without the other knowing it.
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Isa 55:10-13
We didn’t know what was happening to us and our newly born child. But there was something that remained with us through every bad report, every surgery, every “he won’t ever…”, all 98 days we spent in the neo-natal ICU with him. For over nine years, it’s carried us through countless tough times and continues to do so.
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace…Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Isa 55:10-13
You want to know what makes the church a special place, one of the most unique things that is happening anywhere? The church is a signal of hope. Every week the people of God gather to have this story rehearsed to them. Brokenness is not how this world will end. Sin and death do not win.
What is the word that will cut through the darkness and confusion of a premature birth, an unexpected death, troubled times, or tragedy?
Instead of the thorn, shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle. Instead of the divorce, shall remain the marriage covenant. Instead of the division, shall come up the reconciliation. Instead of the wars there shall be peace. Instead of the homeless, there shall joy in the city of God. Instead of the darkness, there will be light.
It’s not positive thinking. It’s not self-help. It is the word of hope that comes through the gospel. In Christ, God is reconciling the world to himself. This is not all there is. We aren’t alone.
We don’t find it anywhere else. There are plenty of other Sunday morning options. But where can you go to find hope? God has a meeting place for that every week. It is the church. It’s full of sinners, just like you and me, but it’s full of hope as well.