1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. 3Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. 4One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. 13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
I’m reading the last chapter of theologian Doug Hall’s book Why Christian? to prepare for the last session of our Fall Faith series on Tuesday nights. In this chapter Hall responds to the faith question that cuts to the heart of the Christian identity, hope. Where and how do we find hope in a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams? I like how Hall takes the narcissistic wind out of our sails when he reminds us a) not to assume our time is any worse than any other time in human history (attention nostalgia believers, remember the plaques, the Spanish Inquisition, the holocaust?) and b) that there are as many uplifting, joyful, even hopeful, signs and wonders happening today as there are devastating, even evil, things taking place in our midst. In the early part of the 1900’s liberals believed wholeheartedly in progress and technology as the salvation to humanity’s challenges. They were wrong, challenges persisted, albeit new ones. Likewise today we have a chorus of nostalgia believers who sigh, “What is the world coming to…” as if the past was somehow pristine in piety.
Hall reminds us that each generation faces unique challenges and joys, evils and beauty, injustice and justice. He uses Psalm 27 to remind us of where hope can be found, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” He further backs this up with the reminder that when Jesus came to the world witnesses proclaimed that “the kingdom of God had arrived”. It’s not so much that Jesus came to tell us of a coming utopia or to promise an eternal test where some would graduate to Heaven and some not, it is that the Kingdom is here, “here on earth as it is in heaven.” Therefore, according to Hall, we are called as believers to both take heart that hope arrives in the land of the living and to keep awake to the expressions and pulse of the Kingdom of God in our very midst.
While it is true that there is a “not yet” quality to our justice-seeking work there is at the same time these sacred moments, these places where the Kingdom breaks in our world and sets our hearts on fire. These moments are laced with hope and they are worthy of great thanksgiving. For my peculiar spirituality these moments come in perfect order, in beauty, in deeper connections between people and creation. I also believe in justice and ensuring that every living part of God’s creation has opportunity to experience these moments. That is not happening now, nor has it ever been so. Thus the need to fight for justice with every breath, justice for those we know and those we do not know. But unlike some of my friends on the political and religious left I see justice seeking less as “the moment” and more as a catalyst to “the moment”. Equality to me has never been the end-game, more a means to an end, providing all with the level of security they need to experience these sacred moments.
I believe in hope, I believe Jesus’ early followers found hope in the resurrection of Easter, I believe all of Creation is vibrating with hope. We see and feel this in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!