I grew up with a prairie view of wide open sky and grain fields dotted with cattle. In the living room, however, hung a painting of fishermen hurriedly pulling their boat to shore, racing against turbulent waves and a storm-blackened sky. My father, a life-long farmer, chose the painting for the hope of rain that it portrayed.
Something is brewing in the church these days, too, but we aren’t sure what to expect. How can we find a future of hope in our current reality?
Perhaps it would be more helpful to ask: Will the world see in us a people of hope? A joyful people? A people who can adapt and respond to a groaning world with imagination and creativity? Will they see a people of integrity and compassion? Will they experience a welcoming and generous people of broad diversity? Will they experience the hope of Christ through our presence?
In Matthew 13, Jesus says to the disciples, “[E]very scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and old.”
We are a church with a rich treasure chest. We must discern which of those treasures to retain, which to discard, and what new treasures will enable us to live with hope in a world clouded by dark skies.
To discern what new treasures God might be calling us to, and what we must let go of, we need prayer and the wisdom of God’s Word. To live into our future with hope, our pastors will need to say “no” to increasing busyness and say “yes” to the more important work of helping us immerse ourselves in biblical stories, allowing those stories to shape how we live in the world. We must embrace the practice of prayer, becoming still enough to hear God’s voice and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In times of uncertainty, we tend to seek security by protecting what we hold dear, yet the model of the poor churches of Macedonia (II Corinthians 8:1-15) modelled generosity, sharing their meagre resources with the church in Corinth. We are a church rich in people of faith from a wide variety of cultures, and we are rich in material resources and institutions. Can we coach each other to become a people of God who mentor generosity and partnership while sharing resources beyond our own walls?
On a recent flight, the airplane moved through an overcast sky into clouds of white fog and, eventually, into brilliant sunshine above the clouds. Like my father, I choose to be hopeful. I trust our faithful God will lead us through the fog of our current reality. May we be faithful in our response!
I wrote an earlier version of this article for Canadian Mennonite nearly nine years ago when I began as denominational minister for Mennonite Church Canada. It still seems appropriate now as I leave and return to pastoral ministry. (See more here.)
Karen Martens Zimmerly is Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister of formation and pastoral leadership.