This coming Sunday is my first Easter as the pastor of Community Church.  My family and I were in town for Easter last year, but I had not yet officially joined the staff.  Along with many of you, we watched the pre-recorded services in the living room with our family.  The Covid shutdown was less than a month old, and we were all still figuring out what it all meant, wondering what life would look like now, and how long it would last.

It has been quite a year.

For many of us, it has been a year of unexpected change, frustration, and disappointment.  Plans were cancelled, hopes were unfulfilled.  But if you’ll forgive me for sounding like a pastor for a moment, let me tell you why I think disappointment can sometimes be a good thing.

When we’re disappointed, it means something we were hoping for didn’t happen.  Which may mean we were counting on something that was not worthy of our trust.  When someone or something disappoints us, it reveals that they are not as reliable as we thought they were.  It reveals that placing our hope in them might not be wise.  And there are very few things more important in life than learning which people and things we can safely and wisely put our hope in.  So just for fun, let’s review some of the things that have disappointed us in this past year:

  • Government.  If any of us were under the delusion that our government has all the answers, this last year has been a cure for that delusion.  If you’re still hoping that the right president or political party has what it takes to fix the brokenness in our society and respond to whatever crisis comes our way, you must have somehow missed most of the last 12 months.
  • Money.  For many of us, this past year has proved the truthfulness of Proverbs 23:5: “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,  for they will surely sprout wings   and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”
  • Health.  I turned 45 last year, and I’m currently 6 months into recovering from a knee injury I would have bounced back from in a month a few years ago.  And if the regular wear and tear of life hadn’t already shown you that your body isn’t a fortress, a global pandemic that has killed over 2.5 million people was a pretty effective way to expose our weakness and vulnerability.
  • Church leaders.  Guess what?  Church leaders don’t always know what to do!  Along with everybody else, we were often (prayerfully) guessing our way through this past year.  For those of you who were gracious with us through it all, thank you!  For those who would have done things differently:  what a great reminder that your hope is not ultimately in human leaders!
  • Our own ability to predict the future.  One definite take-away from the past year is that I am no prophet.  Many of us came face-to-face with the reality that the future is hidden from us, and we’re fools to think we can know for sure what is coming next.
  • Humanity.  You and I live in a humanistic society, where many people believe that we have it within ourselves to fix all the problems in the world, to bring peace between peoples, cure every disease, conquer every obstacle, etc., without any help from God.  But this past year has been a pretty mixed bag on that front, hasn’t it?  There have been good things, with many examples of people working together to face challenges and give each other hope and encouragement.  But it has also been a year, especially in our country, of anger, selfishness, ignorance, contempt, and deep division between people.  I think it’s safe to say that this past year has proven that if our greatest hope is each other, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.

So what can we hope in?  I’m guessing you know where this is headed.  Once there was a group of people who had placed all their hope in a man.  They were attracted to his teaching, which was like nothing they had ever heard from a religious teacher before.  They were touched by his love for them; he invited them to be his friends and fellow workers, despite their obvious flaws.  They were blown away by his supernatural power when he did miracles that proved his divinity.  They became convinced that this man was the Messiah, the One God had promised to send who would make everything right again.

And then, in a matter of days that went by like a blur, he was arrested, falsely tried, and executed.  One moment they were sharing a meal with him, and the next moment he was hanging on a cross.  They kept thinking that this couldn’t be happening, that surely God would intervene in a miraculous way.  But no miracle came.  He breathed his last, his death was confirmed, and he was taken down from the cross and buried.  The tomb was sealed, the sun set, and God was silent.  All their hopes seemed completely, permanently crushed.  It was an experience of utter disappointment.

They spend the next day grieving and lost.  But then on Sunday morning, a couple of them visited the tomb, and He wasn’t there.  Some said they saw Him alive.  And then that evening, as they were gathered together, all of a sudden He was among them.  They touched His hands and his side; they shared a meal with Him.  And slowly they came to understand that nothing could stop Him now.  They had placed their hope in the one thing, the One person, who would never, ever disappoint them.  And now, no matter what, as long as they clung to Him, they could know how the story ends.  That knowledge filled them with such peace and joy and love that they forgot what it was to be afraid.  They forgot what it was to be petty and angry.  They only knew that Jesus was for them, and Jesus would never fail them.

What have you been trusting in?  If it is anything other than Jesus, I’m guessing it has already let you down.  If not, that day is coming.  This week, let’s repent of foolishly placing our hopes in lesser things.  There is only One who knows the future, has all the answers, and has conquered death.  As we celebrate Him this Sunday, let’s remember that He is our great hope as we face whatever comes next.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.—Hebrews 6:19

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”—Matthew 7:24-27

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