UCOM's Main Product: We Dispense Hope
November 28th, 2011
UCOM really is a faith-based community resource. We are not a church—don’t conduct worship services, have no pastor, no preaching, no proselytizing; but we do ministry (service for others) because of a deep-seated faith that tells us what we are doing is the right thing for us to do together with and for our neighbors.
Because of that faith-base, I am often asked when I preach in churches to speak to of UCOM’s faith. It seems to me that the Advent season, as it is celebrated in many mainstream Christian congregations, is a good time to address this. So for the next four weeks, I will write on UCOM’s faith based on the “lights” of Advent—hope, joy, peace and love. Because Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, overlaps the first week of Christmas this year, I’ll write a joint-Chanukah/Christmas perspective on UCOM’s faith. Finally because the Winter Solstice is a high holiday for many of my friends and family, I will write of UCOM’s faith based on the anticipation and celebration of Light. I invite you to add your faith perspective as it relates to the work of United Church Outreach Ministry and to our place in the community of faith and in the wider community.
The Light of Hope
“Sometimes I think my family would be better off without me.” When I read this in an email the week of Thanksgiving tears welled up and threatened to spill, a little cold hand of fear gripped my heart. It sounded like someone at the end of his rope. Feeling useless, inadequate to the task, and alone is tantamount to those frightening dreams where you are falling, slow-motion falling through the darkness with no way to catch yourself, no way to break the fall. You can’t even scream. The sound sticks in your throat, your chest, and it won’t come out.
Dante’s poetic description of hell is macabre at worst, but the words, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” is a succinct definition of hell on earth. We can live without food for a while and water for a shorter period, but who can live without hope?
Hope is the major product UCOM dispenses. When I proposed changing our tagline recently from “Resources for living; Hope for life” to what I thought was a more specific and unique phrase “Feeding bodies and minds”, I received an email from one of our past presidents who said, “If we are just providing food and educational support, that would be adequate, but UCOM has always been about more than bodies and minds, it is about providing hope for the human spirit”—a light that shines on the horizon to say we are here to help with the tough times now so that you can be renewed to go on to what is next and better and brighter in your life. Above all, UCOM dispenses hope.
One basic of UCOM’s non-creedal philosophy is that however you conceive of God and good, whatever your faith or non-faith, our witness is that there is hope. We do not pretend that everything is rosy now. We will not deny your current reality or the circumstances that surround you, that currently seem to engulf you. But we are here to remind you that someone cares; that there are some resources available to help now; and that you have not really exhausted all of your options. In short the daily reason for our being as a faith-based community organization is to whisper and shout that there is hope.
When some of us witnessed the lighting of the candle of hope this morning in church, it was with you in mind—all of you—and all of us. This is not the end of the story. The Christian/Hebrew lectionary reading this morning was “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says the Lord.” Mountains and hills will be leveled and valleys built up; rough places will be smoothed; Light will be revealed to everyone. We have not seen it yet apocalyptically, but at UCOM we see it several times a day—the smile that kindles when Mom receives a birthday cake for her little one; the quickening of the step when someone with a chronic illness is able to choose fresh produce to help them live more healthfully; the twinkle in an eye when we have a pair of coveralls to replace a mechanics ruined ones; the whoop of laughter when a child “gets it” in a reading assignment. Light the light of hope.
It has been from the inception of the organization until now the main focus of UCOM’s ministry to provide what is necessary for living now, and to offer options and hope for a brighter future for all of us.
Light the light of hope.