I am grateful to God for giving me the stewardship theme “Giving Hope” some weeks ago. I had no idea how helpful and pertinent it would be for this historical moment.
Because I’ll be very honest with you all — I don’t feel very hopeful at this moment. I’ve got to preach the third and final sermon on Giving Hope this Sunday, but I am trembling at the thought. How can I inspire all of you when I feel so lousy? How can I dare to preach on the idea of hope when I am frankly struggling to muster some up?
Please understand that I am not trying to be political in the sense of favoring a party or ideology; rather, I am expressing my very legitimate concern for the welfare of immigrants, refugees, Muslims, people of color, and women in this country. The inflammatory rhetoric voiced by our president-elect in the lead-up to this election should be disavowed and rejected by every person of faith, particularly those who follow Jesus.
Can I honestly say that I have an “expectation of God’s good future” (my definition of Biblical hope) as I look at the next four years?
Not at this particular moment.
But that’s the funny thing about hope. Hope works best in the darkest times, in the morning afters. In that little poem by Emily Dickinson, hope — the thing with feathers — sings on, wordlessly, without stopping, “and sweetest in the gale is heard.” In other words, when the wind is at its worst, the song of hope is cherished most.
I can’t hear it right now, but I will. I know that I will.
If anything, I must buckle down and re-commit myself to giving hope. I may not have much hope myself, but there are things that I can do to help others begin to expect a good future. I will continue to do everything I can to extend hospitality to strangers, at least until that wall is built and refugees are banned from entering the country. I will continue to read to children and lead mission trips and teach Bible lessons and lead worship.
And I will keep preaching.
It reminds me of a classic story about John Wesley, founder of Methodism. Before John’s famous conversion moment at Aldersgate, he struggled with his faith, and wondered if he should stop preaching since he didn’t have faith himself. He asked a missionary friend, Peter Böhler, if he should stop preaching. Peter said, “By no means!”
John asked, “But what can I preach?”
Peter answered, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
I’m going to steal this quote and alter it slightly …
I plan to preach hope until I have it; and then, because I have it, I will preach hope.
See you Sunday morning.