HOPE SPRINGS FROM THE ETERNAL
Of the three great theological virtues, faith, hope and love, it often seems to me that hope is the one which gets the least attention and often gets lost in our Church to its more often preached and lived sisters of faith and love. This is sad because without hope there is often to be found despair and in despair can be found depression, anxiety, apprehension, distrust, etc. Christian hope is founded on our belief that at the end of this life there is to be found eternal happiness in heaven. Heaven is the focus for hope and while admission into heaven is by no means a foregone conclusion (we have to earn it “the old fashioned way”), it is still the purpose of our life and the goal to which we all aspire. Remember the famous Baltimore catechism answer to the question, “Why did God make us?” “To know, love and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him in the next.” So no matter how tough this life becomes, our Christian hope is posited in the reality, not just a guess, that there is something far better awaiting us in life with God.
If I have a criticism or concern about the Church at this moment in human history and especially in the United States, it would be that in our leadership we may have lost our sense of hope. We have tended to focus on challenges faced at the expense of hope sought. We have become so polarized, at times sadly, on what we believe to be deficiencies in faith and love, that we no longer place our trust in God. The Church belongs to God just as we are God’s children and while God still helps those who help themselves, we sometimes behave like the future belongs to us. Hope reminds us that the future belongs to God and we are His instruments, not the other way around.
One of my former seminary students, now a priest and wonderful pastor in Atlanta, gave me many years ago a framed quotation which I still gaze at each morning of my life, including this morning. It simply says; Be Still and Listen, For I Am Your God. Even I am willing to admit that sometimes I talk too much.