Lighting the way to unclear hopeWhere's the Faith? Thursday, December 22nd, 2016
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!
In this rapidly changing world, filled with so much uncertainty along our journey, we are living in a time that where we are going is not entirely clear.
Even though we have the promises of God, it is still not entirely clear how those promises will come to be…that God is guiding us somewhere we have never been before, that even though we may not clearly know where that is, we just need enough light and faith to move just a little farther down the path where God is leading us.
And the Good News is that along our Advent journey into the unmapped future, we have faith in God for Lighting the Way for us. Lighting the way to unfamiliar peace, unclear hope, unrevealed joy, unknown love that will lead us to the unexpected Christ.
Más que nada, eres esperanza, O Dios. More than anything, you are hope, O God!
Imagine hope being like grass that grows everywhere. Even in unexpected places, like cracks in the busy freeways of San Diego. When the land is barren, desolate and dry, suddenly from nothing, grass emerges!
Now, I haven’t watered my lawn since the drought restrictions went into effect over a year ago, and it shows, and so after these recent rains, it’s amazing to see the yard green up and see little blades of grass growing everywhere; before long I’ll have to get out the lawn mower!
It’s amazing, given the right conditions; rain, not too hot, not too cold, the sun isn’t too intense how the grass will grow beautifully. So it is with hope, given the right conditions, hope will grow, even in the places you least expect it.
So, how do we foster hope when, at times, we feel hopeless? Author Mark Goulston wrote seven reasons why hope doesn’t float:
• If you have not gratitude, you’re disappointed
• If you have no confidence, you’re doubtful
• If you have no faith, you’re pessimistic
• If you have no belief, you’re skeptical
• If you have no trust, you’re cynical
• If you have no respect, you’re disdainful
• If you have no forgiveness, you’re bitter
And if you’re disappointed, doubtful, pessimistic, skeptical, cynical, disdainful and bitter, you have no hope and then, you are hopeless.
Well, I am a believer in focusing on the positive, seeing the possibilities, knowing the potential and then creating it. So, instead of looking at the negative, let’s focus on cultivating those things that keep hope afloat; gratitude, confidence, faith, belief, trust, respect and forgiveness.
These are key ingredients for lighting the way to unclear hope!
In Matthew, John the Baptist is referred to as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah, of being the voice crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way for the coming Messiah.
John the Baptist’s message to us is to prepare the way, removing the chaff from the wheat, bearing good fruit. It’s not about beating ourselves up, rather it’s about turning our lives around, taking notice, preparing our hearts and our attitudes and actions for this new thing that is coming this is what Advent is about.
Now, sometimes I don’t like the message of John the Baptist. I mean, really. He’s asking me to think completely differently about my life and the path I am going down. He’s out of control!
No matter how much I try to clean him up, give him a shave, or at least trim his wooly beard, put some fresh clothes on him and teach him how to eat with a fork at the dinner table we are still left with him wearing smelly clothes of itchy camel’s hair with a leather belt and eating locusts and wild honey with his bare hands! Can you imagine his bad breath?
Can’t you see, he’s wild and dangerous? He’s out of control. He doesn’t live by the rules of a polite society. His message isn’t wrapped up neatly with a pretty bow. He makes me think of one of the things I was taught about preaching, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
We meet John the Baptist at the beginning of each of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In each of them, he’s the opening act for Jesus. His goal is to get people ready for what Jesus is going to preach. He sure knows how to get people’s attention with his appearance and eating habits, right? But he comes to deliver a simple message. He’s saying God is about to do something big! Get ready!
And John doesn’t want us facing the wrong way when it happens. So, we are called to; repent literally means “to turn around” to return to God so that we are prepared for what God is up to.
A vibrant relationship with God is not static; it’s about being on the move and learning and growing and changing. When you read the Bible, it’s amazing how many times God’s instructions to people are to get up and get moving. Don’t get too comfortable. Get ready, even if the path is still unclear. Even if you feel hopeless.
What is God up to in your life? Our job is to prepare ourselves, to turn around if we have to, to listen and then follow. I know God wants to replace your fear with hope especially in these uncertain times.
The Good News is that the God of hope is with you, even if it’s unclear at the moment. The God of peace is here to calm your storms and to comfort you. The God of hope will never let you go.
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