Hope, Congregational Church

This month, I attended a meeting at Hope Congregational Church in Oldham. That town could do with some hope, as could Lancaster, whose Free Methodist congregation saw fit to re-name themselves 'Hope Church'.

‘Hope’ is an interesting word. If I arrange for someone to meet me at 1pm, and ask them if they will be there, and they reply “I hope so”, I shall doubt their arrival. We often use it to convey the impression of optimism or wishful thinking, while allowing the possibility, or even probability, that such-and-such will not happen. It is often used in a rather more certain sense in the scriptures. Before Felix, Paul explained:

I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. Acts 24:15

Paul knew the resurrection of the dead would occur, yet he hoped that God would bring it about. Similarly, in the fifth of Romans, Paul declares:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Hope is a certainty, a deeply-held expectation. Likewise, toward that letter’s end, he writes:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

The God of hope is not the God of wishful thinking, of putting on a brave face, of imagining a nicer outcome, but the God of reality.

Hoping in God is to believe His promises of better things to come. We may not be called Hope Church, but we are a church which confidently hopes in the hopeful promises of the God of hope.