My name is Chris Thomas. I’m a fortunate husband, a father of three and Dad to five. I’m an advocate of foster care as an expression of the gospel. I’m a pastor at Raymond Terrace Community Church, a regional church based in the Hunter Valley, Australia. I mostly write about the gospel and how it informs both work and rest.

A Rehearsal of Hope

A Rehearsal of Hope

He looked over his half-moon glasses, his dark eyes split by an amusing optical illusion, but his furrowed brow wiped any notion of a smile from my face. “You didn’t rehearse, did you? You have done no practice.”

I hated practicing my trumpet; a notion probably shared by my family.

I had picked up an instrument mostly as an excuse to get out of class; our lessons held in the school hall where the entire brass band assembled for our weekly cacophony. This was my third year and I was a quick student with a good ear for music. But as it turned out, a good ear for music was great, but it would only take you so far. While I could easily pick up a tune by ear, repeating the patterns and notes with accuracy, I was a poor student when it came to reading music. And by poor, I mean, terrible.

“You didn’t rehearse, did you? You have done no practice.” He knew. Three weeks earlier he had asked me to step up into first trumpet position in the band. It involved solos, lead melody, and more importantly in my young mind, the spotlight! Sheet music had been passed out for a piece we were unfamiliar with, a piece to be performed at a school function now only a few nights away.

“You didn’t rehearse, did you? You have done no practice.” His Eastern European accent had a familiar accusing tone of disappointment. My lack of rehearsal was painfully obvious. I wouldn’t be able to fake myself through this one, I was too exposed. I thought about arguing my case, lying about the hours I’d spent on it, but I knew it wouldn’t convince him. He knew. I knew. It just wasn’t in me.

Rehearsal in the quiet of my bedroom was where I had been meant to work the notes out, train my fingers into mindless repetitive patterns that followed muscle memory more than cognitive prompting. I should have etched the music into my mind’s eye, able to following the score through its soaring crescendo and eventual coda. But I did not, and now I could not. I had failed to rehearse and now I could not perform. One year later I quit the trumpet. That was 30 years ago.

I don’t play the trumpet anymore, but I learnt a valuable lesson on the importance of rehearsal. Especially the rehearsal of hope needed for the walk of a disciple of Jesus. I first learnt to use this type of language after reading Joe Thorn’s, Note To Self, a small but profound insight on the art of preaching the gospel to yourself. Something about Joe’s approach resonated with me, and took me back to those half-moon glasses and revealing truth, “You didn’t rehearse, did you?”

As I pause in an unhurried moment during my day, or grasp at minutes that might otherwise be wasted, as I open my Bible or plug in my headphones, I’m aiming to rehearse hope. When I sit with my children around the meal table, or stand in the kitchen cleaning dishes with them, or as we head to the beach for a swim, I’m aiming to rehearse hope. When we gather with the church, as we sing songs of grace, as we gather around the table of remembering, as we hear the word while tracing the letters in open Bibles, we aim to rehearse hope.

Rehearsing hope is the layered effect of patterns of truth that embed down into the soul, penetrating the dull mind so easily distracted by empty lusts, and shaping the heart to rejoice in Jesus. Some days this seems fairly easy, when the pressure of life is light and the days bright. But there are mornings when it isn’t easy at all. Days that dawn dark and carry with them grief and sorrow that threaten to overthrow our confidence in Christ. These are the days that I tremble under the weight, peering into the gathering gloom I say what I cannot see and trust what I do not feel.

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.

When darkness hides His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.” — On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, Edward Mote


* Note To Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, by Joe Thorn (Amazon)

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