A while back I was having dinner with my mother at our favorite Italian restaurant in Michigan. The portions are generous and the service is always excellent. One special thing the waitstaff does when they bring your meal out to you is ask you if you’d like some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top. If you say “yes” the waitstaff will use this little handheld contraption to grind up the cheese. Then they will delicately sprinkle the cheese over top of the entire dish. They will keep putting cheese on top of your meal until you tell them to stop.
That evening, while I was having dinner with my mother, I noticed a man at the table across from us. He had just been served his food. The waitstaff asked him if he’d like some Parmesan cheese. He said, “yes.” The waiter ground up the cheese and sprinkled it on top like usual, but the man never said, “Stop, that’s enough.” When the waiter poured all the cheese they had ground up on his food the man asked, “May I have more, please?” The waitstaff happily ground up more cheese and sprinkled it on his food. This happened three times in a row; same question, same answer. Finally, after the third time he said, “That’s enough.” His plate was overflowing with cheese.
The Apostle Paul writes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” During this time of COVID-19, I can’t help but think how the hope we have in God is like the Parmesan cheese at that restaurant: readily available and abundant. Unlike the waitstaff, God does not ask us if we’d like some hope, it is just always there, because God has given us Jesus. God is always pouring more hope into our lives. It might not stack up in a big noticeable pile all at once, but it most certainly spreads across our lives. The hope that God gives us isn’t trivial or trite. The hope that God gives us is substantial and fresh. It is the knowledge that all wrongs will be put right. It is the knowledge that the broken will be mended. It is the knowledge that the lost will be found.
As we adjust to living with COVID-19 recommendations and restrictions it is important to remember and to lean into hope. God given hope. As we do we will be filled with divine joy and peace. Or as Paul puts it, “...that you may overflow with hope…” Sometimes, we need to remind one another of the hope that is always there. Sometimes, it takes the body of Christ, our church community, to point us to the hope we have in Christ. May you be reminded of our true hope in Christ, and may you share that hope with others through phone calls, emails, snail mail, and creative technology.
Right now, it is easy to be overcome by the news, the ever-changing restrictions, and our inability to do our normal routines. I invite you to take a break, at least once every day, and take a deep breath. Remember who we belong to (God), and where we place our hope (Jesus), and find an opportunity to remind someone else each day of that hope.
Friends, I pray, “The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Amen.” - Numbers 6:22-26