Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass.He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday.Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, the one who succeeds in evil schemes.Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.Psalm 37:5-9
The ultimate reason for our hope is not to be found at all in what we want, wish for and wait for; the ultimate reason is that we are wanted and wished for and waited for. What is it that awaits us? Does anything await us at all, or are we alone? Whenever we base our hope on trust in the divine mystery, we feel deep down in our hearts: there is someone who is waiting for you, who is hoping for you, who believes in you. We are waited for as the prodigal son in the parable is waited for by his father. We are accepted and received, as a mother takes her children into her arms and comforts them. God is our last hope because we are God’s
first love.”-Jürgen Moltmann from “The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life.”
Trust is on my mind these days. Apparently, I’m not alone in wondering who to trust, as we grapple with considerable coincident crises, crises of health, economics, racial division and inequity, climate change. Science, politicians, media, election processes, institutional religion, law enforcement are all being questioned, against the background noise of what some call fake news, untruths and alternative facts. We never know what’s around the corner, but Covid-tide is a season of heightened anxiety fueled by uncertainty about what, who and how we can trust.
That has led me to think about all the ways that scripture calls us to trust. Easier said than done. (One of my college friends signed his religion papers with the acronym: SOKOP. Sounds okay on paper). The psalms, in a number of places, offer a variation of the following verse: Put not your trust in rulers or in any child of earth, for there is no help in them. (Psalm 146:3) Maybe you’re thinking about trust these days as well. Apparently, a lot of people are. If so, join me in working through a few questions:
1. Where do you draw strength? Asked another way: What are reliable sources of nourishment and sustenance for the journey? We live in a world offering lots of spiritual junk food, easy to swallow but not what we really need, not ultimately sustaining. We give our hearts to that which does not satisfy our hearts. It’s especially tough when so many Christian leaders reveal the hypocrisy of the church, nothing new under the sun. As one of those church leaders, when I hear the reasonable, verifiable complaint that the church is just filled with hypocrites, all I can say is, “Guilty as charged.” Then I revert to the prayer that both sustains and frightens me: “Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me.” (Psalm 69:7) What would it mean to draw strength from the God who calls us into relationship?
2. Where do you place your hope? Asked another way: In whom do you place hope? The old hymn affirms: We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. In many ways, we find ourselves in the midst of storms. Life these days feels like those small glass snow domes that get all shook up. We’re waiting for things to settle. Hoping. Jurgen Moltmann based his theology on hope. In a paper called The Spirit of Hope: Theology For A World In Peril, Moltmann wrote (pre-covid): “Terrorist violence, social and economic inequality, and most especially the looming crisis of climate change all contribute to a cultural moment of profound despair.” Moltmann reminds us that Christian faith has much to say in response to a despairing world. In “the eternal yes of the living God,” we affirm the goodness and ongoing purpose of our fragile humanity. What would it mean to embrace the text of the hymn (#665 in the 1982 Hymnal) “All my hope on God is founded,” music written by Herbert Howells after the death of his 9 year-old son?
3. Where do you give your heart? Asked another way: What’s love got to do with it? As our Presiding Bishop reminds us, it all boils down to love. If it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God. Ultimately our trust is an expression of the heart, an expression of love. As in any committed relationship, love is based on the trust that partners seek the best for each other. They seek to honor each other, with all they are and have. More Moltmann: “God’s love empowers us to love life and resist a culture of death.” What would it mean, in a vindictive season, to let love be our guide in some new and deeper way this week, not giving into fear or fretting but figuring out some way to make it all about love?
As people of faith, we are called to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding, confident that God will direct our paths.” (A riff on Proverbs 3:5,6) In case you haven’t picked it up already, I’m finding that challenging. It’s presumptuous of me to suggest a solution, as I navigate a cloud of unknowing. But here’s the answer I’ve decided to go with. I’m going to literally and figuratively take a deep breath and trust that the God of love has the whole world in his hands. And I’m going to try to remember that a life of hope is not always easy. Even more Moltmann: “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 man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world.” Said another way: All manner of things shall be well, but we may be in for rough sledding before we get there.
On that cheery note, amidst it all, I trust you will know blessing and peace this week. Thanks for thinking this through with me.
Contact: Rev. Jay Sidebotham firstname.lastname@example.org
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement www.renewalworks.org