Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Hope and disappointment

I’m still trying to sort out a useful meaning for hope for the 21st century. My emails close with the line from 1 Peter 'Always be ready to give an answer to those who ask concerning the hope that is in you, but do so with gentleness and respect.' (1 Peter 3:15-16)

I’m working with some friends on issues of evangelism for tongue-tied United Church folk. Although it’s not a condition unique to us by any means! How would you articulate the hope you have? Paul writes that hope does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5). There’s a lot of misunderstanding about Paul, which extands into really bad theology giving God credit or blame for all the bad things. This despite Jesus’ words that the rain “falls on the just and the unjust.” The rain can wash us away or make us grow and the fact that God can work in all circumstances does not mean that God creates the painful circumstances in our lives.

We often feel superior to those we encounter in the bible. We understand that germs and viruses and bacteria cause infection and disease. But when something goes wrong I think that many people – who claim faith and who don’t – wonder why God is doing this to us. Pain, whether physical or emotional or institutional, often makes us self-focused. That’s normal but may result in increased feelings of abandonment by God or others. We have to remember that God is touched by the pain in our lives. We so often fail to recall the number of times God is said to have “heard the cries” of God’s people – individual and multiple.

The resurrection is stronger than any cross, regardless of the form that each takes. So, perhaps, that’s what Paul meant when he said “Hope doesn’t disappoint.” It’s not all starry-eyed optimism about telling ourselves that those things which do hurt supposedly don’t. It’s not about avoiding the tough conversations or the tough decisions as if someone will suddenly rescue us. Hope holds that pain does not end the story. The good news is not the absence of the bad news. The good news is that the bad news is not the final word.

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