Depend, rely, trust, hope – all synonyms, but each one brings its own nuance. But all generally carry the same questions. Do we depend on a what or who? Upon what or whom do we rely? Where do we place our trust? Upon whom do we trust? And the same questions surround “hope.” What do we hope for? Who do we hope in?
We hope in ourselves when we have expectations that we will get that promotion at work because of the hard work that we have done. We hope that the politicians we just voted for will be one who can make a difference. We hope it rains; we hope it doesn’t rain. Come January we just might hope that this will be the year our economic fortunes are brighter. We hope our children grow up safe and happy. We hope that we can describe the thinger-ma-bob to the guy at the hardware store because we hope to fix the do-hickey that broken in the kitchen sink at home. We are a hopeful people …. About what? About who?
Our psalm today can serve as a reminder and an answer to those questions. Psalm 131 is not too long – not the shortest psalm, but one of the shortest. It is one of the easier to memorize… yet somehow, it is one of the hardest to learn how to live. At its core, this psalm speaks of Hope in the Lord – the one in whom we find our rest
LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul, Like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul
Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever.
The Psalmist tells us that we need to wean ourselves from the small hopes upon which we too often focus: hopes in ourselves, in things, in luck, in all the what’s and the who’s in which we will never ultimately find rest. As simply as he can, the Psalmist tells us to hope in God.
Because it is in God, that we can find a Hope that inspires us, sustains us, anchors us and lifts us. Hope that is a shield held against despair and a weapon against fear. Hope that holds out the vision of eternal life, and sustains us in everyday life.
Sustains us but not in a naïve way. It is not a Poly Pureheart hope with heads-in-the-clouds, and there is always happy ending. Biblical hope does not deny the everyday reality of illness or death or ignore the human conditions of sin, loneliness and fear. It does not mean that our lives are easy and our difficulties few. It does not mean the thinga-ma-bob will fix the do-hickey.
Even we who hope in the Lord may suffer seeing the promotion go to someone else; suffer another day without work; a day when illness grows more burdensome – another day another burden is piled on top of what seems a pile already overflowing. Here is what I know:
If God can bring blessing from the broken body of Jesus and glory from something that’s as obscene as the cross, He can bring blessing from my problems and my pain and my unanswered prayer.
Biblical hope teaches us that loneliness, sin, betrayal, death – none of they have the final word. Biblical hope teaches us that we have sinned and yet were are already redeemed. That grace has broken into the world – even if some part of the world resist.
St Augustine wrote that Hope has been planted in two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. What biblical hope means is that the way things are today, are not the way things are intended nor have to be. That the kingdom of God is breaking into the world and it is already made manifest – the seeds of a better world are already planted and growing today. There is evidence in Scripture (the kingdom of God is at hand) and evidence of it all around –
- Couple who marry when all the world tells them – why bother; couples who chooses to make Christ part of their marriage
- Families coming for baptism, reconciliation, and Eucharist
- Parishioners feeding the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and shut-ins, bringing the gospel to the imprisoned.
- Parishioners going on Mission to Haiti – parishioners feeding the homeless every Saturday.
- …and today, Hope will be written down in your commitments, brought forward to the basket, and be blessed.
In what do we Hope? It is as the psalm sings: I hope in the Lord because we see His Grace in the world and we see people of good will receiving that Grace, planting it in their lives. We see Hope flower and spread. We see faithful people awaiting the fullness of redemption, committing to make the kingdom of God visible in their lives.
And me? Your commitment gives me Hope. Your commitment reminds me that in God all things truly are possible. You give me great, abiding Hope. Thank you.