The Audacity of Hope

A friend of mine is back from the mission field for a couple of weeks,
and he preached at our morning service today about "the audacity of
hope." Not Barack Obama's view on American politics, but God's
perspective on how we Christians can and should respond to all the
hopelessness in and around us nowadays.

I appreciated my friend's spirited message, as well as the steady
influx of Scripture references he used to make his points. Certainly,
Christian hope ought to be God-centered and Bible-centered. It is not
a good thing for our relationship with God, or for our witness of His
reality in this world to this world, to be either blindly optimistic
or coldly pessimistic.

So, without simply regurgitating my friend's message from this
morning, what is Christian hope? A topic far too big for one post,
but let me riff on a few things that wandered through my mind as I
listened to today's sermon:

1) The good thing about the Bible, and about people who exposit out of
it, is that it gives you a much broader perspective than the "now"
that we are stranded in. In other words, partly by our human
finiteness and partly by our cultural influence, it is hard to wait
for months and years and generations for things that we pine for. Yet
when it comes to the very things that make it hard to be a hopeful
person, whether it is our own wounds, our family dysfunctions, or
(especially for us urban Christians) the systemic injustices that
ravage those around us, God's timetable is usually not tomorrow, but
rather months and years and generations. So Christian hope is
sustained by a perspective that is challenged to grow to include more
time for God to work a greater work.

2) In the midst of that long time frame, though, there are some
awfully strange events that we have to be able to accommodate as part
of God's plan. In other words, it's not just about having the
patience to wait long enough for God to deliver on His promises. For
that by itself is easily shaken by events in the interim that seem to
suggest we are heading in the wrong direction. But think of the great
promises and promisees in the Bible. Abraham waited a long time for a
son, and eventually he got him, but oh the family dysfunction and
spiritual testing that happened along the way. The prophets were
given a vision of what was to come - judgment on God's people,
followed by a great restoration - neither of which were warmly
accepted by the fat and happy contemporaries who heard these words.
>From David to Jesus is some pretty far-out sin and violence, both in
the temple and in the king's court. Hope understands that along the
way are crazy twists and turns that can easily be seen as evidence to
the contrary of God's goodness but that somehow God uses to work out
for good.

3) In the end, there is an audaciousness to our hope. Or don't you
think Noah got ridiculed for building an ark, or John the Baptist for
ranting in the wilderness, or the disciples for being willing to die
for Jesus once they had seen Him resurrected? Similarly, there are
voices in our society, in our families, and in our own heads, that
tell us to stop waiting for a miracle, to get on with a comfortable
life and let go of that brazen life goal to see God's kingdom come in
our lives and in our families and churches and communities and

Hope has a long-term perspective, and it leaves room for strange stuff
. . . but ultimately it's a bold trust in a God who is ultimately
bankable and yet the world would vehemently disagree. As audacious as
Obama's desire for a friendlier, unified political climate, how much
more audacious for us Christians to live like we trust our God. Yet
we ought to seek such a hope, not to be audacious for audaciousness
sake, but to be found trusting Him who is trustworthy.

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