Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Advent of Hope

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last couple of weeks about why it is that I am so negative about churches. I mean, I’ve mentioned many things that irritate me about churches, but in this season of advent, where is the hope?

Hope is a hard thing to have, yet it is a fundamental in our Christian beliefs, is it not? Everything we believe revolves around the hope that Christ is who he said he was. It also revolves around the hope that there is something better than this sometimes wonderful, sometimes miserable piece of dirt that we live on. Even more importantly, our faith feeds off of the hope that whatever lies beyond that invisible barrier that keeps us from touching the other side, can no longer barricade our way into the nether and that the “something better” we have been hoping for will finally be ours.

If you ask me, that is a lot for which to hope. However, hope we do, and hope is all we have most of the time. Luckily for us, Christ’s meandering into the lives of you and me, gives some sustenance to our hope, for if he is who we believe him to be, and he did what he and his disciples claimed he has done, then he is the one that helps our hope be more than just a fantasy. Christ is the one that has knocked some holes into the iron curtain dividing life and death. If he is to be believed (and we HOPE he is), then he has given us glimpses of something good after this life. He has given us something to live for, and that something is ironically, hope.

So, there it is. Christ came to give us sinful, arrogant, scared to death of….well death, hope. If we really buy into this whole hope business, shouldn’t our lives and our churches be living lives based on that hope? Shouldn’t we be living like there really is something better beyond the great divide and that that something is worth giving yourself wholly and completely to? Instead, we live as if we have no hope. We gather possessions (yes, I am guilty) and we focus on all of the things that say that we really have no hope at all. If we live a life without hope, meaning that there is nothing to live for, then what becomes the most important thing for us? Our focus stays on the here and now of ourselves. We are focused on turning a good profit, living in luxury, and making ourselves happy.

Instead, if we live by the hope that we say we have, we live life, not for today, but for the day that our hope is fulfilled. In a way, we live for death. I know, that sounds really morbid, but as a Christian, is there a truer statement? We don’t live to make money, because what we hope for can’t be bought. We don’t live for comfort, because nothing here can be as wonderfully glorious as it is there. Instead, we should be so driven by our hope that we strive to do the things that truly matter, like feeding the poor, healing the sick, and visiting with those who have imprisoned themselves to a worldview that does not contain the hope that allows them to truly live life.

Now back to my question, where is my hope? Unfortunately, it is not in the Church. Most of the churches that I see, live as if there is no hope, because it’s people live as if there is no hope. Especially in America, with our capitalist superpower mindset, we can have everything we need and want. When we can ride to Wal-Mart, or (my personal favorite) Target and buy anything that we can think of to want, why NEED hope. There is simply no room for it. Maybe that is our problem. I think that it is part of my problem. We (both people and the Church) have not been without for so long that we have no need for hope; for it is in times of oppression and strife that we most need hope. That was part of the lesson to the Israelites during the exile, that once you have nothing left to lose, all you really want is hope. It is hard to have hope in a church that has grown fat and arrogant on itself. It is hard to believe in an institution that is more concerned about keeping itself alive than it is about giving others hope. That’s just selfish you say, yet that is exactly what most Christians are: selfish! It’s just too bad that the Christian Church is made up of Christians.

But again, I have failed to answer my own question, where is my hope? I believe that my hope is in Christ, and, well…I guess my hope is also that I am wrong. That somewhere those Christians that live by hope will join together and prove me wrong by turning our churches into places that live off of, and disperse hope into the world. It is my hope that one day many of the Christians that I see living selfishly, will once again live for the hope that is in Christ.

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