Hope. Faith. Love.
There is something about hope. It is a catalyst that breaths potential, vision and energy back into the withered. When a group of people, charged with the electricity of a common hope, are brought together, sparks fly between them and radiate out to others. Hope allows the dead to experience life, the grieving to find comfort, the disinherited to restake their claim, and the wounded to become the healers.
There is just something about hope. It never leaves you as you were. It is transformative. Circumstances may not have changed in the moment between hopelessness and hope, but as a soul experiences its renewing breath, fresh eyes are gained to see the circumstances no longer for what they are but for what they could be. And thus hope begets hope. As the potential of the present is comprehended, as shalom is pictured where corruption reigns, movement happens. One simply cannot remain the same--inactive and unengaged--when such beauty lies within the realm of possibility.
Hope, therefore, is synergistic. Particularly so when shared by a community.
Hope would not need to exist if what we hope for were already present. Hope, then, is a matter of faith. It is confidence that what has not yet appeared can indeed be realized. The bible is filled with these moments of confident longing--the faith that God will act to bring about a future preferential to the present. In God’s economy, though it may not happen today, slavery is always merely the precursor to liberation. Wandering in wilderness is sure to be followed by being brought to a land of fruit and honey. God’s silence will someday be shot through once more by his Word.
However, there are always those who do not see the need for faith. To them, the world works as it is. It either benefits them to such a degree that they would never wish to see it change, or they lack the hopeful imagination to see it any other way. For hope and faith to take root, some jarring event or dissonance generating experience must rock them out of complacency. In Praying the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann calls these folks the “securely oriented.”
To some degree, we are all to in agreement with the way things are. We all need our world flipped over to see right-side up in the the upside-down Kingdom of God. This boat rocking is what Brueggemann refers to as “being painfully disoriented.” But just when the pain of that experience seems most unbearable we miraculously find ourselves “surprisingly reoriented” not only by the experience of hope, but by the very action of God.
This cycle is fundamental to the human experience and foundational in the biblical narrative’s vision of life:
“We could summarize the overall structure and shape of this biblical vision in terms of the narrative dynamic of creation/fall/redemption….We can see in the overall shape of the narrative a pattern of being rooted/uprooted/replanted, or of being place/displace/re-placed, or of a garden/wilderness/gardened city. The biblical telling of things contains a profound memory of home, the painful experience of homelessness, and the ineluctable longing for homecoming. In short, the biblical story we have traced tells the tale of home/homelessness/homecoming.” (Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement)
Hope is grounded on faith, but the greatest of these is love.
Without love our hope crumbles into fear and our faith devolves into fatalism.
If love is not the core attribute of our future, then there is no one worthy of our faith and nothing worth hoping for. How radically spectacular then, that our God is love! It is the beautiful, redeeming love of the Trinity that guides all our stories back to being re-placed and replanted, to the gardened city, to a homecoming.