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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hope...

We’ve been hearing a lot about hope and change in the media recently have we not? Every politician walks a fine line between guaranteeing change and offering hope while maintaining the integrity of reality.

Reality is a war in the middle east coupled with impending war against several other nations. Hope is bringing home the troops, peace talks that bring about peace, and restful, civil nations.

Reality is continual increases in teen pregnancy – 13, 14, 15, 16 year old mothers and fathers. Hope is higher self-esteem, healthier perspectives on sexuality, a decrease in pornography use, and safe sex or abstinence.

Reality is flooding in the Midwest along the Mississippi. Reality is fires in the West. Reality is parts of the south still suffering from Katrina and Rita. Hope is a government that is prepared for Mother Nature’s attacks, more relief workers and financial aid, provisions for the poor who can’t make a comeback, a deeper respect for our environment, and heeding the warnings of global warming.

We hear a lot about hope and change and sometimes it’s hard to swallow all that when we face reality every day.

And reality isn’t just about facts and figures and statistics and status-quo. Reality isn’t just economics and politics and environments. Reality is how we feel and what we think and how we will make it through the uncertainty of each day when our turn comes in the game of life. How do we manage delighting in the daylight with fears that come with nightfall? That’s reality too – the untangible reality – the feeling of awe at the birth of a child, the assumption of responsibility when peering into a Grand Canyon, the power of peace when peering at all the stars and solar systems in the evening sky.

But with much beauty comes much fear. So what’s the point of hope?

Is it just to make us feel better? Is hope the prozac of our spiritual angst? Is it the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down? Is hope what causes people in Pentecostal churches to jump up and down and fall over laughing? Is hope what keeps people giving to charity when we know we “will always have the poor” among us? Is hope what keeps us saying our prayers at night and doing meditations in the morning and yoga after work? Is hope what keeps us out of hell?

Well… yes.

Yes, yes, I’m not sure about the hell thing, and yes.

Because I think once we claim hope, once we agree with God that rescue is coming, that soon we will be done, and we warn the world to watch for us coming, this hope, this desire for change, for salvation, this hope becomes in us not an esoteric idea to be discussed in theology class, but a real, living, potentially-tangible, but certainly unexplainable something inside us. While Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, at some point I believe that hope hope goes from being a concept to something concrete. Something we don’t understand but something we can feel.

God loves us. Hope has come.
We can make a difference. Hope has come.

Hope became Human. Something about God becoming a man, God becoming one of us, makes hope tangible. And some of us got to touch it. Some of us got to see the face of God incarnate, look into the eyes, touch the garment of the cloak, feel the wounds, wash the feet with tears, some of us were there. And the rest of us have the great stories God left for us. And we have the Spirit that moves in us and reminds us that hope has come.

Hope has come.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

So jump. Shout. Scream. Laugh. Cry. Study hard in school. Get involved in politics. Volunteer to help out in your community. Pay your taxes. Give even more money away willingly. Forgive your enemies. Pray for peace. Practice safe sex. And for the love of God, tell your friends about the hope you have in Jesus Christ. Tell your story of hope…

Frederick Buechner writes, “For Christians, hope is ultimately hope in Christ. The hope that he really is what for centuries we have been claiming he is. The hope that despite the fact that sin and death still rule the world, he somehow conquered them. The hope that in him and through him all of us stand a chance of somehow conquering them too. The hope that at some unforeseeable time and in some unimaginable way he will return with healing in his wings.”

Amen.