In this long season after Pentecost, also sometimes called Ordinary Time, the New Testament lessons have been working their way through the book of Romans. A handful of weeks ago (July 19th) the reading was from the first part of chapter 8 ending with verses 24-25 “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
I was participating in text study over Zoom with some others from my deaconess community who meet every Friday to discuss the texts for the coming Sunday. As we were discussing Romans 8:12-25, many of us were struck by how much this passage spoke to a lot of what we are going through right now, especially the last two verses (above) talking about hope in what we do not see. We all have many things right now that we are hoping for, but we cannot yet see how they will come to fruition, and waiting is all we can do.
This made me think about hope and how our hopes have been changed throughout the past few months. When the pandemic began to take hold back in March and events began to be cancelled or rescheduled to the fall and schools were sent online, you could hear people talking about hoping things would clear up by the summer so events in July/August and beyond would not be affected. Even of hopes that some would return to school before the end of the school year, or at least for graduations to happen in person. Many of us were feeling optimistic and setting our hopes on the calendar, on the hopes of being back together in worship by Easter, and when that didn’t happen then being back together by June, and now maybe sometime in the fall. As one thing we were hoping for was cancelled or postponed, we would shift our hope to the next thing on our calendar, hoping that it would go ahead as planned.
However, as this pattern has continued, now almost five months later, hope is feeling harder to have. It is getting harder to hope for what we do not see and to wait for it with patience. Waiting and patience are getting harder. And hope is feeling more and more fragile, as hope after hope is repeatedly dashed to pieces around us. Hope is feeling more fragile especially as things were seeming to improve return to some normalcy and there were more things to hope for actually happening as planned, but then all the sudden cases are spiking and things are cancelled again.
How do we hold on to hope, when it feels so fragile? How do we wait with patience, when patience is wearing thin? Something that has been helpful for me in the midst of feeling how fragile my hopes are these days, is that rather than focusing my hopes on things, on events, on a return to normality of any kind, focusing on remembering that we are called to hope in God. Not only that but we are called to have hope in God’s love for us. To know that when our hope in the world feel fragile, and patience and waiting are getting harder every day, one thing remains firm and solid, and that is God’s love for us.
Another passage, also from Romans, that has been helpful for me in thinking about hope is Romans 5:2-5, “…and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” These verses remind me that there is a cycle to hope, and even though right now it sure feels like we are surrounded by suffering of many kinds, that suffering we are in the middle of won’t last forever. And from the suffering that we go through we build endurance and character which lead us back to hope. And not just any kind of hope, but a solid hope in the love of God poured into our hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit.
So when it feels hard to hope for what we cannot see, and patience is wearing thin as we wait from some semblance of normalcy, may we cling to the Hope given to us through the love of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.