Lauren J. McFeaters
November 26, 2023
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Thanksgiving and Prayer. Glory and Spirit.
Wisdom and Revelation. Enlightenment and Inheritance. Glory, Power, Rule, Authority.
Power and Dominion. My heavens, it’s a lot.
Jesus comes to us out of God’s glory. The glory comes to us with purpose. The purpose is an unfathomable. The majesty has an incandescent beauty given for us. All intended for the salvation of humankind: The Revelation of Jesus the Christ, Christ the King, the Very Glory of God, sent for your salvation and for mine. [i]
And at the heart of such extravagance, at the heart of Christ’s radiance, comes a Lord who lavishes upon us – Hope. With the eyes of our hearts, we’re told, we will know the hope to which we have been called. In a world gone mad, we are to dare to hope.
You know, we downsize the word Hope. We economize it. We rein it in, and put it on sale. It always starts with, “I.” We say things like:
“I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
“I sure hope the grocery store still has cranberries.”
“I hope Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce find a date night.”
Or from this weekend’s ad campaigns:
From Best Buy: Joy & Hope Are in the Air!
From Macy’s Fine Jewelry: Hope for More Silver & Gold!
And from Bass Pro Shops, because who doesn’t love a sports store, comes: Enjoy the Magic & Hope of Santa!
We smash hope into little, itty, bitty, tiny packages, that makes hope a miniature wish, a miniscule goal, a microscopic plan.
But then we meet the God of the Ephesians, and hope becomes a holy expectation…
“… that, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened,
we may know what is the hope
to which God has called us,
what are the riches of our Lord’s
glorious inheritance among the saints,
and what is the immeasurable greatness
of his power, for us who believe …”
Here is a 1st century church; a vulnerable church, being torn apart by disunity, gutted by politics, needing the guidance and wisdom of Paul their pastor, who is writing to them from prison. And Paul, wanting to help them recover themselves, wanting them to know he has not forgotten them, and never will, offers Gospel Medicine to their wound of hopelessness. He goes straight for the good news.
And Paul is never, ever, interested in offering the good news for “someday, sooner or later, one day in the future.” He prays quite specifically for the church, here and now, to be lit up from within, here and now, praying that God gives them a spirit wisdom, as they mature in faith, and a sacred hope that binds each believer to the Risen Christ.
Jan Richardson, a favorite artist, minister, and blogger, puts it like this: Paul makes clear that Christ is putting his power to work in us, and not just for someday, but for now. Even as Paul writes about the risen Christ being seated in the heavenly places, he also bears witness to a Christ who wore our flesh and abides in us: Hoping for us when our hope is shattered; Hoping on behalf of us when our lives are in chaos: Hoping in compassion for us when our world is gutted – that is Christ’s Hope – not always comforting or comfortable – but a hope that asks us to imagine what is beyond our imagining; and to bear what seems unbearable. [ii]
Hope is a hard word these days. Hope gets a bad rap. Our world will tell is that Hope in Christ is for the ignorant and the unschooled. Hope in Christ is for immature, juvenile people that can’t keep a rational thought in their brains. And yet through Christ:
We may not fully understand hope,
but we know it when we see it;
that it meets us where we are;
and does not leave us where it found us. [iii]
When Isak Dinesen begins her novel Out of Africa she says this: “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” The book recounts her years in Kenya, and when she has lost all hope, and can no longer stay in Kenya, she must sell her possessions, and prepare to leave for Mombasa, and then for Denmark.
For twenty years she has loved Nairobi, and has been transformed by its people. Her most beloved friend is her interpreter, Farah, and she tells him:
You must have the people of the farm
ready to leave before the rains.
Do you understand? Or they will lose everything.
Farah, for their safety, you must make them understand.
This land is far – where you are going, he asks?
Not too far, she lies, for she is going thousands of miles away.
How can it be now, with me and you, Farah wants to know?
Do you remember how it was … on safari, she says. In the afternoons I would send you ahead, to look for a camp,
and you would go and wait for me and build a fire,
so I would know where to find you.
Well, this will be like that.
Only this time I will go ahead – and wait for you.
It is far, where you are going?
Yes. It is far.
Then you must make this fire very big, he says,
so I can find you.
You must make this fire very, very big so I can find you. [iv]
When you have experienced God’s hope,
you understand God has lit a fire so big
that you will never be lost, and can always be found.
Jesus, Christ and King, will never let you go.
You are sealed by the Holy Spirit
and belong to Christ Jesus forever.
And we are not ignorant and juvenile, but audacious and bold.
We know God’s hope is not made of wishes, but of substance.
It’s a hope that knows how to sing when there seems little cause; that prays when there seems little potential;
and raises us from the dead —
but this day, every day,
again and again and again. [v]
[i] David A. Davis. “All in All.” Nassau Presbyterian Church, November 23, 2008.
[ii] Adapted from Jan Richardson. “So That You May Know the Hope.” Nov. 19, 2014, paintedprayerbook.com.
[iii] Adapted from Anne Lamott.
[iv] Isak Dinesen. Out of Africa. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1992. Reprinted from the original 1937 edition.
[v] Adapted from Jan Richardson. “So That You May Know the Hope.” Nov. 19, 2014, paintedprayerbook.com.