How Do We Live Hope?


Hope Angel

Photo by Donna Anderson’s daughter Lisa

Serving… walking… performed… casting… burned… prayed… realized… going… filled… turn… follow… prepare… telling… wondered… came out… making signs… give… went back… avoided… have lived… go out… gave birth… shared… able… shouted… spread… wondered… became… restored… sang.

Anyone have an idea of what all those words had in common?

They are all verbs! Action words!

The Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence was one of the preachers and presenters at the Lester Randall preaching event I was at in October. She challenged and encouraged us to look at the verbs in a text… to see if that brought new insight or awakening. It’s quite a list from one reading isn’t it?

We start our Advent series today… Angels Among Us… it is based on the work of Dr. Marcia McFee… and in addition to the worship committee who embraced it, I want to thank Betty Allen, Christine Rainnie and Jane Briggs for their work in making it come to life!

“Throughout the series, we will be using feathers as an “anchor image.” Angels are sometimes portrayed in the scriptures, and certainly in religious art throughout history, as having wings.

Just as angels are symbols of God’s messages to us, as God’s presence with us, feathers symbolize the Spirit of God, the ability to span any distance between heaven and earth, and the freedom of flight to new heights in our lives as we claim God’s possibilities for our lives and for our world.” (Dr. Marcia McFee)

But first, we are going to explore the reading a bit more. This week we heard the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and their encounter with a heavenly messenger.

Where would you place yourself in that reading? Which verb would you embrace? Are you preparing? Preparing and hoping? And if so, what are you preparing for? Are you consumed with your ‘to do’ list, or are you anticipating, and preparing with expectation that something amazing is going to happen? Somethings as amazing as Zechariah being struck dumb and Elizabeth giving birth in her old age. Or do you feel as if you are past bringing about new life in this world. Perhaps you need to ponder what it means to bring forth life…

Are you wondering? Wondering and hoping? Wondering if this is the year that Jesus will show up in your home and heart? Wondering if this Christmas you will feel a sense of interconnectedness with all creation? Wondering how to celebrate in a world filled with natural and humanly created violence and disasters? Wondering if the ache in your heart will ever go away? Wondering if you can continue just one more day?

Are you avoiding? Avoiding and hoping? Hoping to avoid that unpleasant conversation with a family member. Avoiding a nudge that pulls you out of your comfort zone? But one that perhaps will bring new life and direction? Avoiding making a decision… which is in effect making a decision…

Are you singing? Singing and hoping? Singing your hope, your joy, your peace, your love into the world? Singing your faith, your delight, your excitement?

This week where we focus on hope, let us be reminded that hoping is not wishing.

Rebecca Solnit, an activist, writer and feminist in the US writes this,

“Got hope? It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings. Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.

When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things you can know beforehand.

This from Rev. Janice MacLean, who has an on-line ministry called The Prayer Bench.

She writes:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops – at all –

This is a snippet of a poem from Emily Dickinson. I memorized the words when I was a young adult. Every once in a while my memory returns the words to me, especially in those times when I need to be reminded of the grace-notes of hope. Hope. What can we say about hope in a world like ours? Is hope even real for most people anymore?

Well, here what I believe about hope. I believe hope has deep roots. I believe hope is woven into our DNA. It is a birthright. I believe hope has nothing to do with whether we are optimists or pessimists; those are stances we acquire later in life. I believe hope dwells in us. It perches in the soul. We come into this world glistening bodies of hope.

I believe we lose hope; we all do now and then. But we never lose the possibility of hope. And this is really important. Hope is a practice of persistence. I believe we hope to the very point we can hope no longer, then we hope anyway.

Hope is a practice of lament. This is the tune without the words when we can’t see hope, can’t hear it. These are often the times God is doing God’s deepest work in us, often bringing us into something more fully ourselves.

Hope is outrageous and ordinary. We practice seeing things as they really are and hold them in tension that which is not yet seen.”

Hope, in the faith sense, is working towards an unseen future… with a sense that God is with us… and that new life is possible… that abundant life is possible!

This week, keep your eyes open for God’s messengers, bringing hope to this world.

“Yes, I believe there are angels among us. God is making us ready to be messengers of hope, flying in the face of fear, in an ever-changing world.”

Thanks be to God, amen.

Luke 1: 5-25, 57-80

© Rev. Catherine MacDonald 2017



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