(You may watch video of this sermon here).
I’m really grateful that again the reflection I have to offer includes words and wisdom that you all have shared with me this week. Last week I posed the question, “What words or images evoke God for you?” And folks really appreciated being able to hear each other’s responses. So this week I’ve posed the question,
“What words or images evoke for you Hope?”
I’ll share your responses in a moment. And please keep them coming.
Hope is the opening theme for the season of Advent. In the ancient cycles of the church calendar we are now entering the time of Advent, which is a time of spiritual preparation for our celebration of the birth of Christ on Christmas.
The themes of Advent help to beckon us into the meaning we find through Christ, God incarnate, the Divine enfleshed through birth, death, and rebirth.
Hope: Advent opens with Hope.
One of you said about hope:
Whenever I say “I hope”, for me that is prayer. I feel that “Hope” is how I am being guided.
So it’s not like hope is something that we maybe feel or maybe don’t feel. But rather it’s an active spiritual principle that beckons us as prayer does, into participating with the Divine. Hope is a practice. Evoke hope even if you don’t feel it. A practice: act with hope, regardless of whether you feel it or not. Just doing that helps us to see how it’s true.
At a deeper level part of how God is at work through the world is by constantly offering possibilities. That’s why the universe exists as it does in the first place and isn’t just frozen and sterile and bland. Creation is a dynamo of creativity. There are infinite possibilities for how the stuff of the universe can flow together and flux and form and reform and pass away to open the way for new ways, generation after generation after generation.
God is the source of all that possibility. God is also the source of our measure of freedom within those possibilities. And whatever choices we make or don’t make, and the choices that others make, whatever the consequences, God is always offering new possibility to us to move from whatever point we find ourselves into more abundant life.
Hope doesn’t need to mean a kind of Pollyanna optimism. I appreciate that one of you responded to my question by saying that hope usually seems too “puny” of a word. It often seems to be coming from fear and doubt rather than real confidence and trust. That’s a good point.
If we’re talking about the hope that we find through Christ, we have to mean something deeper than a cheerful, “there, there, it will be okay” when it’s not okay. The story of Jesus is about the labors of divine love in the midst of real suffering. Paul talks about the labor pangs of the new world.
Hope is tough work sometimes. It’s not only seeing but also seizing the possibilities God offers even in the teeth of the dragon.
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” – Augustine
In the Black Church people often say “God makes a way out of no way.”
Several folks in our church who have been more unflappable through the various crises we’re passing through are folks who are well acquainted with war. The perspective they’ve shared is “This too shall pass.”
A lot of the images you all have shared about hope are day to day ways that we can experience the ways that “this too shall pass” can lead to holy moments of possibility through change. And not just any possibility, but the possibilities of deeper and richer connection between us and with the Holy Source of All.
So, here is some of what you all have shared:
Hope is the sun coming out after several days of inclement weather.
Hope is walking through a pine forest, looking up, and smelling fir balsam … your favorite aroma in the world.
Hope is the first time someone you adore says, “I love you”, and means it.
Hope is the sound of the ocean waves just after a storm .
Hope is “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
Stories and images of beings who demonstrate the true depth of our capacity for resilience. An enormous tree or ancient tiny bonsai. John Lewis.
Photos of my grandparents; sunrise;
Love for all of life & that love magic as in Christmas Songs, beautiful towns (e.g. Heidelberg), wrapping gifts neatly and with poetry, beauty around me, my own warm & living heart, be it filled with fear or joy or loneliness – it is feeling something! -, my old rugged teddy bear, friends’ voices, Bible words that radiate acceptance, a fragrant bath, a cheesy meal, …………. and kids ♡♡ and any animal, e.g. goats.
Hope is the thing with feathers…” (-Emily Dickinson poem). Rainbows, of course. And the laughter of babies and children!
Sunrises and the joy my dog expresses every morning.
love, it’s all we want
Then many of you shared about how the active practice of your faith:
As one of you put it, the image of hope for you is
Knowing God is always awake
Someone else talked about the
spiritual practice of remembering God’s past faithfulness
Whenever I get lost or I don’t know where I’m, I say this is a good place to be. It calms me down and I can then feel hope of finding my way. Saying this is a good place reminds me God is always with me and where there is God there is hope in any situation.
My unshakable faith in the Lord gives me hope every day. That hope is my armor as I go through my day. Hope fills me as our country turns the page to a new era. I always hope my friends will have a wonderful day, that it is filled with all the magic and wonder that the Lord can provide them.
And then several of you quoted from hymns and from scripture:
Christ whose glory fills the skies Christ the Everlasting Light Son of Righteousness arise And triumph o’er these shades of night Come Thou long awaited one In the fullness of Your Love And loose this heart bound up by shame And I will never be the same So here I wait in hope of You Oh my soul’s longing through and through Dayspring from on high be near And daystar in my heart appear
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight; Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight; Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower: Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
New International Version
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Isaiah 55 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. …6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
In closing let me share three images that folks have said express for them Hope. These images I think I think sum up the scope of what we’ve explored about Hope: