Things Hoped For
(an excerpt from Sunday’s sermon, based on Hebrews 11:1-12:2)
We hope for things, we long for the world to be a better place, we pray that our lives will go the way we used to imagine when we were young. But then life happens, and the things we hoped for seem so far away and the promises of God seem so hard to hold on to. Our prayers aren’t answered the way we want them to be answered and God doesn’t make the world go the way we tell God to make it go!
We could be sad about that. We could get mad at God! We could blame everybody – our politicians, video games, the liberal media, mental health professionals, absent parents, helicopter parents, bad parents. And we could throw up our hands in despair, overwhelmed by the suffering of the world around us, the inhumanity we see perpetrated senselessly, the chaos and randomness of violence and hate and fear. But our moment in history is not the first moment in the course of human interactions to be filled with violence and hate and chaos and fear.
I’m drawn back to the words of Hebrews 11:1, and I’m encouraged to live into hopefulness rather than give in to despair. I’m encouraged to hold on to faith, a faith I can’t reason my way into, because the world around me often seems so irrational. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying the world is okay as it is, and I just need to focus on the good things around me. There are a lot of things I hope for, things that I’m still waiting to see. I made a list:
*I hope people will be able to go to school, or the movies, or the grocery store, or to church or prayer meeting, or out to eat, or dancing at a club, without fear of being murdered because of where they are or who they are.
*I hope transgender and gender non-binary individuals will be able to live without fear of criminal prosecution or without fear of being murdered for simply living as their most authentic selves.
*I hope every child will feel safe and loved and cared for, and grow up with hopefulness and dream big dreams, regardless of the nationality or skin color or economic means of their parents.
*I hope women working hard at a job will be able to put food on their table and pay their rent and care for their children and create a home because they are paid fairly and treated with respect.
*I hope those who govern nations will care more about the health and welfare of the citizens they govern than they do about the optics of popularity or their next campaigns.
*I hope for a day when there truly is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male or female, because all are one in Christ Jesus!
Faith is my assurance that the things I hope for will someday come to be. Faith is my conviction that the world we have been promised is the world we will someday see. This isn’t naïveté or baseless optimism on my part. This is a gift from God, and I treasure the gift of faith that God has given. And these things aren’t just going to happen because we hope for them or pray for them. We have to use all the gifts God gave us – the gifts of intelligence and wisdom and compassion, the skills of discernment and courage and justice-seeking, the abilities of governing and caring and creating and reconciling. Faith may be the conviction of things not seen, but that doesn’t mean we have no part in bringing into existence the world we do not yet see around us. If we put our minds and hearts and skill and ability to the task, by faith we can usher in the world that we so desperately long for! I think that’s what it means to run the race with perseverance – it means making every effort of which we are capable, until our very strength and ability fails us, to create God’s world in our world! I think that’s what it means to recognize that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – They didn’t just offer ‘thoughts and prayers’ that things would someday get better. They didn’t simply wait for the world to change. They worked hard, they spent their lives, they sacrificed so much, they dedicated all their gifts and skills and abilities to following God’s vision for their world and striving to make God’s vision a reality.
So I keep running the race with perseverance, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews encourages. I keep running, hoping that someday we all will see the culmination of all our hopes and dreams. May it be so!