Sunday, June 28, 2009

Faith, Hope and Love Pt.1

I've been officiating a good number of weddings the last couple of months and since the passage on love from 1 Corinthians has been read in almost all of them, I have been reflecting a lot on that passage. I have been especially focusing on the last part of the passage: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13).

It is amazing to me when a passage gets stuck in my head and keeps reoccurring, I begin to hear, see and read things that directly correlate to my ongoing thoughts on theses passages. Perhaps it is serendipity or perhaps it is the voice of God at work through the everyday things that we usually are too busy or self-absorbed to hear the wisdom being shared.

This first post is on hope. I am reading Michael J. Fox's newest memoir, Always Looking Up, and I ran across a passage from an interview with George Stephanopoulos after Rush Limbaugh decided to take a jab at Fox after a political ad in which Fox's Parkinson's symptoms were very prevalent. Eventually in the interview, it came back around to Rush and other conservative comments about stem cell research saying that people like Fox, pushing the possibilities of stem cell research, was pandering a false hope. Here's an excerpt of that exchange:
George: "I'm going to ring up Rush Limbaugh one more time. One f the things he says is that when you are talking about all these cures, you're giving people false hope and that it is cruel"

Michael: "Which is crueler? To not have hope or to have hope? And it's not false hope. It's an informed hope. But two steps forward and two steps back, you know? It's a process. It's how this country was built. It's what we do. It seems to me that in the last few years, eight, ten years, we've just stopped. We've become incurious and unambitious..."( ALU pg. 150).
I have thought a lot about this statement. I don't want to get into a debate about stem cell research, for that is not the purpose of this thread of thought. Rather, I really have broadened my thoughts on hope after reading this exchange.

I've written before on hope. Is there such a thing as false hope? I suppose there is if someone is intentionally promising something that they KNOW is false. For instance, promising a child a reward for having a good day, knowing all along that you have no intention of seeing that promise through. Yet hope by it's very nature is illusive. The outcome is rarely a certainty, for we never know what is on the other side an event, choice, or even this life. That is why we hope! Faith and hope go hand-in-hand because neither one can produce tangible proof of the outcome of the circumstances in which these mindsets are present. Otherwise there would be no need for either faith or hope by their very natures.

Hope is more than wishful thinking. And I like here what Fox says about hope. He says the hope he and his foundation give is an "informed hope". I think that is the nature of true hope. I think this is one of the biggest things that distinguishes hope from simply wishful thinking.

So, let us segue to the idea of Christian hope. It is, as I have mentioned in the past, a (if not THE) central message/theme of the Christian faith, Bible, and mission and ministry of Christ. When the narratives and teachings of the Bible speak of hope, it is never in an ambiguous and uninformed way. In fact, it is the opposite. There seems to be an understanding that hope is informed, and in fact, we have a responsibility to "seek" in order to keep our hope informed!

Hope is active! It is not a feeling; it is not fairy tale wishes! It is seen as very practical. It is something that infects and affects our daily lives. As Fox says, it is "one step forward, two steps back... It's a process". Just like faith, hope is both a PART of the journey, and a journey in itself. Pragmatic hope is the hope that never fails. Why? because in the end it never fails our expectations. Participating in this process of hopefulness produces practical expectations.

But more than that, is inspiring....awe-inspiring! It inspires not only others, but it inspires yourself. It drives the creativity and imagination of people. I think that's why the statement Fox makes about us becoming "incurious and unambitious" strikes a chord with me. I see it so much in the world of religious life. People are settling for what they have, when it is far less than what God is calling them towards. People are settling for wishful thinking because 1) they are being taught that wishful thinking and hope are one in the same, and 2) because it is easier to sit and wish than it is to participate in the on-going process of hope.

People ARE very curious by nature, and it is because they are seeking hope in this world where we can turn on the TV, or walk across town and pay a visit to the hell that many people live in each day. The hell on earth that many of us settle for in our own lives, thinking we are helpless victims. But Christ's message of hope was different. It was not wishful thinking that one day we would be magically saved from the terrible situations that plague our world. Instead he gathered people and said, not only can you make a difference in your own situation and make it better, but hope is so powerful that you can actually go out and heal the hell that other people are living in. You can take away that hell and deliver heaven on earth... the Kingdom of God is at your hands!

Something (in my opinion) evil happens when we discourage the natural curiosity in people that produces an "informed hope"....a responsible hope, and replace it with wishful thinking! We need this hope now more than ever in this hurting world. I am convinced that the true message of Christ is more relevant today more than ever, but we first have to embrace that this message is far more than the fairy tale for which modern Christianity has settled. The idea that the whole of the message is about eternity in some ethereal after-life is decaying the bigger messages of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Please know I'm not saying that Heaven doesn't exist, what I am saying is that we have a calling to the here and now as well. And that call is as urgent, perhaps more-so if I may be so bold, than the eternal salvation message. Yet I don't think that one message is exclusive to the other. It certainly wasn't for Christ!

"And these remain; Faith, Hope and Love..." Hope is the infectious driving force that we have been given. Hope is the engine propelling us forward on this journey. It is the force that gives us ambition and curiosity. How are we using hope, and how are we encouraging a true hope in others?


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