The Newspaper headlines this week could well have read “Hope is Dead!” It reminds of a joke which has done the rounds through the years, each carrying a slightly different connotation, but the end of the comparison between the USA and Australia included the line that “America had … Bob Hope and Stevie Wonder, while Australia had [insert political leader’s name], no hope and no bloody wonder!” I took the opportunity this week to email a friend under the subject line “To all Collingwood supporters who live in hope…”, and the text of the email read “Hope is dead. Give up!”
The most influential and prominent comedian of the twentieth century lent his name to a raft of jokes, all drawing on the importance of one ingredient for all humanity: hope. It was one of the three great virtues identified by the apostle Paul in his articulation of love 1 Corinthians 13: “And now three things remain: faith, hope, and love.”
Hope is the essence of life, inasmuch as it defines what we live for. Hope, at one level, is the deepest desire of our heart. At another it is an expression of our future, and a determinant of our actions. The things that we give our time and energies to are an ultimate expression of our hopes. Hope calls us forward and drives us forward at the same time as giving us a reason to continue in the present. The great reformer Martin Luther once reflected that “everything that is done in the world is done by hope”
For many of us, that hope is either unspoken, or adopted. Much of what we hope for is influenced to a greater or lesser degree by the commercial interests behind advertising, which have subtly (and not too subtly) adopted the great themes of faith and humanity in order to sell something. Other’s hopes are directly influenced by fairy tales, movies and other stories: waiting for the “knight in shining armour” or the “lived happily ever after” life.
In Jesus Christ, hope finds its expression in the kingdom of God: a hope founded on and building towards a community of justice, mercy and righteousness; a community where everyone is valued because they are created in God’s image, and the influence of money or political power takes a much lower place to the needs of the poor.
It is this hope which drives me, and calls me forward. It is not only a hope which will never die, but is promised fulfillment.
August 3, 2003