Weekly Blog 12_02_21
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Despite our difficult circumstances there appears to be a lot of hope around at the moment. At the launch event for the Leeds Lent Prayer Diary we heard theologian Thomas Jay Oord describe hope as being a verb as well as a noun. Hope, says Oord, is something that God and humans do together. In our break-out groups we reflected on this and people shared examples of how hope, expressed in action, had been evident in their own work over the last year.
Paul Bodenham, a Trustee of Green Christian, discusses the theme of hope in relation to the climate emergency. Unlike pandemic hope which is, for many, focused on a successful vaccine programme and a return to normal life, the ecological crisis does not offer any such achievable short-term solutions. We have passed the point where we can hope to avoid severe disruption and a permanent change to our way of life, and Bodenham asks ‘How honest is it now to appeal to hope when growing numbers find it unconvincing?’
The answer to that question depends upon what we are hoping for. We can no longer hope that global warming will just go away, neither can we hope to continue our present way of life without suffering dire consequences.
The Christian hope is based upon the promise of salvation, redemption, and reconciliation of all things to God, and is given to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. As such, our Christian hope does not seek to negate suffering and death, but instead embraces and transforms it.
This, I believe, is the only hope we can offer to those whose hopelessness has led to denial or apathy. Exhortations to make changes to the way I shop, or eat, or travel, in the hope that I can somehow reverse or halt the damage done, are more likely to engender feelings of guilt and helplessness than of hope. Bodenham calls us away from ‘placebos of hope’ towards a return to Christian spiritualities of unknowing. He suggests that Christians can minister to the fearful and hopeless of the world by facilitating mourning, by offering liturgies of lament, and by resisting the modernist hope of inexorable progress.
Some are already doing this, in the music of David Benjamin Blower, for example, hope lies on the other side of lament. Therefore, if hope is a verb, if it is something we do in partnership with God, mourning and lament must be an integral part of all our work.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
Written by Catherine Beaumont
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