5 weeks into lockdown, aware of the pain that has been caused, facing the reality of longer term impact and a slow return to normality…where do we find our hope?
I used my exercise today to take you down to one of my favourite places in this community I’ve grown to love. It’s an intersection of the different phases and stages of Barking Riverside – a vibrant ‘Welcome’ sign into the heart of Phase 1 that’s already built and full of residents; on the opposite side you can see the new train station being built and beyond that the next phase of homes with people starting to move in; and towards the river you can see too the remaining part of the old Barking Power Station that once was the largest in Europe. Present, Future, Past all in one spot.
But I love this place too because it was here that Anna and I heard a very clear promise from God for this community. Early 2018, trying to discern if we were called to begin a new church here, we walked and prayed around the area. We had a growing sense of excitement – that God has plans for this community and every person in it, that He is preparing to show Himself, who God is and what He is like more clearly than before. And standing in this spot we were reminded strongly, like a loud impression in the mind, of the words of Jesus in John 7:37-39:
“Whoever is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. And whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
This promise captures God’s heart for every person and has become a cornerstone in our dreams for Barking Riverside. Whoever is thirsty. Thirsty for hope; for peace; for security; for purpose; for a sense of worth and value, of love; for meaning and something to live for; for forgiveness and freedom from a nagging sense of shame; for something more than the mundane norm…
Come to Jesus. He has life for you, hope, purpose, meaning, forgiveness, identity, value, grace, strength, energy, love.
And not only for you, but He pours out love and life in such a way that it overflows from us to others – that we become people who bring that same love, life, hope, security, joy, purpose to every person and every place around us.
Our hope that shapes how we live and how we lead, that gets us up in the morning and gives us peace at night. Our hope is in this promise: that Jesus longs to pour life into every person in this community. The way He does it is beautiful – He says to just come, come as you are, come however you can, just come and drink. And as you find real life in Him, He’ll invite you to help others find life too – He’ll give you strength, vision, and ability to see and to serve the people around you.
Our vision is to see Barking Riverside thriving with Jesus at the heart of every person and every place. We’re not setting out to start a big weekly event or a flashy organization. We’re here as thirsty people coming to Jesus and inviting others to do the same. We’ll see this church grow and this community thrive as each person comes, drinks, falls in love with Jesus, and shares that love with others.
This is my hope. Before Covid, during Covid, and after Covid. Our context shapes what that overflow of love looks like, but it never changes the source, it never unmakes the promise. This is my hope. It can be yours. Even just for a moment, in the quietness of your heart, say to Jesus,
“If you’re there, I’m thirsty, give me whatever it is you have to drink, give me you.”
We’re praying with you, and for you.