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Three age-abiding things: faith, hope, and love. What is hope?


In common vernacular, we use the word “hope” to mean something we wish for, something that may or may not happen. “We’re going for a picnic today – I hope it doesn’t rain.” It might rain. It might not. Generally speaking, the Christian scriptures use the word differently. Rather than something wished for, “hope” speaks of something future, but certain. The hope of eternal life; the blessed hope of cosmic renewal.


Hope is neither optimism nor pessimism. As Rebecca Solnit writes:


"I still use the term (hope) because it navigates a way forward between the false certainties of optimism and of pessimism, and the complacency or passivity that goes with both. Optimism assumes that all will go well without our effort; pessimism assumes it’s all irredeemable; both let us stay home and do nothing. Hope for me has meant a sense that the future is unpredictable, and that we don’t actually know what will happen, but know we may be able to write it ourselves. Hope is a belief that what we do might matter, an understanding that the future is not yet written. It’s an informed, astute open-mindedness about what can happen and what role we might play in it. Hope looks forward but draws its energies from the past, from knowing histories, including our victories, and their complexities and imperfections. It means not fetishizing the perfect that is the enemy of the good, not snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, not assuming you know what will happen when the future is unwritten, and part of what happens is up to us." ― Rebecca Solnit, Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays)


Hope is not to be confused with Pollyanna naïveté. Hope is the awareness that God is, in spite of what appears to be evidence to the contrary, making all things new. Hope is the inner assurance that God is at work.


Hope is the awareness that we matter. Hope realizes that we humans have agency – our actions make a difference. When we promote peace, demand justice, oppose racism, misogyny, and homophobia, we make a difference. We can end wars, change unjust laws, fight lies with truth and hatred with love.


Speaking to my therapist recently, I commented, “I know I can’t change him.” To which, he replied, “Of course you can. We change one another in every relationship.” We matter. We have agency. We make a difference for good or ill. We can choose to join God in making all things new, protecting the environment, loving those on the margins, spreading grace.


There are obviously events that seem to contradict and deflate our hope into wishful thinking. Wars, bombs, Confederate battle flags, dictators, walls, prisons, oppression, rising fascism, corrupt judges, blatant lies repeated so often half the population thinks they are true. Where, we ask, is the Kingdom of God?


It is here that faith becomes the substance of what is hoped for.


Václav Havel said, “Hope is an orientation of the spirit. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”


That is true if we’re talking about how things turn out in the short run, but as followers and apprentices of Messiah Jesus, we know how things ultimately turn out. We know God is undertaking a great cosmic rescue project. We know that Jesus died on the cross to destroy the works of the evil one. We know, because it has been revealed to us, that perfect love wins, justice will cover the earth, the entire universe and all that is in it will be redeemed, renewed, perfected. Wars will cease. The last will be first. The meek will inherit the earth.


Three things are eternal: faith, hope, and love.


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