Tuesday, February 7
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you’re a future with hope.”
We try to take a trip in our travel trailer every summer, and I am the queen of making plans: collecting maps, researching the best place to park our RV, reserving horseback rides or guided tours, deciding on a menu plan. I like to prepare ahead so I don’t have to worry about those things on the road—I can simply enjoy the trip.
Once we get started, a lot of our plans change. We may see an interesting restaurant along the way or decide that a certain RV park is not for our liking. We may decide to stay longer to see more of a certain park, or we might learn of a new attraction we want to see. Although certain of our specific plans change, our overall goal remains the same—to enjoy our family and God’s beautiful world.
This is a bit like God’s plans for us. God doesn’t dictate the minutiae for us, but God has plans for our welfare and future in the long term, in this life and in the Kingdom of God. Detours, backtracking, and roadblocks don’t change God’s plans for us—plans for a future with HOPE.
God of hope, you have promised that you have plans for our welfare and a future with hope. Help us to trust in you no matter what may come. Amen.
Wednesday, February 8
“Though your beginning was small,
your latter days will be very great.”
How true these words must ring for the people of Hope! We began without a place to call our own, relying on the generosity of our neighbors at Antioch for a place to worship for the first time. It took several years to buy land and begin building, and since then, Hope has expanded its building several times to keep up with our growth. Our beginning was small, but today we are one of the largest churches in our synod!
This is not a reason to feel proud; rather, it’s a reason to rejoice in God’s providence. None of Hope’s growth happened without God’s support. Any greatness we experience is only a foretaste of the greatness we will experience in God’s Kingdom, and a reminder that there is always more that we are called to do in Jesus’ name.
Gracious God, you always give us reasons to rejoice in your providence! Help us to remember that all is for your glory! Amen.
Thursday, February 9
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall no consume you.” Isaiah 43:1b-2
These words from Isaiah are the source of one of my favorite hymns, “How Firm a Foundation”:
“Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
for I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
“When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
for I will be with you in trouble to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.
“When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace all-sufficient shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.”
Every human being faces trials and tribulations. At times we may feel like we are drowning in troubles or burned by criticism. Churches face trials and tribulations too: budget deficits or disagreements about church actions or the sense that things are changing too fast or not fast enough.
God in this passage from Isaiah does not promise to end those struggles. God does not promise us success or riches or health. God does not promise that we will somehow magically be given happiness or peace.
Instead, God promises to be WITH US no matter what happens, no matter what troubles assail us. This is not easy to explain: it is a mystery that does not necessarily make logical sense. Luther teaches us that our confidence in this is based not on a theology of glory, but on a theology of the cross, “for we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 2but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25.)
In other words, when Christ suffered and died on the cross, God made manifest God’s promise to be with us no matter what—even unto death. Think about the power of that promise! Our God promises to die WITH US and FOR US and then to share eternal life with us!
This promise is not just for individuals but for communities, and Hope, no matter what trials or tribulations we may face, can rest sure in the promise that God is with us always. Hope’s founders surely felt this hope deep in their souls when they stepped out into the future confident only that God was with them no matter what.
Risen Lord, we hold to your promise that you are with us no matter what trials we face as individuals and as a community. Help us to share that promise with all we meet. Amen.