In September I wrote about the importance of HOPE and decided to pursue the topic further. I wrote: “In the coming weeks I will explore exactly how the Christian story, its history and daily experience of Christians today supports this HOPE. I invite Christian readers to share their insights so that together we may embrace Resurrection Hope most fully. I also invite people of other faiths and backgrounds to share HOPE perspectives in their beliefs, concepts and/or faith experiences. Together we just might be able to identify and apply common ground principles, evidencing hope through mutual respect and celebration of the best of our humanity.” So, now we begin:
HOPE as a noun is defined in a variety of ways in a number of dictionaries. Here are three citations:
New Oxford American Dictionary
1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. 2. A person or thing that may help or save someone. 3. Grounds for believing that something good may happen. 3. Archaic; a feeling of trust
Merriam-Webster Dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hope
1.The feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen; a feeling that something good will happen or be true. 2. The chance that something good will happen. 3.Someone or something that may be able to provide help; someone or something that give you a reason for hoping.
The American Heritage Dictionary
1. a. The longing or desire for something accompanied by the belief in the possibility of its occurrence: He took singing lessons in the hope of performing in the musical. b. An instance of such longing or desire: Her hopes of becoming a doctor have not changed. 2. A source of or reason for such longing or desire: Good pitching is the team’s only hope for victory. 3. often Hope. Christianity The theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God’s help. 5. Archaic. Trust; confidence. Idiom: hope against hope To hope with little reason or justification
Notice that the New Oxford definition does not specify that “hope” is necessarily for a “good” until the 3rd definition of the word. Merriam-Webster offers “wanting something “good” in its first definition; American Heritage doesn’t specify “good” until the fourth definition with the specification Christianity. The implication, of course is that,although all people have goals and dreams which undergird “Hope,” unfortunately, not all “Hopes” are oriented toward a “good.” Some hope for an adversaries untimely demise. Some have expectations of entitlement over and against fairness, justice or mercy. Some cling to desires for advancement at the expense of others. That’s the “Shadow” side of Hope and I will devote another blog to that. For now, I would like to focus on Hope for universal goods.
The Hebrew Scriptures embraced by Christians are filled with examples of Hope expressed in elegant, poetic words and images. Many echo God’s promises for future fulfillment and harmony for the human race. Here are just a few:
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (Joel 3: 1)
“In the days to come, the mountain for the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it, many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob. That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isaiah 2: 2-4)
“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; a spirit of wisdom and of understanding. A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide but he shall judge the poor with justice and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea. On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11: 1-10)
“All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk. Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?” (Isaiah 55: 1-2)
Building upon the Judaism of Jesus (who quotes Isaiah 61: 1-2 and Is 58: 6-7 as he begins his public ministry) , Christian HOPE grounds itself in the Hebrew expectation for “The Day of the Lord” – the time when God will right all earthly wrongs and goodness and justice will prevail. Good will be rewarded and evil punished. This belief is a bedrock of the Jewish Faith. This WILL happen – if not “at once,” than ultimately “at last!” (See Malachi 3:19, Joel 2: 1 ff, Zephaniah 1: 14 ff). In the interim, what is promised for the future may be achieved in part in the here and now. Thus, we articulate “hope” in the popular phrase “the now and the not yet,” for while Jesus insists his followers “pray for the coming of the kingdom,” he also urges us to do our best to achieve it. (Luke 11: 28) The harmony we desire for the culmination of the world is possible the more we make our daily decisions out of love of God and neighbor. Today, Christians and Jews are bound by this same directive as are people of Islam and other world religions who embrace this tenet.
More to come in my next blog entry!