Bizarre news story of the year so far: ‘Woman discovers long-lost wedding ring on carrot’.

Sixteen years ago, Mrs Lena Pahlsson lost her wedding ring, which was set with 7 small diamonds, in her kitchen. It was 1995 and she took it off to do some baking and it disappeared from the work surface. Late last year she was pulling up carrots in the garden, and she noticed the band, fastened tightly around one of the carrots. She thinks it must have fallen into the sink and become lost in vegetable peelings that were put out for compost. ‘I had given up hope of ever finding the ring’ she said. ‘It is quite incredible!’

It once was lost, but now is found. Fantastic!

‘I had given up hope’ she said. That phrase made me think about the year ahead. As a nation, do we have hope? About what about you? Do you have hope for the future? Not necessarily hope that you’ll find a wedding ring growing on a carrot, but the kind of hope that the bible talks about.

Psalm 33:18 says that God is looking down on earth, from heaven, and seeking a people who are full of hope. He’s looking for a people who respect him – who have a godly, holy, healthy fear of him. A people who stand in awe of him. A people (as it says) ‘whose hope is in his unfailing love.’

The Hebrew for unfailing love is the word ‘hesed’. The word means his experienced love. It’s a love the pervades the whole of life. All of your being. Mind. Soul. Body. Heart. It’s actually very close to the New Testament word for grace. Followers of Jesus know that ‘hesed’ is most fully experienced in Jesus Christ – in his death and resurrection – and as we are filled with his life-giving Spirit.

Psalm 33:18 talks of ‘hoping’ in this unfailing love of God. Hoping, as I’ve blogged before, is about trusting/believing – despite negative circumstances. It’s believing that a better day is coming. It’s about hanging in there because you glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel. And that light gives you hope, even though it seems dark all around you. And you begin to move towards that light. That is biblical hope.

As we go into the year ahead, I think God wants to give us a massive dose of hope.

Economically, the world is in a mess. And it’s going to take a while to get out of it. And if we’re going to get out of this recession we need economists, bankers, business people, politicians, and all sorts of people who have hope. People who believe in a better day.

Spiritually, our nation is not in a good place. Yes, there are pockets of good things happening. There are a few coming to Jesus Christ here and there. A trickle getting healed. Some are caring for the poor. Others trying hard to bring hope to their community A small percentage are faithful in worship. Probably an even smaller percentage are praying daily for the Spirit to be poured out and for revival. These things are good, but they feel like a drop in a bucket. So if I’m honest, I can’t say with any confidence that Ps 33:12 is true of the UK: ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord’. And it’s probably even less the case for the North of England, where for many their god is anything but ‘the Lord’.

And yet ‘the Lord’ wants to give us hope. Hope for our nation. Hope for the North. Hope so we pray and work our socks off to see transformation happen.

God is looking down from heaven looking for a people who’ve not given up hope. A people who know their hope (as it says in Ps 33:18) is in God’s ‘hesed’. In his unfailing love.

At the end of each year I re-read my journals for the last 12 months. It’s always fascinating to be reminded of some of the things the Lord has been doing in my life, and some of the things that have been on my mind. And so I did that a few days ago. Here’s an entry I found dated 12 Aug 2011:
‘I’m reflecting on Romans 4:17-18, on “the God who gives life to the dead and call into being things that were not. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed”. That’s how I feel about revival in the North. I believe that Lord wants it. And wants me to be part of it. But humanly it feels/seems impossible. It would need either a) resurrection – the North coming back to life, or b) creation – something created that’s never been before. Either way, only God can do those things. And looking around, I don’t see many signs. Not great deal of hope. But Rom 4 says that against all hope, Abraham believed. And so must I. So give me hope, Lord. Hope to believe. I like that. Hope to believe.’

So Abraham in hope believed – trusted that God would do the seemingly impossible. So, what about spiritual and social transformation in the North of England – in our day? Most people would say: ‘that’s impossible’. Yet God can do the seemingly impossible. If he can produce an heir for Abraham, out of his dead body … and if he can enable a wedding ring appear on a carrot after 16 years(!) … then he can bring revival to the North of England. He can.

This God looks down from heaven (Ps 33:18) and is seeking a people who will trust him for that. A people who’ll put their hope in his unfailing love.

Is that you? I hope so. I want it to be me. And that’s why – if it’s not too corny – my prayer at he beginning of 2012, especially for those of us at The Belfrey, is that God will give us a hope-y New Year. A very hope-y New Year!In fact, an extremely hope-y New Year!! Because that’s what we need. A massive dose of hope.

Psalm 33 ends (v22) with these words:
‘May your hesed – your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.’

A very hope-y New Year to you.