Holy Whisper, open the ears of our heart. May I hear your voice within the silence as well as the noise of my life. Re-awaken me so that I can listen to you wholeheartedly. May we trust your presence (and gift of hope) within the cycle of emptying and filling. Amen.
from The Cup of Life by Joyce Rupp
I confess this is not an easy blog to write…not about the subject of Hope. My mind tends to travel through various reflections of pastoral care encounters, readings and conversations, global and local happenings and my own personal journey....all against and within the mystery of God’s presence.
So how does one define the word or meaning of Hope? Here is a brief sampling of what others have told me throughout the years. Hope means….
Healing for the sick and troubled
The cry of a newborn son or daughter
The hoped for answer to a prayer
Providing food for the hungry, clothes for the naked, shelter for the homeless
Having contact with a loved one
Receiving or giving an outstretched hand
The desired answered prayer
A good night’s sleep
Watching the sun rise again
These are all valid and noteworthy definitions. Yet, in the dailyness of our lives, where does Hope shine it’s light when prayed for answers don’t come, a loved one is gone from our sight, when a tornado or fire brings destruction, or our heart has been so bruised?
It might be easy to state “Well, hope just comes from our faith In God”. Sounds nice, but I believe there’s more to this thing called Hope. In 1982, I was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer. Between the responses of “We’ll pray God takes away your cancer”, “I cannot deal with this”, or “How will you pay for your treatments”, I found it difficult to stir up a serving of hope. I had just begun a new job in a new town (L.A. California), and at that time had only begun to learn about this 'Gift of God’s Grace'. The path my life now took helped me delve further into what does and does not make up community, and how true Hope can reveal its face.
The book of Genesis speaks not only of how we are created in God’s image, also how we are created for relationships in communion with others and with God. Otherwise how might you or I (the pronoun ‘you’ would not exist) know or recognize the face of Hope?
I have come to believe that true, eternal Steadfast Hope shines its light both in the mystery of God’s love and grace, and in the life and breath of community. It was during my journey with cancer that I gained a renewed glimpse of what Steadfast Hope might mean in the context of community.
After encountering two physicians I’ve nicknamed “Bearers of No Hope”, an acquaintance pointed me to a faith-filled Christian radiologist who unintentionally helped me understand the partnership between prayer and living with life’s challenges. In addition, the manager (Jewish) of the bookstore where I worked, put me on a part time schedule with a full time salary while paying for my health care premiums. Another friend walked beside me, with her listening presence.
As my daily prayer life increased, I began to have a deeper sense of God’s presence. I lived 45 minutes, by bus, from the hospital. During those five weeks of daily round trip travels, the bus seat next to me remained empty (really!). As much as I tried to deny my senses, the mystery of God’s presence remained with me during my travels. I gradually began to realize that whether or not I survived this nasty disease called ‘cancer’, that I was being healed. The following year, I chose to be baptized.
True and eternal Steadfast Hope shines its Light both in the mystery of God’s Love and Grace, and in the life and breath of community. The God who loves you and me enough to show ‘just anger and righteousness’ is the same God who loves us enough to live among us, and to bear the challenges of our lives. This light of Steadfast Hope will not flicker out when fear or sadness raises its head.
I would encourage you this week when you receive Communion, to listen to and reflect on the words of the Communion Giver. Can you taste the Steadfast Hope in this Meal of Bread and Wine which we share in community?
“Generous God, I come to you again, holding out my waiting cup, begging that it first be emptied of all that blocks the way, then asking for its filling with love that tastes like you.
In Christ, Shalom,