"What do you hope for?"
That's the question that has been going through my mind lately. I'm not sure why: perhaps it has something to do with the congregational transition here, the hopes regarding a new senior pastor, the changes we see in our community, and what it means for our faith community. Perhaps it has something to do with our society itself: disasters both natural and man-made, people occupying Wall Street, warnings about environmental and economic catastrophes. There is a lot of uncertainty. In the midst of this, what do you hope for? I mean, really. What do you hope for?
I googled the word "hope" recently, looking for quotes, and discovered lots and lots of quotes. "Hope" is a word that can carry a lot of meanings, both deep and mundane, as in "I hope it doesn't rain!" or "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope." Whoa. Hope is a powerful thing, to bring hope is power.
So, what do you hope for, really? Be honest now.
One of the issues in the church today is all of the churches that used to be big, that used to be full of worshippers every Sunday, and now are not so full. And the temptation is to hope for things to be like they were in the past: to say, I hope for a day when the churches are full again, like they were before, we hope for a time when we had 1,000 children in Sunday School. We hope things can be like they were in a decade that we liked better than the one we are in now.
But is this really hope? A good hope will point toward something in the future, not to the past. Christian hope is God's promise for a new world, not a wish for an old one.
I remember once sitting in a shelter, talked to a woman who worked with women trying to escape domestic abuse. In a way, the woman said, hope is a great enemy, at least if it is a false hope that their partner will change. This false hope keeps them from making changes that will really set them free for a better future.
So, what do you hope for? really
For the church, our hopes are based on God's promises to us: a promise for a new world where the Lamb rules, where death is no more, where tears are dried, where there is enough for all, enough healing, enough love, enough food, enough dignity. Our hopes are based on a vision of the throng worshipping at the throne of the Lamb. And these hopes sustain us even when there is not such a great throng worshiping in the sanctuary.
So, what do you hope for, really?
That's the first question.