What does it look like to have hope when things are really hard?
Rabbi Hugo Gryn, a Holocaust survivor, told the story of how, at Auschwitz, his father one day dipped a bit of string in butter to light a Shabbat candle. When Hugo protested that it was the last of their butter, his father replied, “Without food we can live for weeks. But we cannot live for a minute without hope.”
How true that is – hope is a familiar and flexible word, but as people of faith hope is something deeper. It’s not a cheap, thin optimism, but the unwavering promise that God can and will make all things right. And this hope is grounded in nothing less than the resurrection of the crucified Christ, revealing a God who both suffers with us and overcomes that suffering in the end. This kind of hope is a metanarrative, a lens through which we see the world and all of history. The Christian hope assures us that the world is going somewhere, and going somewhere good. It’s beginning to crescendo, culminate into that vision of universal shalom and flourishing that has always been God’s dream. And you and I are invited to participate in it.
And yet we get discouraged and impatient. We groan and lament – we have been on this path a long time and progress seems exceedingly slow. We step back, we move forward, we zigzag.
During the time of the prophet Jeremiah, God’s people were also wrestling with hope. The Babylonians had conquered and uprooted them from their homes and livelihoods and sent them into exile. They had lost everything. They were afraid and the future looked bleak. But into that moment God sent the prophet Jeremiah to counsel them – to encourage them to hold on and to trust what the Lord had promised: “For surely I know the plans I have for you,” Jeremiah said…“plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
In the midst of hardship and despair, God promises “a future with hope.” The word rings true for us as well today.
At our core, First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette stands as a beacon of hope, a place of welcome and hospitality, a place where we can “experience God, grow disciples and transform lives” together.
With all of this in mind, our Giving Team is excited to share that the stewardship theme for 2022 is “A Future with Hope.” This theme invites us to hold fast to God’s hope in this profoundly difficult season of our personal and communal lives. We invite you to join us in giving thanks for all of the resources – spiritual, theological, physical and financial – that support this indispensable work.
To that end, I’m excited for all that 2022 will hold at our church. A search for a new full-time installed Associate Pastor will begin soon. 18 months into the pandemic, we have continued to experiment and learn how to be the church together – hybrid worship, outdoor gatherings, times for fellowship and connection. And we continue to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. Who among us needs our love and prayers? What are the greatest needs of our neighbors and how can we meet them? What is God up to already in the neighborhood and how can we join in?
Each year our church changes – beloved church members pass away, babies are born, some of us move away, kids go off to college, and new families join us. Taking all of that into account and pondering God’s call on our church in 2022, we invite you to consider a 4% increase in your financial commitment over 2021.
This year, Commitment Sunday will be held on Sunday, October 31. Weather permitting, we will still be holding our outdoor 10am service in the fellowship garden that day, but many of us will be worshipping virtually. As a result, the way we celebrate our financial commitments and thank God for them will be different. We encourage you to either mail your pledge card to the church office or to pledge online through our church website. We’ve enclosed a pledge card with this letter for your prayerful consideration.
Here’s our challenge and invitation to you. You and I are here to be a waystation of hope along life’s way. To build bridges of connection with one another in Christ’s peace. To embody God’s new world of joy, justice and love. And so we invite you to consider your giving to fpcw and to other organizations that bless the world. And then ask God for wisdom as you strive to reflect your gratitude back to God for all that God has entrusted to us. What a gift that we can anticipate and live into “a future with hope” together!
We’re not asking you to do what you cannot, only what you can. When we all respond to God in gratitude for all God has given us, it will always be enough.
Thank you in advance for your commitment and generosity!
With gratitude and love in Christ,
Rev. Jeff Lehn, on behalf of the Giving Team (John Hairston, Amy McJoynt, and Dan Johnson)
To make it as easy as possible to submit your pledge we offer an online option. Please click here to access the online pledge option.