We were in Humboldt, SK, this past summer, visiting a close family friend who is going through a difficult time. It’s not at all related to the crash and the deaths of members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team; he just moved there a couple of months ago and is going through an acrimonious separation from his partner. We saw a little evidence of the aftermath of the tragedy, a few ribbons around trees and a few hockey sticks at doorways. Our friend has said that the emotions are still raw, but that the community is trying to move forward.
Anna Maria Tremonte on CBC’s The Current Thursday morning did a half-hour tribute to the survivors of the Humboldt tragedy and how the community has been grieving, especially now that a new hockey season has begun. The word that kept coming up was the word hope.
Remember Barak Obama before he was elected? He used a phrase often in his first presidential election campaign. He talked about “the audacity of hope.” At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he said, “Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us… a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.’’
The poet Emily Dickinson, in a quote I’ve used many times from one of her poems, wrote,
Hope is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
I’ve drawn inspiration from this poem many times. And from Joanna Macy, a Buddhist who has devoted her life’s work to hope. I remember being critical of Barak Obama after his first term; he didn’t follow through on the hope he promised, I felt at the time. Boy, I don’t feel that way now!!
The Econ-congregation Scotland, from which I’ve drawn some of the worship resources for the Season of Creation, reminds us that audacity means a boldness or daring especially when challenging assumptions or tackling difficult or dangerous situations. Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve experienced this audacity of hope? The Syrophoenician woman sure did!
What audacity to turn the insult from Jesus on its head with wisdom, humour, and boldness; she took the insulting rebuke from Jesus, turned it on its head and created an opportunity for healing. She wasn’t a Jew; she was a woman on the margins, and yet she acted with daring boldness and changed the situation from an embarrassment to a moment of deep encounter and healing.
The Eco-Congregation Scotland reminds us that in many instances “the temptation is to move immediately to advocacy. We decide who is marginalized and provide a voice for them, we amend our lifestyles to support Fairtrade or reduce our impact on the planet. Mark tells us these actions, though good in themselves, are not enough. His gospel testifies to the utter change enacted through a real encounter with those who are marginalized or excluded.
Father Joseph Wresinski grew up in grinding poverty in France; he went on to become a priest and founded the “Fourth World Movement.” This movement seeks to end poverty by bringing people together across boundaries and to provide opportunities for encounter—deep encounter that profoundly changes people. The Gospel we hear each week is a deep encounter that “… offers hope and changes lives and the world.”
It’s what we need in the world today, deep encounters of hope that changes lives and the world. We drove into Calgary on the day that the Appeals Court found that the environmental assessment of Canada was lacking and that not enough consultation with 1st Nations occurred with respect to the pipeline. Janet and I were going, “Yes!!” with a fist pump. But the news, as it was Alberta news, was that this was the worst possible thing that could have happened, that world had ended. I don’t know what the judges were thinking about, but I’m sure it took some audacity of hope to make their ruling, especially in the face of political pressure from Edmonton and Ottawa. But what a missed opportunity for the Alberta oil patch to step back and engage the green energy sector, which is huge and growing by leaps and bounds, engage in encounters about our future and the impact on the world of continued use of fossil fuels—step back from profit at all costs.
We need a renewed audacity of hope in this time in our world that takes us beyond mere rhetoric into real encounters. The people of the Pacific Islands need this encounter to change us in the West and the North from our over-consumptive ways. The animals around the world devastated by habitat loss, the whales devastated by pollution, noise and plastic in our oceans—we need to encounter these beings and emerge changed to live differently and with greater hope!
September always seems to be the start of a new year whether we have children or not. So, let’s enter this new year with a bold and daring hope, with a desire not just for good works and social action, but for encounters with people and real situations. Let us be open to the voice of the Syrophoenician woman who wasn’t satisfied with a throw-away comment, but wanted real encounter and real change. Let us hear her voice echoed in our transformed lives of hope, and the voice of Jesus’ gospel that is alive, vital and life-giving.
 Thanks to Ecocongregationscotland for these thoughts and the quote.