By Stan Friedman
ROSEMONT, IL (February 4, 2011) – Christian hope is a far cry from that offered by others because it is painfully clear-eyed about the world, trusts that God is at work in the midst of suffering, and that his love secures the future, Laura Sumner Truax told worshipers attending the Midwinter Conference worship service Thursday night.
Such thoughts can be trite, but to live what is so easily preached will require tough questions of ourselves and our commitment to living the gospel, said Truax, who is pastor of LaSalle Street Church in Chicago.
Truax recounted the grisly murder of an Anglican priest in Uganda by the henchman of then-dictator Idi Amin for speaking out against the regime’s savagery and how the cleric prayed for the men just before they dragged him to death behind their car. Thirty years later, his village still speaks about that prayer.
When talking of hope, Christians generally tell stories that are much lighter, Truax said. “I think we forget, brothers and sisters, that the greatest story of hope began in the suffering in the garden, that the greatest symbol of hope is a cross.”
Truax added, “Christian hope must be forged in the ache of what is. Any other hope is mere sentimentality.”
Truax referenced the prophecies of Jeremiah during the time Babylonians captured Israel, leading the people who had been forced from the promised land to wonder where was their God. Their old indicators that God was in their midst always showed the Israelites being victorious. Those no longer made sense.
Today, Christians must be careful about which barometers they use in determining whether God is moving among them, Truax said. We count success far too often in the same way as the world does. “If we’re fortunate, these little lenses will be stripped away.”
Truax referenced a sermon preached Monday night by John Perkins, who said now is a kairos moment for the church – a supreme time for impacting the world. “It’s a kairos moment only if we have the courage to seize it,” she said.
Courage and trust in God will be needed if Christians are to live the words God spoke through Jeremiah, when he commanded them to “seek the welfare of the city” during their exile in Chapter 29:7. They were to pray blessing upon the people who had shattered their lives.
The verse still rattles people today because of its ramifications. “Enemies are just those people we are called to love specially,” she said twice for emphasis. “It’s not God’s hope unless it leads us to a greater place together.”
Christians offer the world an unflinching hope – even amid the worst evil – because God ultimately is at work in even the smallest acts of love, which will be notes in the song of God that has been from the beginning, sung on the cross, and will stretch to the day in which all people will hear and sing it. “Christian hope is found in the utter conviction that God is going to win this thing.”
Before she began her sermon, Truax told the crowd that the non-denominational LaSalle Street Church is “kind of a Covenant wannabe.” The liturgies all come from the Covenant Book of Worship and the congregation also uses the denomination’s current hymnal.
Truax named some of the many Covenanters who have had connections with LaSalle at one time or another. She offered special mention of two people who had pastored the church and served as her mentors when she became senior pastor. “I know I stand in the shadows of Art Nelson and Everett Jackson.”
The conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and ends following the morning worship service today.