In her lifetime of dispensing wisdom, Maya Angelou was fond of saying: “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.” What is at stake right now is our need to invite hope to occupy the space of imagination about who our faith communities are…and to show fear the door.
Yes, politics is now upstream of faith in every church I know – often with divisive results.
Yes, nostalgia for a past that never was and sentimentality about returning to a stability that never really existed is luring many of us into dead-end, shallow thinking.
Yes, we have marinated so long in consumerism and individualism that we can barely conceive the joys and challenges of life in community – be it church or society.
And yes, the pandemic has stretched on so much longer than any of us could possibly imagine and has left all of us depleted in crucial ways.
In the face of this tsunami of stress and challenge, we struggle to remember the promises of God, let alone apply them to our current situation. What is at stake is to remember God’s invitation to all of us:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)
This is God’s sustaining promise of care and comfort. And this is the yoke we are offered – to live by God’s promises and in reaction to all the world’s burdens.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
Humanly speaking, we could understand and interpret the Sermon on the Mount in a thousand different ways. Jesus knows only one possibility: simple surrender and obedience, not interpreting it or applying it, but doing and obeying it. That is the only way to hear his word. Jesus does not mean that it is to be discussed as an ideal; he really means us to get on with it.
“Getting on with it” means trusting God. God offers hope and joy and makes them available every single day, in good times and hard times. This hope and joy are not accomplished by ignoring what is weighing us down, but by trusting that God is stronger than all that is working against us. Do we trust that?
Late-night host Steven Colbert had the tables turned on him during his show last week. Colbert was asked by guest Dua Lipa about his view of comedy in light of his faith. Colbert responded in part: “If there’s some relationship between my faith and my comedy, it’s that no matter what happens, you are never defeated…you must understand and see this in the light of eternity and find some way to love and laugh with each other.”
Most gospel words land in my life in ways that unsettle me greatly before they comfort or lead me. So, here what’s at stake: enough with our exclusive focus on how hard this time is and how depleted we are. It is time, with God’s help, to get on it. It’s time to let hope, not fear, occupy our lives and our ministries, and to be about the work of spreading that hope everywhere.
I am quite sure that our world is starved for it.