Holding on to hope ...
This month I received a letter from someone who has suffered the death of three members of her close family in a tragic accident. Amongst all the challenges of living through loss, she writes of the solidarity with those who have also journeyed through grief and the ‘comfort of the Lord’. Holding on to hope… After my own daughter, Anna, died eight years ago, I had to recalibrate my own faith in God.
For all human beings, of any faith and none, we sometimes face tough questions. Alain de Botton, writing in Religion for Atheist
s, honestly admits that secular society is not able to solve the question of how we cope with terrifying degrees of pain from failure and loss of all kinds. I do believe profoundly that we have the deepest response to this question in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We may be silenced and feel abandoned at times. We need people around us who will provide safe space, allow us to shout and scream, who will listen and be there for us, journey with us and engage in ‘faith talk’ when we are ready. It is important, too, for we preachers to take up the tough issues in our preaching and not treat these matters superficially. Many turn away from church because of our great silence here or our offerings of over-simplistic platitudes. De Botton’s question then begins to have a rooted incarnational response.
We need our Christian theologians and writers to help us create a map for living with mystery. I was reminded of this when listening to Jurgen Moltmann, one of the theologians whom I have found personally most helpful in my own journey. He was speaking at the BMS Catalyst event in Manchester at the end of
November and, as he reflected on hope, in a deeply connecting way, two quotes stood out for me:
‘Work theologically on your own life experiences'. Surely this helps us discover an authentic faith to live by. As we trace over some tough events in our history, avoiding denial, we seek to integrate our life story into the deepest story of the One whose cross is always in solidarity with aching humanity and whose resurrection still sows seeds of hope.
‘We are the hope of God on earth’. Moltmann urges us to express this in fighting hopelessness in all its forms. We have opportunities to do this all around – in our families and friendships and in communities local and global. We are a Community of the Resurrection!
This Advent, may the familiar words of Scripture come alive for us as Baptists across the land.
‘The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’
(John 1: 5)