I only really remember two things Dr. Henry Young, my process theology professor in seminary, said. One of them was, “When you don’t know what to preach, preach hope.”
Easter leaves us on a spiritual high, a willingness to see things anew and to have hope that there will be second chances, better tomorrows, and life after the many metaphorical deaths in our lives. Sadly that high ended quickly for me as I walked into a few hospital rooms in the two days after Easter where good news was sorely lacking. It seemed I’d barely had time for jelly beans and Easter ham when I was cast back to The Day of Tears (aka Good Friday).
(For the video version, click here.)
Easter is draining for pastors anyway, but I found myself in a funk with little emotionally and spiritually energy. I just didn’t have it in me to figure out what to preach. Over the years I’ve learned I can’t force it, so I didn’t do much of anything on Monday and Tuesday except recover from Easter, make visits and phone calls, and yard clean up.
Despite the small respite, I still wasn’t sure what to preach on Sunday. Henry Young kept echoing in my head… “When you don’t know what to preach, preach hope.” With my soul dwelling back in the Day of Tears, I wasn’t feeling very hopeful, but OK Dr. Young, here goes.
Walter Brueggemann in the Prophetic Imagination says four things about hope:
- Hope is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts.
- Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion
- Hope dares to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question
- Hope is subversive!
1 Peter is subversive. It was written to Christian Churches who were being harassed by the locals, or perhaps the people were subject to ostracism by their families. But doing something new threatens the status quo and can be seen as subversive. 1 Peter 1:3-9 says, don’t give in. Remember that you now have a new birth, “a birth into hope” (the NRSV says a “living hope”). This hope, based on the resurrection, is a hope that gives life. It is a hope that no power can destroy, tarnish or mar. In the Easter story we discovered the end wasn’t really the end. Light overcomes darkness and life overcomes death.
Hope is subversive because it reminds us that today is not all there is and it gives us the courage to stand up and to speak up. Change has never ever happened without hope. Hope powers social justice movements to make the world better. Just think about Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Harvey Milk and Archbishop Oscar Romero. Three of these five were assassinated because their message of hope was subversive. But even death could not destroy the hope that continued to energize these movements.
Hope is also essential to daily living. What would we do without hope on a daily basis? It is the spiritual force behind getting through each and every day. We can do without a lot of things, but we cannot do without hope.
Albert Nolan wrote, “What matters in the long run, though, is not only that we are hopeful but that we act hopefully. The most valuable contribution that a Christian can make in our age of despair is to continue, because of our faith, to act hopefully, and in that way to be an encouragement to those who have lost all hope.”
As Easter people, hope proclaims that the powers-that-were did not have the last word. They took a good man down, but his spirit rose up in the people. That could not be controlled. We not only draw hope from this, but we become a source of hope for others. In fact, we are called to be carriers, agents, prophets of hope. Ones who believe that we will rise up, whatever struggles we face – personally or communally. We will rise.
Love & Light!