Watching my wife scream and yell at the television as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in last month’s NBA Finals, I noticed how funny hope is.
Years of rooting for the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Hoosiers has made me jaded when it comes to hope.
When Pacers’ forward David West missed a jump shot late in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, I said, “That’s the series. It’s over.”
Never mind Indiana was up 1-0 in the series and led by six points with five minutes to go.
I knew it was over. And it was.
When my favorite football player — quarterback Peyton Manning — fumbled the opening snap of this year’s Super Bowl, I said, “This game’s done. The Broncos are going to lose.”
Even when the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006, I gave up on them during the AFC Championship Game when they fell behind 21-3 to the evil New England Patriots.
After all, Tom Brady and the Patriots always win, and the Colts always lose.
I have seen it happen too many times.
Hope is dangerous when you’ve been burned.
That’s the problem many churchgoers face. They’ve been burned, often badly, and they are afraid to hope again.
A pastor’s sinfulness has shocked them or a program’s failure has saddened them or a disagreement which turned into a division has wounded them.
They are afraid to hope because it hurts too much.
Though no one would want to admit it, many churches are afraid to hope because they feel God let them down. He didn’t prevent the pastor from wrecking the church or the program (or loved one) from dying or the selfish desires from turning into schism.
Many churches don’t want to hope because the one who is supposed to be our hope wasn’t there when they needed him.
Except he is there.
And he does offer comfort for the mourning, guidance through the confusion and healing through the division.
God is with us.
The Holy Spirit, God within us, is present. He is our hope-giver and our life-giver.
Often he speaks with a gentle whisper instead of a rushing wind, but he never leaves us and he never stops offering hope.
In Romans 8:12-25, Paul talks about this hope.
He writes in Verse 18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed
And later in verses 24 and 25, he continues, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
This hope rests not on our leaders, programs or vision, but on the finished work of Jesus Christ, who lived, died and rose again for us and our salvation.
It is a hope rooted in the completion of Christ’s work and in obedience to God’s will.
It is a hope evidenced by the movement of the Spirit even in our present day, through the gifts he bestows on the people of God and the fruit he produces in those people as they follow his leading.
The Holy Spirit is still pouring out his flaming tongues on the church today, filling a weary people with hope to proclaim the message of hope to the world.
It’s not easy.
Often it requires revisiting the cause of our lack of hope, and always it means leaving the places of our comfort.
Usually, there is pain on the journey.
Sometimes, it is a hope not realized in this world.
But, then again, sometimes these temporal hopes are fulfilled.
After all, my wife saw her Spurs win the NBA championship this year.
The Rev. Adam R. Knapp, a Hope native and former Republic sportswriter, is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Edna, Texas, on the state’s southeastern border. He can be reached at 830- 992-0951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.