October 25, 2020
“And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
~ Revelations 21:5
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
On a cold snowy day on January 21, 2017, some 400-500 people gathered at the Cortez City Park to march for the dignity, the humanity, and the equality of women. Do you remember that day? That time in our “herstory”? Somewhere between 3.2 million and 5.2 million people marched, sang, and prayed for just and equal treatment for women across our country and many more marched world-wide.
I remember that day well. I walked in the snow with many members of our church and community. Didn’t that feel good and right? By a stroke of fate, I also met future members of our church. I remember walking alongside kids from our youth group who showed up on their own to stand with women. I was so impressed with them; I was like a proud papa.
I wore a rainbow stole to identify myself as clergy and some women came up and asked me, “Are you a minister?” “Yes, I am,” I said. One woman asked me, “I’m a lesbian. Would I be welcomed at your church?” “Yes, you would,” I responded, and the woman just cried and hugged me. That moment felt like heaven to me; I am so glad we are a reconciling church.
So much transpired on that chilly morning but what I remember most was the presence of contagious hope. The poet Emily Dickinson said it well:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
What inspires us and give us hope? Does hope spring eternal?
Jim Wallis, in God’s Politics, writes, “Our faith says that new beginnings are possible—always and in every circumstance.” In the midst of our work, in the middle of family strife, in the health of our communities, and within political and religious division, hope remains.
Our faith says change is always possible, even inevitable. Isaiah 43:18-19 reads, “Do not remember the former things of old, I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” And Revelation 21:5 sings, “And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
“The challenge to remain hopeful in the face of chaos, distrust, and violence in ourselves and in our world is perhaps the greatest challenge of all,” says former Nobel Peace Prize nominee John Dear. “To embody hope is to carry on in the spirit of truth and love despite all the evidence pointing to failure and defeat.” Can we remain hopeful even when we are fully aware of the facts?
As people of faith we can live with “infinite hope” if we believe that God is working through creation for everlasting peace and reconciliation and that human beings are basically good not evil says Dear. No one is beyond redemption and transformation.
People of hope keep their eyes on the Promised Land while being fully aware of our broken reality. Dear says, “From abolitionists to suffragists, from civil rights activists to antiwar activists, people have stood for peace and justice against enormous odds in the abiding hope that God’s realm is drawing closer, that humanity can realize it, and that we can all live in peace.”
A “prisoner of hope” passionately believes new beginnings are possible and inevitable. “See everything old has passed away and everything is becoming new,” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Let’s turn our eyes to the people of South Africa and Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. As Dear comments, for decades they refused to give up hope in the face of apartheid because they were able to look beyond the hatred and violence to a society rooted in racial and political reconciliation. As King said during the Civil Rights Movement, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Between the pandemic, racial division, political acrimony, the ongoing struggle for equality for women, and even a split within the United Methodist Church over sexuality, we have a critical choice to make.
Wallis says, “The big struggle of our time is the fundamental choice between cynicism and hope.”
Cynicism or Hope?
Is the world going to hell in a hand basket or is all of creation “groaning in labor pains” (see Romans 8:22) as we give birth to a new world? There are signs of hope all around us and hope is contagious.
May we keep our eyes on the Promised Land while being aware of our present reality.
May we look for signs of hope.
May we be filled with “infinite hope.”
Blessings, peace, and hope to all of you,