Hope may seem in short supply at the moment, especially if you are feeling lonely or frustrated because of self-isolation, if you are anxious about your health or your job, if you cannot see friends or family, if you are feeling down because you are looking at too many coronavirus updates on your TV or on social media…that probably covers just about all of us.
But as Christians we are marked out by hope; Peter describes our Christian faith as ‘the hope which is within you’ (1 Peter 3 v.15). So where might we find hope in the current situation? Here are some ideas – please feel free to pitch yours in as well.
There is hope is doing what we are told at the moment. Those who seem to feel that that they are not in any real danger from the virus are forgetting that the restrictions in place are there precisely so that the virus does not spread too far or too fast, and so that we can protect others and offer them hope for the future. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 v.32, the maxim of ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die’ is precisely the opposite of Christian hope which is rooted in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It may be hard to live under these restrictions, but there is hope, not just for ourselves, but for others, in doing so.
There is hope in the many people working to care for us during the crisis, key workers, government members and advisers, neighbours offering to do shopping and phoning the vulnerable, nearly half a million people volunteering to help and care for those affected. This is a massive sign of God at work in the world, working through people to make his love real and tangible for the whole nation and community.
There is hope that we may be learning to worship in new ways. Live streaming is less than ideal, but it makes us think, perhaps asking new questions about what we expect from worship, how we value the fellowship we experience in our normal worship, what we bring to worship ourselves. Sunday worship returning to BBC1 may also make us ask questions about what is good in other styles of worship that may not be familiar to us, as well as making us thankful for this initiative, and for the Archbishop’s initiative in preparing worship for the radio. We may now be learning new things about worship that mean we stop taking the provision and style of worship for granted or as part of the routine of our week, but see it as the precious gift it is, with the result that worship changes and is enriched for the future – and will change us too!
There is hope in learning to pray in new ways. I have been reading Emmanuel Katambole’s Born from Lament (Eerdmans, 2017) which is an extraordinary challenge to take seriously the lament prayers that we find in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, Lamentation and Jeremiah. When we truly lament we enter in prayer into the pain of the world, but also discover the ‘excess of love’ that God has for his world, and which he has poured out on us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In order to get to the hope of the Resurrection, we have to go through the Cross. To try and find hope without facing the pain of the cross is to opt for a shallow hope. Lament enables us to touch the pain of the world, and therefore find the way to a better, richer hope that we can live by in ourselves, but also offer to the world. Our hope-filled, lamenting prayer now may be something new and rich that we can take into the future God offers us.