By Don Meyer
IRVINE, CA (June 21, 2012) – The flags of 40 countries ringing the auditorium of the Hyatt Regency provided a constant reminder throughout the evening of a world desperately in need of hope that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide.
Gospel Hope was the focus of the message delivered during Thursday evening’s worship service that opened the 127th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
“I have the privilege of visiting more of the countries represented by these flags than anyone else in the Covenant right now,” said Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission. “People in great hardship who are filled with joy. People in a struggle for survival, shouting alleluia praises. People enduring unspeakable suffering and abuse, dancing and singing for hours in worship. People with next to nothing, who are overflowing in generosity and thanksgiving to God.
“What is it that accounts for this joy in such circumstances?” Peterson asked his listeners. “It is this,” he said in response: “Gospel hope makes all the difference, no matter the circumstances.”
Referencing the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians written from his prison cell, Peterson said simply, “Gospel hope is in Christ. Hope begins and ends with God – loving the world, sending his one and only son, that those who believe might have life and victory over death and the power of evil.”
Paul lifts up the person of Jesus as the center of the gospel of hope, Peterson continued, paraphrasing various scripture references: visible likeness of an invisible God, in Christ all things were created, in Christ all things hold together, through Christ God reconciled himself to all things through the cross.
“Gospel hope is living, active, powerful in the world,” he said, “the very power of God personified – active, spreading, bearing fruit. It is this gospel hope that prompts song, praise, joy and dance. It is gospel hope that changes everything.
“Do you believe that?” he asked. “Paul did.”
Taking a cue from this year’s Annual Meeting theme “Found Faithful – Serving Globally,” Peterson suggested that most individuals might interpret the theme as being about them – about them being found faithful and then serving. “Actually, it is about God,” he said. “This work is first and foremost about the work of God.”
But, God often chooses to work through individuals, Peterson added, referencing people like Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul. Then growing more personal, Peterson stared intently at his listeners and said, “Gospel hope is known through you – through your witness to others. You are the plan.”
Gospel hope shared with others serves to bless and transform lives through the power of grace, he said, citing many examples such as the church in Taiwan that is growing and multiplying and the estimated 100 million believers in China whose lives have been transformed.
“Jesus blessed people – the blind, lame, outcast, possessed, condemned, broken – with love and welcome, healing and deliverance,” Peterson said. “The Jesus blessing continues today, through you.”
When hope makes an appearance, love and faith flow forth, he noted. “Hope prompts action of love toward others and inspires faith. It is not enough to receive and learn the truth and grace of God,” Peterson continued. “Faith makes a difference in the way we behave and the way in which we treat others – here in this hotel, in this Covenant community, and around the world.”
The transforming message of gospel hope will not take root, however, unless it is carried by faithful followers across cultures, languages and borders, Peterson said, referencing the missionaries who earlier in the service had been commissioned to serve. “Our mission follows from God’s mission of bringing light and love and hope to the world in Christ.”
“I do not want one more life to be lost or one more child to die because we were not faithful,” he said in closing. “May we together be found faithful.”
Editor’s note: Click here to see additional photos.