Our Hope


The theologian Walter Brueggemann wrote

This urging to bring hope to public expression is based on a conviction about believing folks. It is premised on the capacity to evoke and bring to expression the hope that is within us (see 1 Peter 3: 15). It is there within and among us, for we are ordained of God to be people of hope. It is there by virtue of our being in the image of the promissory God. It is sealed there in the sacrament of baptism. It is dramatized in the Eucharist – “until he comes.” It is the structure of every creed that ends by trusting in God’s promises. Hope is the decision to which God invites Israel, a decision against despair, against permanent consignment to chaos (Isaiah 45: 18), oppression, barrenness, and exile.

Hope is the primary prophetic idiom not because the general dynamic of history or because of the sings of the times but because the prophet speaks to a people who, willy-nilly, are God’s people. Hope is what this community must do because it is Gods’ community invited to be in God’s pilgrimage. And as Israel is invited to grieve God’s grief over the ending, so Israel is now invited to hope in God’s promises. That very act of hope is the confession that we are not children of the royal consciousness.

Of course prophetic hope easily lends itself to distortion. It can be made so grandiose that it does not touch reality; it can be trivialized so that it does not impact reality; it can be “bread and circuses” so that it only supports and abets the general despair. But a prophet has another purpose in bring hope to public expression, and that is to return the community to its single referent, the sovereign faithfulness of God. (From The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann)

It will be hope that determines our lives but the lack of hope seems to be the dominant theme of daily lives.

It seems to me that one of the reasons that we cannot understand the nature of terrorism is that we do not understand what drives people to kill themselves in the name of a movement. But that it is because we lead reasonable lives, in which hope can be fulfilled. If hope cannot be fulfilled, we would do things to change the outcome.

For some, there is no hope in life and, thus, they are open to the words of those who offer hope, no matter how irrational that hope may be. The farmer in Matthew 13: 44 gave up all that he owned because there was a promise of greater riches buried in a field; the merchant in Matthew 13: 45 did the same so that he could buy a single pearl. If someone offers us untold riches, we are just as likely to give up all we have in return for a promise of greater riches somewhere else. The terrorists who killed themselves in London gave up their lives because someone promised them a better reward than what they might have in the world today.

In less dramatic examples, how do we explain the phenomena of people standing in line to buy a lottery ticket when the prize is in the billions? Their lives will be changed if by chance (and it is nothing but chance) that pick the right set of numbers. But for what price will this hope cost them? A number of years ago, one person won enough in a lottery so that they would not have to work for the rest of their life; but they could not quite their job because their job was a requirement of their parole.

We live in a society where we almost demand instant satisfaction. We are not interested in a Christ who demands sacrifice and obedience; we want a Christ who will meet our demands, not the other way around. We place our faith in the large and the accessible, not the small and hard to obtain. This is the delusion of hope to which Brueggemann spoke.

Jacob had hopes of marrying Rachel and he worked for seven years in order to reach that goal. But the trickster Jacob was tricked because tradition dictated that Rachel’s older sister be married first. So Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah. But Jacob did not give up his hope and he agreed to work for Leah and Rachel’s father for another seven years so that he could still marry Rachel.

In the parable of the field (Matthew 1: 44), Jesus also gave the analogy of the mustard seed. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed.” That particular seed is small but yet grows in a tree that offers comfort and shelter for all. But the only way that we will attain that shelter is through process.

As long as we take away the hope of others, we will live in a world and a society of poverty, injustice, and repression. And a world in which poverty, injustice, and repression must expect what comes of that life.

But if we hear the words of the Gospel and we work to overcome poverty and repression, if we seek justice for all, then we will see the hope grow and flourish, just as the mustard seed grows from a tiny seed into a magnificent tree. Paul speaks to the Romans about the outcome of life. If our hope is built upon Christ, there is little that we cannot do; if our hope is built on other notions, then we can expect suffering and pain to be dominant in our lives.

The hymn “My Hope Is Built” tells us

1. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Refrain:  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When Darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.

(Refrain)

3. His oath, his covenant, his blood supports me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.

(Refrain)

4. When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found! Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!

(Refrain)

On what do we have our hope built? Do we seek our hope in that which will fade away through time or is our hope built on that we will endure and will always be there?


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