How can churches become the kind of supportive, loving communities that are so needed by many who have fostered or adopted? How do we ensure we provide a place of hope and support when people feel isolated and overwhelmed?
In his first letter to the church in Corinth the apostle Paul includes an extended discussion on the reality and significance of the resurrection of Jesus, which ends with the wonderful conclusion:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58, NIV)
For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus, and the victory of God that this demonstrates and enacts, is grounds for hope and perseverance in his readers’ work for the Kingdom. If this is the case, and if we Christian communities really want to be a place of welcome and support for the families of looked after children, I’d suggest we need to have this stamp of resurrection evident in who we are and what we do.
But what does this embracing of Easter look like in individuals, families and church communities who are striving to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children? Let’s pick up on a couple of ways in which Easter may help us to do this.
Easter confronts us with brokenness
The events of Easter declare that God has not forgotten or turned his back on the world’s pain. God has reckoned with the world as it is, in all its brokenness, and has faced it head on. He has dealt with the causes of this brokenness in a definitive way.
Our calling as Church is to declare and work for the Kingdom of God in the world as it is, not as we would prefer it to be. We are called to be a people who do not flinch from the sober realities, struggles and pain of others. We are called to enter into it, and bring a word of hope.
Easter confronts us with hope
The stories and statistics concerning vulnerable children can feel debilitating. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the need. It is easy to become overwhelmed by our own lack of capacity and energy to keep trying to meet those needs on our own.
Easter reminds us that God has transformed despair into hope. Friday was followed by Sunday. A sober reckoning of the brokenness of the world must be matched and swallowed up by a sober reckoning with the transformative work of God in Jesus. There is no point that is beyond the transformative capacity of our God. This can be hard to believe sometimes, especially in the midst of struggle and stress, but this is what Easter declares.
We are called, then, to be a people filled with hope and preoccupied by the transformative work of God.
We are not built to journey alone. Reckoning with brokenness and hope are not purely individual endeavours. Rather, we are called to be communities of hope that point to the possibility of transformation and perseverance, in practical activities as well as in words. We are called to be communities that labour in hope, and this is a labour that is not in vain.