Hope is a difficult thing. But, it’s an important thing, perhaps the most important thing. Remember that line near the end of the movie, The Shawshank Redemption? Tim Robbin’s character, Andy Dufresne, is at his wit’s end and says some alarming things to Red, played by Morgan Freeman. But he talks about hope as the most important thing. In the end, at the movie’s resolution, we understand that Andy wasn’t about to commit suicide; he was about to take a daring step into the unknown.
I would say that one of the challenging things about being Christian these days—or people of any faith, really—is that it is hard to hold onto hope. Watching events unfold every day can erode our hope and drive even the most faithful to despair. The last few weeks, in particular, have been very challenging—shootings in the US and Toronto. The search for Schmegelsky and MacLeod, which is now over. The changes to Kashmir by a nationalistic Indian President. The ever-more complicated and disheartening Brexit conversation in the UK. LGBTQ folk in Hungary, parts of Africa and Poland fighting for their lives. I’m sometimes surprised there are any of us left with an ounce of hope and smattering of faith and that there are still those us for whom the church is important and want to gather on a Sunday morning.
Or perhaps that’s the point! We’re gathered because we haven’t given up on hope and even though our faith is a little torn these days, it’s enough to come to be reminded of what’s important and go back out into our lives with a renewed sense of making a difference in the world and living with love and compassion rather than fear.
Daniel Schultz, a United Church of Christ minister in Wisconsin, wrote a few years ago in The Christian Century magazine. He reminded us that hope is that deeper sense of love’s power finding new life. He reminded us that while we want instant solutions, hope is a longer trajectory and we don’t always know the outcomes when we live in hope. That can be hard. He wrote about hope:
“Hope is another spring. The fullness of creation’s generosity pushes out on the ash tree leaves that shudder in the warm sun. Hope is the worms that digest the soil, over eons breaking mountains down into hills and hills into plains. The haze rises. The world shimmers and awaits the first thunderstorm of summer. Hope is the lake seen from the top of the hill.
Hope is the neonatal intensive care unit where 26 ounces of nephew reside—wired, tubed, warmed, aching for touch. It takes three minutes of dedicated scrubbing just to get yourself in the door. He will live, leading a life as complex and open-ended as any, filled with karate and Star Wars and jumping off the stairs. But the worried look of his mother will never leave your memory: her reluctance to leave his side, the way she reaches for him slowly, carefully, in the crib. She offers to let you hold him, but you can see all she wants is to take him home, out of this place with its urgent bells and mechanical wheezes, the nurses who vacillate between warmth and alarm.
In this same vein, personally, I would say that hope is all you have left when you can’t keep anything down, when you don’t know what is ailing you, when you’re awake at 3 am with pretty bad pain and just wanting things to be over. Hope is the guest who sits with us in these moments, helping us see into a murky future a light, a new dawn, love.
I’m not sure if there were any calamities and challenges that Jesus was addressing in the teachings of the 12thchapter of Luke. I do know that Jesus understood that people’s lives were hard. There was an increasing military presence by the Romans as Rome feared a rebellion. There was a huge discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots. Some had lost faith in their leaders and were looking for new inspiration. Familiar territory.
Into that world of anxiety about the day’s portions, about what tomorrow might bring, about what will happen next week or next month or next year—will this be the year that the Romans decide to just destroy us all?—Jesus says, “Enough!” Enough worry! Enough with the fear! You have enough. God’s grace is enough! Be generous and open! There is enough for all.
It is all too easy to get caught up in cycles of cynicism and despair—that’s the easy road; believe me, I’ve been down it. It’s the more difficult path to continue to cultivate hope, to refuse to let fear and anxiety erode our sense of self and God’s presence in the world, to refuse to let greed dictate that we never have enough. It’s easier to let the world’s events wreck our day and then growl at people on the street who get in our way or those strangers who are going to steal away our resources, or those seeking justice and redress for wrongs from the past. The harder road, but the loving and compassionate path is the one that calls us to step back, turn off the news perhaps, light a candle; maybe stand among the flowers of our garden for a bit or sit under the shade of a favourite tree or a walk along the lake or whatever we need to do to remind ourselves again that God’s deep desire for the world is love and compassion, that there is enough for all, and that hope will see us through in the long run.
I can’t put it any more poetically than Elizabeth Myer Boulton back in 2010, when she said, “Fear not! Your God is the God of Genesis, who poured out her heart to create giraffes and dragonflies and forsythia. You don’t need to steal and eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge because this is all you need to know: the one who created you will sustain you, care for you and never let you go. Fear not! God is the God of Exodus who hears you cry, takes you out of slavery and into freedom and feeds you with manna. You don’t need to squirrel away sugar for the bitter days ahead: God will provide. Fear not! God became flesh in order to touch us, teach us, heal us, take our ashes out of the ground and bring us back to life. You don’t need to build bigger barns or hoard toilet paper: all you need to do is trust in the grace of God.”
So, we continue to hope. We continue to make allies with other people of like-minded desire for more love and compassion in the world. We continue to seek out good news stories, which abound in Yes! Magazine and other places. We continue to put one foot in front of the other. We continue to refuse to let despair and fear have their grip on us. We continue to build and repair our torn faith and come together to be renewed into a new tapestry of love. We continue even though the pain is unbearable at 3 am because we trust that we are not alone. The Promised One of Peace is aching with us, crying out for justice and a new beginning. And that’s enough!
See Daniel Schultz’s article in The Christian Century: https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2016-06/august-7-19th-sunday-ordinary-time.
See Elizabeth Myer Boulton’s article in The Christian Century at:https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2010-07/enough.