The end of 2012 was dramatic in different ways for different people. In America we witnessed the tragedy that is Sandy Hook School and in India the gang rape of a young lady which, ultimately led to her death. Around the world tragedies were occurring due to bad government, lust for power, or just old fashioned sex and money. In the midst of this chaos, Fr Gerry Pierse suggests that we are called calls on up “to do two things that can be very hard to hold together: to be realistic about how the world is going and at the same time not to lose hope in the future.”
As I am writing this I am listening to the ballards’ of Woody Guthrie. I was introduced to Woody Guthrie as a young boy of 14 or so by my eccentric Canadian English Teacher, Laurie Brown. Woody, the poet who gave America “This Land is Your Land’ and ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ wrote about the desperate lives of those on the underside of American society, particularly of the dust bowl mid-west which saw thousands of farmers and their families being forced to walk off their farms in the 1920’s and 30’s.
His poetry stand alongside the short story and novels of John Steinbeck, and while his lyrics and Steinbecks’ prose told the story as it really was, full of pathos and tragedy, they were also full of hope – a deeps sense of the possibility for the future. As William Loader notes, these two things are often hard to keep in one hand, together. If one gets the upper hand, life gets out of hand.
If we get lost in the tragedy of the world as we perceive it we may resort to fantasy, either the fantasy of the past when all was perfect or we look forward to a time when it will be. We delude ourselves and slip out of the present into a place where all is as it should be, or at least how it should be for us. Fantasy is dangerous.
The only way to deal with the troubles that assail us is to see them for what they are – the signs of the times in which we live. Every age has had its share of doomsayers and gloom merchants, yet the world still turns and life goes on. This is not the end, it is only the present in which we live. There is more to come.
Hope is not fantasy. It is not believing in a fairy-tale promising an untroubled life. Hope is the simple acceptance of life as it is and the faith that we will not be left alone to deal with it all. It is the awareness life isn’t a straight line that goes on forever, but a circle that goes around and encloses itself. Sometimes times are good, sometimes not so good, yet faith says, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.’ (Julian of Norwich)
Faith does not seek a romantic idea of happiness and a life without bumps. Faith looks at life as it is and says, ‘I am ok with this, if this is the way it is now’. Faith says, ‘I am content in the darkness and the light, in the depth of tragedy, sickness or sorrow, because I am also content in the light, the joys, successes and heights of life’. Faith says, ‘I am ok with this because even this will change, the darkness will become light and the light will become darkness.’
David Lose comments: “From Moses to Martin Luther King, Jr., history is full of examples of those who, because they had been to the mountaintop, had peered into the promised land, and had heard and believed the promise of a better future, found the challenges of the present not only endurable, but hopeful.”
The promise of corporate consumerism is happiness through the possession of material goods and success. Yet they know their advertising is false for if it wasn’t people would have no need to continue consuming. Why? Because the first thing they bought would have produced the happiness they were seeking. It doesn’t. People get addicted to consumption and continue spending in the hope that one day they will have enough goods, degrees, successes, bedrooms, cars and more to finally “purchase” happiness itself.
David Lose suggests that the only way to find happiness, or more properly contentment, is to have a vision of a better future promised by God through Jesus. Not a utopian promise of undisturbed happiness, but a promise of the presence of God in the present moment, whatever that moment may bring.
Here is the hope that keep people working for the Kingdom of God – the knowledge that we are not alone no matter how alone we feel. Hope is the vision we have gained of a future in which the love of God produces the fruits of the Spirit, not only in my life but in the life of the world. And the truth is that they are there if we just leave behind our fantasies, both of the past and the future, and see the world as it is.
Jesus says do not be alarmed when you see disturbing events happening in the world around you, people want you to lose hope and seek refuge in the false happiness of the world and its materialism. Jesus recognised that even those who knew him could be deceived and become apart of the material world, more concerned with reputation, power, control, position, possessions than in the kingdom of God. How do people judge the success of churches? – by numbers, buildings and wealth – the methods of the corporate world while all Jesus said was when two or three are gathered in my name, there am in their midst.
He reminds us to be vigilant and to not allow ourselves to be taken away from living life as it is and being content to do so for we have a vision for the future embedded in the promises of God in Jesus. This is not stoicism but a joyful awareness of the present as the only moment in which we live and we are to experience regardless of what it may look like to us.
As we enter 2013, let us live with hope, confident the God of hope is present in whatever we hear is abroad in the world.