What does hope look like?

What does hope look like for you? I know Kyle’s spouse Hope, and she’s really great, but I’m talking about hope in the world, hope in life, hope in the days that we live, what does that look like for you? I heard myself telling a couple of parents and a fiancé this morning after a service for their 21 year old daughter and girlfriend, that what I hope a Celebration of Life is about, is helping to poke, even the smallest of holes, in their darkness that they might see just a glimpse of light. Perhaps only the tiniest bit that may shine in some small way in the overwhelming darkness of grief and loss. They are strong and fierce as was their daughter, and still the reality of unexpected disease and death bring all of us to our knees.

Today hope actually did look like Hope, I got to see and smile with my eyes at Kyle’s spouse Hope who brought THE BEST chocolate chip with m-n-m’s cookies for our staff retreat. And hope also looked like Nora and Lily – Chandler and Kristina’s twin girls whom Chandler calls “the ladies” – and we got to see them for the first time in life for reals. Holding Nora (the cuddly one) was so settling and affirming and reviving of the spirit – new life is hope for every future. Hope looked like a staff spending extended time together in person for the first time since pre-pandemic. We named our griefs and our hard stuffs, and we named what we learned and where we became strong in ways that surprised us. We named our worries about our future and our excitement and starting plans for a summer moving out of shelter mode and into reconnecting mode.

Hope also looks like the pictures of 3rd grade students proudly holding their bibles. They received them at their homes in February, and we blessed them at in-person worship last Sunday in traditional and at Common Grace. They hold those books like they are treasures and in fact, there are treasures inside waiting for them to find. And there is hurt and heartache and inconsistencies and mistranslated words and people being imperfectly human, maybe a bit like us. And I hope they wrestle and argue and confront and are confronted by the Spirit that dwells within. If you are over 3rd grade, when was the last time you did any of that with a bible? It’s worth it, even when it frustrates you and causes you to think.

Hope looks like a sunset of blue sky and sunshine on a Saturday evening after days and days of gloom, gray and rain. Yes I love the rain that waters everything and makes the grass grow nearly waist high before we can get in to mow again. And I also love the beauty of the sunsets after those rains. I was driving back from a farm out in Baldwin on Saturday from officiating a wedding inside a barn rather than down by the lake outside – I’ve been promised I can come back with them to the lake for a big party later. And as my truck was splashing through puddles and kicking up mud, the sun came shooting through right down by the horizon, and I saw the hope of a young couple starting their life together with such dreams and joy and a love that overcame all the plan changes and rearranges and a wedding dress hem that will never look the same. Dad sang a song about dancing with his little girl with her feet on his, and then her being grown up to get married. By the time he stopped singing and walked briskly to the back to walk the bride down the aisle, they were crying, the groom was sobbing, and the pastor could only do one thing . . . I had to tell them my interrupting cow knock, knock joke. The bride and groom and her parents laughed, thank you Jesus, and we made it through the rest of the wedding.

Hope looks like a young woman who claimed atheism and yet did more service for others in her 21 years that looked like Jesus than most of the folks like me who are far older than she. Hope is knowing that NO, she is not lost, if ever God’s grace shows through a life it was hers. You know God doesn’t need the “right words” as much as God desires a life lived for others. Hope looks like a Jesuit Priest and a Protestant clergywoman on the same chancel each affirming God’s grace through a young woman who didn’t want anything to do with a judgy and condemning and exclusive of all people God . . . and both stating . . . us either. And hope that lifted the entire room is Pam singing, “A Little Fall of Rain” from Les Mis; and “For Good” from Wicked. The youtubes for this week below.

Maybe you’ve been needing to see more hope than usual this week as well. Circumstances, or general malaise, or post-pandemic/still pandemic/almost done pandemic anxiety and grief, or too many gray days in a row. Look for hope with me in your own ways and your own life. I’m guessing it’s there and it wasn’t until I started listing all the ways that I realized just how much hope I have. Maybe you too?

I miss a young woman I only came to know through her family and fiancé and friends. She had an orange cat, I have two, and she named HIM ‘Trish Marie’ – which I love even more, and that cat loved her and stayed with her through the hard things amidst all her people and her tribe that surrounded and stayed with her.

Finally I think that is what hope looks like most. That family, of origin and chosen both, who when given the chance, stays by us, surrounds us, makes room for a man cat named Trish, and loves til love wins, even over death. A living faith? In this old pastor’s eyes, without a doubt and yes, for eternity.