I recently started reading a copy of Seth Godin's book "This is Marketing" which was gifted to me by my buddy Ross a year or so ago. (Sorry Ross, just getting to that!) One of the lessons that Godin keeps driving home about any marketing is that you are not selling a product, you are selling a feeling that each person has uniquely come to about the purchasing decision around that product. For example, someone might buy a salmon dinner over a burger even though they like burgers more because salmon gives off the image of class and health and the person wants to fulfill that expectation they have for themselves. I got to thinking more about that marketing book and realized it can apply to anything, including the 4 principles of Advent. Today, we'll consider hope.
As a preacher I can get pretty caught up in the weeds of worship planning and studying for a message. I want to make sure there is a clear theme throughout the liturgy, the music, message, and a benediction that perfectly ties the bow on the service. I can obsess over the details of making sure I write the most beautiful sentence that is profound, yet catchy. It's a labor of love as I (and Joyce!) try our hardest to help you feel the presence of God each week in service. But what if hope isn't found in the details that we're marketing for?
I recall one week during the summer we had a guest attend service and I managed to catch them before they left. I asked if they enjoyed service and how they heard about us. (The webmaster in me was hoping it was our website and our perfect SEO management.) The guest explained that they have lived in the village for a decade or so and how they've been moved by our carillon bells because their father passed recently and the bells reminded them of their father who had been living with them for the last year and would hum the hymns as they played at noon and five. This person smiled coyly and said, service was nice pastor, but the bells are better. We laughed and went our separate ways. We gave hope to someone that day in a way that absolutely none of us had planned for in any meeting. Why? Because your hope isn't the same as my hope. Your hope is just that. Your hope.
Hope is a sermon, for some. Hope is a hymn or a praise song, for some. Hope is the sound of a bell, for at least one person.
What does hope look like for you? Is it liberating to know that hope for you isn't necessarily the same hope for others?
Scripture that Inspired
1 Corinthians 12: 1-11
12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit,brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,”except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Question to Consider
What part of church officially makes it feel like church for you? For example, is it during the prelude, prayer time, a certain prayer response, message, choir, etc. What aspect of church fills you with hope? Why?
Praying the Hymns
I've mentioned this a number of times in the past but my favorite form of music in the church is Taize. So, if hope is relative than this is my hope, and I hope that it can be yours as well. :)