Hope perches in the soul of every human. (Thank you, Emily Dickinson, for the lovely imagery). Like breathing itself, it is an intrinsic practice that sustains life. When reflecting on Paul’s trilogy of faith, hope and love, hope usually gets negligible attention, for it seems more ephemeral, less practical.
Thankfully one theologian in particular, Jürgen Moltmann, began to study hope, finding it to be the bearer of the longings of humanity, including faith and love. Hope constructs the framework for the implementation of its sister virtues.
The Apostle knows that without hope, humans will not flourish in their creaturely vocation. So he writes:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
What better text for us to consider as we make our slow way across the earth!
For Thanksgiving I made my annual pilgrimage to San Antonio to gather with a treasured family and select friends. Food is abundant; balmy weather is welcome; and generative conversation renews the heart. In the midst of the palpable gratitude for life amidst challenges and setbacks is the undercurrent of hope. Hope helps us imagine different horizons beyond the existing vista.
Hope helps us see beyond the present limitations and craft a different narrative for the future; or hope empowers us to embrace the limitations of health with renewed vigor and resolve. Hope supplies the resilience to walk through grief and trust that healing is possible. Hope kindles belief that we are loved and accepted precisely for the unique persons we are, not what we accomplish. As Henri Nouwen reminds us, our lives as Christians are more a matter of what we are willing to receive than what we achieve.
This season is all about leaning into God’s hope for the world. The lectionary passages for the second Sunday of Advent point to the realization of God’s ancient promises for those who believe. A shoot will sprout out of the stump of Jesse; righteousness will prevail; the forerunner will urge repentance in preparation for the coming one; and the Holy Spirit will guide all creation into the way of peace.
A fresh supply of hope is available for the asking. It is a gift of God, not something we have to try to muster. It is poured into our hearts like living water, and God wants nothing more than to fill God’s beloved ones with all joy and peace, so that we may abound in hope.
Abounding in hope creates the possibility of receiving God’s blessing of life in its fullness, which always includes the shadows of failure and loss. Hope tells us that these are not the final acts of our lives.
Molly T. Marshall
Hope sustains Central as we continue to trust in God’s loving care for the seminary.