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Reflections from Rev. Alan Taylor

Cultivating a Community of Hope
Rev. Rev. Alan Taylor, Senior Minister

Hope is not always easy to hear at this time of year. As the days shorten and our culture ramps up in frenetic energy to prepare for the Holiday Season, there are so many other messages of the season that the dual message of hope often gets lost.

My colleague Scott Tayler notes, the dominant messages about hope offers us calm: “The light will come.” “A new day is on its way.” “Justice and joy are growing in the womb and will soon be born.” Hope, from this point of view, is a voice that reassures. It’s a welcomed whisper that says, “Yes, the sky may be dark now. Yes, the road you’re on at this moment may be hard. But trust, just over that horizon, there’s a new world waiting for us all.” This soothing message comes as a gift, especially during dark days when we get tired and the fruits of our efforts are hard to see. When we feel alone, the promise of hope that things will change offers us relief.

Theologian Jurgen Moltmann has a different take on hope: “Faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in [all of us]. Those who hope...can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. [True hope] means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.”

I think Tayler has it right: Hope doesn’t just whisper “It will be different,” it also shouts “It should be different” and “It can be different.” Yes, hope soothes with calls to trust and wait, but hope also takes the form of a holy impatience that declares, “Enough is enough. The time is now!” As Moltmann puts it, hope is not just that which calms the unquiet heart; it also is the unquiet heart.

The Advent Season is often called the season of waiting. And while hope sometimes calls us to sit down and wait, there’s an active form of hope that doesn’t just promise us that change will come in the future, hope calls us to participate in the world here and now. Hope calls us to get up and go out to meet the light.

As Tayler says, “When hope convinces us that there are unseen forces working for the good, we begin to look around more closely, and in doing so we notice that darkness and pain are not all that is there. When hope’s holy impatience gets into our bones, we start acting as if we deserve that new day now. Which in turn changes others by convincing them that we all have waited long enough. Bottom line: listening fully to hope makes you dangerous, not just soothed! It doesn’t relieve us of duty as much as it reminds us that wind is at our back and unseen reinforcements are at our side. Yes, hope reassures, but it also emboldens. It doesn’t just offer us a promise; it gives us a push.”

We cultivate a community of hope as we listen to both the soothing whispers at the heart of reality and the push of our disquieted hearts.

May we take time during this Holiday Season of lengthening nights and busy days to listen, to find a stillness, and to share honestly with others so that we can be purveyors of hope.