The business of hope
January 31, 2011
by Pastor Joe Midthun, All Saints and Ostmark Lutheran Church, Darwin

I had a friend in seminary that used to say; “We’re in the business of hope.” He would say it when we talked about the day-to-day life of a Christian.

I must admit, for many years, I thought it was a dumb thing to say. It reminded me of sports, when a coach would say, “We’re in the business of defense, and we need business to be excellent if we’re going to win.”

It wasn’t until I got a job in the sprinkler business that I understood just how right my friend was. As followers of Christ, what does it mean to be in the “business of hope?”

Before we can even begin to discuss hope, let’s talk business. Most people, especially in rural Minnesota, have either owned their own, or worked for, a small business. There are many factors that separate a successful business from one that fails; maybe two of the most important are dedication and hard work.

I worked for a sprinkler guy during the summers of my time in seminary. His usual day was 6:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night, then paperwork until he went to bed. He worked six days a week in the summer, and seven during the fall, when every system had to be blown out. He never made a lot of money, but he did what he loved, and helped poor seminary students, like myself, along the way.

I learned a lot about hard work, but also that installing sprinkler systems is a strange job. You spent a few days, weeks, or even months, pulling pipes and cable, digging trenches, and installing sprinkler heads and valve boxes. Everything you do is covered, and the goal is to leave the yard looking like you had never been there.

What further complicates the situation is you can’t test anything until everything is done. You have to know what you’re doing, and have faith things will work. One small mistake can lead to hours, or even days of corrections.

It’s always a special feeling when everything is installed and you can test it. You cross your fingers, flip the switch, and up from the ground (usually) water springs into the sky and life is given to the grass, garden, and anything else the client would like.

It wasn’t until I saw my first sprinkler head lift a few inches above the grass and shoot water over a dying yard that I understood what it means to be in the “business of hope.” As Christians, we are called and sanctified by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work on earth.

When we do our best work, nobody even knows we were there. We cover our tracks and put every piece of grass exactly where we found it, but our work does not go unnoticed – the yard that was once dead is now alive.

God gives us his life-giving water and in the midst of that, we are called into relationship with Him.

This is also the message of Jesus on the cross. We are called to put our hope in a God we don’t always see and cannot fully understand. God is confusing, like water that springs up from the ground instead of falling from the sky, but God is always at work and we are all saved by His life-giving water.