Core Values – Hopefulness

Romans 5: 1-5


Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

As I promised a few weeks back, I want to spend a few weeks looking at our core values. If our vision statement is a destination, and our purpose/mission statement is the vehicle, then our core values our the route we take to get to our destination. They are what inform “the Project Way”. Those values are Hopefulness, Excellence, Integrity, Relationship, and Servanthood. I wanted to start this morning with “hopefulness”. 

I’ve retuned to a city completely turned on its head. It is September… and people are talking about the Pirates. They are doing so without irony or malice. What gives? The last time the Pirates had a winning season, I was 13. Since then, they’ve been a laughingstock, a sterling example of mismanagement mixed with bad luck. It’s been fun to watch the excitement build as we crept closer and closer to that elusive 82nd win. People began to talk about things like playoffs and October baseball. Yeah… they play baseball in October. Who knew? People began to hope and it’s been really fun to be around. 

The apostle Paul seemed to believe that hope is a product of struggle. The hope of a perennial loser is different than that of those who have always been on top. The reward is greater. The victory sweeter. The process… longer and harder. But Paul’s equation is this; struggle leads to endurance, which develops character and people of character are hopeful people. 

Our world is cynical. We’ve become a culture of skeptics. To be hopeful at times feels naive. I repent of my participation in the cynicism of the world. It takes no character to be cynical. It asks nothing from us. To be hopeful asks us to trust that the love of God that has been poured into each of us can get us through the circumstances that surround us. We hope because of love and the power that love has to change the world. 

The work that we do requires that our outlook is a hopeful one. We hope to see our students rise above difficult circumstances. We hope for a safer community where people have opportunities to better themselves. We hope for our homeowners to be able to live out their days knowing their worth in the eyes of God. Ultimately, we hope for a city renewed by the love of God reflected in humble service. 

A very practical application to this is being hopeful in our speech. Again, I confess my weakness in this area. Call me out on it! We need to communicate with each other, with our students and homeowners, and with those outside of the organization in a way that let’s them know that we believe that God has good things in store for them and for us. Removing negativity and cynicism from our speech is a difficult process that requires discipline. It’s not that we need to be Pollyanna-ish in our conversations, but we do need to ask ourselves whether what we say projects our trust in God’s goodness and provision. 

Difficulties make it easy to lose hope, yet the irony lies in the fact that it is those same difficulties that create the space in which hopeful character can be born. My hope is that as we begin to come out of a difficult season that we emerge as an optimistic people, believing that we can see justice and love reign in our city. 

Export the Vision

(the following is based on a true story… I’ll let you determine which parts may be somewhat fictional) 

Last week Joanna and I met with a local designer to have a conversation about creating a brochure that would highlight all of what the organization is doing. While we were sitting in a restaurant, the artist showed us some samples of her work, including a piece that she had worked on for the Pittsburgh Promise. This particular piece was focused on those in the faith community. I scanned the brochure and saw on the back the stated hope from the Pittsburgh Promise:  
“That Pittsburgh will be called a City of Truth, where once again, men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets, each with cane in hand because of age, and where the city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there”. 

Immediately, I saw red. 
“Plagiarism!”, I screamed at the top of my lungs, drawing the eyes of all the restaurant’s patrons. I flipped tables. Threw chairs. It was very much like Jesus clearing the temple. In the version of the story told in John’s gospel, Jesus fashions a whip. Lucky for those around me, I was very much in need of my belt (I’ve lost some weight recently). Joanna would later recall that she had never seen such fury in a man and that she feared for her very existence. She tried to calm me down, but I told her, in no uncertain terms, that those thieves at the Pittsburgh Promise  must be held accountable for their treachery. 
Justice had to served. Never mind that the founder of the Project is also now the director of Promise and that his vision for the city would naturally remain consistent. Never mind that our vision comes from the Bible which is pretty much as “public domain” as you can get. Heads had to roll!  I picked up my phone, knowing that I had my team of high priced lawyers only a speed dial away (dial 6 for “high priced lawyers”) when I had a moment of clarity…
“what if it’s not such a terrible thing that our vision would appear on the brochure of another organization? what if it’s not our vision, but God’s vision? What if a vision isn’t something to be hoarded or gloated over but to be shared?” 
What would it look like if everyone bought into our vision for what the city should be? What would it mean if churches across the greater Pittsburgh area shared the same vision of a city of truth, a city of justice, dignity, safety, and love? What would it look like if we saw our vision statement plastered all over the city because organizations bought into it in such a way that they wanted to work toward those ends? What would it look like if even “secular” organizations bought into our very biblical vision because it’s just so compelling? 
As I’ve spoken with most of our staff and many on our board over the last month, I find that what keeps us working on this Project of ours is that our hearts are stirred by the vision. It captures our imagination and calls us to dream big dreams. It is no small vision. It is bigger than any one of us, bigger than any of our agendas or programs. It is a Kingdom vision. It’s not just our job to live into the vision. It’s not enough to share the vision. We have to give it away. in business terms, the chief product and export of the Pittsburgh Project must be vision. A contagious, viral vision that spreads across the city is what I imagine. A vision so compelling that churches want it in their bulletins, organizations want it on their annual reports and restaurants want it on their menus. It’s a vision for the whole city, not just for us. May we be generous in sharing this vision with others, so that their hearts might be stirred and that we might together take steps toward becoming a beloved community, a city of truth. 
*full disclosure: I believe my exact response when I saw our vision statement on the Promise’s brochure was “huh, that’s funny.”