I recently asked a couple of friends how they would describe hope. Not surprisingly, they had to think about it for a bit. I have, too. Most specifically, I've wrestled with how to describe the difference between faith and hope. The best way I can think to describe the dynamic between these two words that are connected by solid trust in God is that faith is a solid place to stand in the present, but hope is what empowers us to step boldly, bravely into the future reality that God is bringing to us.
Hope is a powerful force. Many thinkers and writers have expressed the strength of the human spirit that God has placed in each of us to varying degrees, and how integral hope is to facing the suffering that naturally accompanies human life in a sin-broken world. G.K. Chesterton put it this way: “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate.” The Roman statesman Cicero put it quite succinctly: “While there’s life, there’s hope.” The English novelist George Eliot said, "What we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.” And much to my point, the well-known preacher Charles Spurgeon proclaimed, “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened.” It seems to me that both committed followers of Jesus and secular thinkers alike would probably have a hard time disagreeing with St. Paul's assessment in 1 Corinthians: "Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love" (13:13, CSB).
Many of you may have noticed a conversation that has been occurring quietly in little pockets of our congregation, in connection with the social media hashtag #seehope. Essentially, it's a simple reminder to all of us here at Immanuel to have our eyes peeled for how God is bringing hope to our lives during the continually-unfolding situation with the pandemic, and even to notice ways in which God may be leading us to bring hope to people that we meet, whether well-known or just encountered. When you slow down a bit and intentionally observe the world around you, it's not hard to see the work of Jesus, bringing the Kingdom, and the people to whom He is bringing it, sometimes through people like you and me. It starts with seeing opportunities for hope to break in.
But hope is also expressed most poignantly in the work and person of God Himself in the flesh, Jesus. You can place your hope in a lot of things. Like an economy or government. A March Madness team. A bank account. Your own ability to figure things out. But at the end of the day, when human ingenuity and power have exhausted themselves and lie lifeless on the floor, it's only the resurrecting power of Jesus that can pick dead, lifeless things off the floor and make them come alive. It's not a fairy tale. It's a promise, bought with a sacrificial death on Good Friday and sealed with overwhelming evidence of resurrection victory on Easter. It's our mission, our duty, our joy as Christians not just to see the hope of this great story, OUR story, but also to speak about it.
So as we all bask in the glory and joy of Easter during the season immediately following it, we're going to have a conversation about how we can raise our competency in not only seeing hope, but also speaking up about it. Jesus gave us plenty of metaphors to describe Himself and what He does, and learning to have those words on our lips regularly so we can naturally speak them into the lives of others will help us accomplish the mission Jesus gave us. Even in the midst of a great deal of death and mourning the loss of both people and patterns we treasure, we want to embody the hope we have, not to grieve like others do who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). The truth is, this hope is for everyone. We just have to get the Word out.
Ironically, Sir Frances Bacon, the English philosopher and statesman, expressed a truth about hope in this way: "Hope is good for breakfast, but it is bad for supper." I know that some will argue with me that bacon is not just a breakfast food, but neither is hope. My prayer this Eastertide is that God gives us eyes to see His work in the world, and that spring gives us plenty of reminders of His resurrection power to make all things new. May we be so well-fed by the feast of hope that is the Easter season that we are able to express the great news of Jesus' triumph over death, not just at breakfast, but whenever we break bread and celebrate the eternal life He gives us. The journey's not done yet, and our Savior gives us abundant provision for the road. There's plenty of hope to go around, and plenty of ground yet to cover before we reach our Father's House, because...
Adventure is out there!