catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 22 :: 2007.11.30 — 2007.12.14


Remembering hope

 “Put your hope in the LORD, both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:3)

11.25.07: Evening of Christ the King Sunday

How providential that I waited until the last minute, that I procrastinated until after Thanksgiving.  If I hadn’t waited, I might have written about hope and cynicism before experiencing corporate worship on Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in the season of Pentecost, the last week of the Church’s calendar year.  I might have written without the benefit of this morning’s reminders of the truth of Christ’s Lordship now and in the coming Kingdom.  So thankfully, for better or for worse, my frame has changed, as it should, after time spent worshiping corporately in the presence of God and his people.  My approach to thinking about hope and cynicism has shifted from looking at hope through the lens of cynicism to looking at cynicism through the lens of hope.

By hope I am talking about the big Hope, about the Meaning of Life kind of hope.  The kind of hope that has an answer to life’s biggest questions about purpose and destiny.  This kind of hope is the wheat that grows next to the weeds of cynicism—the true next to the false.  But short of that Kingdom in its fullness, I often have a hard time remembering to hope.  It is so hard to believe that things will all turn out well in the end—there is too much evidence to the contrary.  Violence, apathy, darkness, disease, and death.  On most days these and much else lead me to an overpowering cynicism and fear.  Is it wrong to feel cynical when Christ’s Lordship remains largely unacknowledged?  I don’t think so.  I think there may be some good in this cynicism.

I hope my cynicism has a larger purpose.  Recent events have confirmed for me my long-held fundamental belief that sin’s reach cuts through the heart of every one of us, as individuals, and more sinisterly, as larger communities.  Even communities that are rooted and established in love are not exempt.  I deeply love many people and many human communities.  In truth though, every one of these people and groups for whom I hold deep love and admiration have failed me, hurt me, and shamed me.  And I have done the same to them.

How can this be?  And more to the point, how do we find ways forward in a world where the failures of humanity are more real than its faithfulness?  For me it boils down to making space for regular reminders of that for which I hope.  The reminders come in the form of individual habits and rituals, in addition to habits and rituals observed in human community.  The Church (the big one, holy and catholic) is the best place to start for these, but they can also be found in workplaces, homes, and other more private places.  A few examples might help.

Each week my church family collectively reasserts our unity with the Church of all times and all places by saying the Apostle’s Creed together out loud.  We also confess our sin, receive God’s pardon, hear the will of God for our lives, and spend time exercising our Kingdom muscles in praise, lament, learning and loving.  Just inside the front door of my house we have a photo of a young refugee boy behind barbed wire fencing with the words of reminder, “There is poverty – there is war – there is sickness and death – there is sin and evil throughout the world… but there is a REDEEMER.”  My family must take this image and these words into account on a daily basis as a reminder of both sin and hope.

A year ago I wrote the following in my journal:  “Wars in Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, all in the name of peace.  Cynicism and fear make sense in light of bizarre reality.  What role can the kingdom play in addressing this global anomie?  Hope.”  I had read Frederick Buechner’s recently released collection of sermons and I resonated with Buechner in believing that “without wild and irrational hope, the whole enterprise makes no sense.”  So I hope for the same reason that Jesus’ disciples stuck with him when others left for safer and greener pastures—I hope because if I didn’t hope, to paraphrase John 6, “to whom would I go?  He has the words of eternal life.”

In my experience the Christian story is a narrative in which I am a player, and the story is all about hope rescuing God’s people from cynicism, despair, and fear.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus. 

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