Remembering Hope

advent-sime-leeWe are entering the season of hope and the signs are all around us: jacarandas (and Patterson’s curse) are incandescent and cereal crops are ready in the paddock – reflections of good, plentiful rain. There are flies everywhere, too; reminders of the season, but certainly not blessings.

It’s only a handful of Sundays until we remember one of the stories at our faith’s heart. We begin with portents of hope – Israel restored, with swords and spears used instead to prepare, then harvest the crop. The hope is well-founded, our wait is not in vain; this coming story of babies and mangers is not just one of profound beauty, but the earthed story of our God fully present in our broken world.

Israel waits, the first disciples waited, as we wait, for this to be complete.

We light a new candle each week, and we wait.

We remember, and we hope, because we remember what God has sung in Jesus Christ. Our waiting is the singing of that song; our waiting is forgiving those who need that word spoken; our waiting is loving our neighbour, and then our enemy, despite the struggle of each heartbeat.

Our waiting is creating peace where there is none, and declaring our hope when it seems reasonable to despair.  Our waiting is joining the Spirit’s chorus, crying out for justice, feeding the hungry and healing the broken-hearted.

We wait, as citizens of the kingdom which is to come and is already here.

We wait, because we remember, and we hope.

This hope helps us to remember that Caesar’s commands and Herod’s depredations and soldiers’ violence and a baby’s vulnerability and parents’ humanity cannot define, restrict, or defy the Word of God spoken into the world.

At our weakest, we believe it’s entirely up to us; at our worst, we proclaim that Caesar really is Lord.

Why is why we are called to remember  so faithfully, and why we are reminded to wait so deliberately. It is why we need each other to remind us when we stumble.

We are disciples of Emmanuel, of Jesus. We are apprenticed to him, and each deliberate act of hope is found first in him. These are the jacaranda flowers of our lives – signs that God is both coming to us, and is already with us.

We are never called to save the world, but we are called to live in the hope of the one who has – Jesus Christ.jacaranda-grafton

Finding Hope

The news is unrelenting, compelling. The final throes of the presidential election in the United States are being played out and the improbable – indeed what some believed, impossible – has happened. I will leave it to more able and seasoned commentators to ask the why and wherefores of electing Donald Trump and not electing Hillary Clinton.

I want to ask about hope.

It seems that, for many who chose to vote for Mr Trump, hope was a motivator. People hope their lives will change, that their lot will improve. Some hope that their country will find a new direction, or perhaps return to what they believe their country looked like before. Before President Obama, or the Presidents Bush, before the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, before the Twin Towers, before globalisation, or just simply, intangibly, before.

For many, life has become increasingly hard, and the changes with which they are confronted have become remorseless. It is these people who have found no sense of hope with what they perceive as “the system”, so they have turned elsewhere, leaving a fractured system in their wake. Systems are, by their nature, dispassionate, whether they are markets, or computers, or flow charts.

The people who believe they are ignored, or rejected, have chosen someone they hope will attend to them. Those who believe they are regularly placed last have elected someone they hope will place them better than last.

It is too easy – and false – to typecast these many millions of people as uneducated, or racist, or wrong. The temple erected for them by the system, of trade liberalisation and market worship, has proved an empty shell for many who were told to believe. Is it a coincidence that Jesus prohope-nearphesies the fall of the temple immediately after an impoverished widow puts her last coins in the temple coffers?

Hope is realised when people know they have value – and any system will fail them there. The best sermon means nothing if the preacher has no integrity – integrating words spoken and life lived. Anyone who claims to offer hope by blaming others, by scapegoating or punishing, is not offering hope, but hatred.

The temple is not worthy of your faith. You’ll find no hope in a building, you’ll find it in God’s act in Jesus Christ. Jesus did not simply notice wounds, he healed them. He did not simply name the lost, he embraced them. Jesus did not simply identify the broken, he identified as one of them, and in so doing, saved us all.

On this day, when I don’t understand how this result can have happened, I place my hope in the one who invests everything in the whole creation – to give life.

This I believe, and therefore I have hope:

the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.