Fanning the Flame

The Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. We say it together. We affirm it in each other. We fan the flame of hope.” 
- Henri Nouwen

In this world that is dying and dealing with death, a lot of sentiments are currently being fanned. Anger, fear, suspicion, resentment, alienation, and despair chief among them. Ah, but what a gift the church offers instead. The church, the “colony of heaven in the kingdom of death” fans, instead, the flame of hope. Not naïve wishful thinking, but the sturdy, durable, joyful hope that knows Christ’s kingdom of justice, joy, peace and abundance already is and is coming. As Billy Graham once put it, “Of course I am hopeful. I’ve read the end of the Book.”

Consider The Well as it fans the flame of hope in the Springfield area of Jacksonville, Florida. A new church start-up five years ago, The Well offers hope in the challenging tensions of that location. Recently, The Well became engaged with Liberty Park. Once a playground for children and families and the elderly, in more recent years it had become the playground for drug deals and gang gatherings and violence. It was in this sketchy place that The Well decided to meet for worship. Outdoors. In the park. That surprised the neighborhood, to be sure, but not long later a community group dedicated to improving the lives of everyone in the community posted on their Facebook page that they needed to become more like The Well. What followed was a joint commitment to restore the park. A few weeks ago, The Well organized a “harvest picnic in the park”. Who would show up? Turns out that gang members, business owners, church members and local residents all showed up! They broke bread together. They listened to each other. The police (who had a very bad rap in that, as in many, communities) showed up and shot hoops with local residents. The flame of hope was fanned! Pastor Susan Rogers noted, “When The Well started, we had our idea of what it would be. What we have learned is that the Kingdom of God is much bigger than the church and that to be church we just need to show up and participate in the good thing God is already doing.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

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