It’s now been a year living with COVID 19. Every month there is a new perspective, new information, adjustments to my thinking, new questions about life as we have been living it, variants, looking forward to vaccine, and wondering what’s next. In light of a myriad of invitations to attend on-line studies, discussions, friend’s on-line visits, concerts and church groups, I have chosen to follow the church year beginning in Advent and explore the meaning and influence my faith gives to me in this time.
Hope seemed to be the theme that jumped out at the beginning of Advent and stayed with me as a way of “living through”. I have usually been a pretty positive person, a born optimist. But I must confess that after a year this has become a trying time.
The shape of hope was being more present to my own reality of retirement in a pandemic; deciding what is really important to focus on, and what beliefs and actions I need to let go of. My wife and I did more cleaning out and throwing stuff away. In the process, finding things like our Moravian Advent star which we hung in our living room window for the first time in several years, and my father’s retirement watch which I am now wearing. Hope is connecting with the traditions and memories that are really connected to my identity.
No matter how positive I tried to be about the value of darkness, the gift of reflection, the place of spiritual connection; it cannot replace the value of a hug. The face on a screen is not the same as a face in my living room, sharing life in a much bigger way.
Hope, for me, always emerged as the new year arrived. The new year was not so much about looking back, as looking ahead and dreaming about tomorrow. I am looking forward to a time that will be more full of life, and maybe some travel again.
Following Advent, the season of Epiphany is the wise person’s journey — the inner experience of meeting the sacred and wondering what this means for personal futures and the future of the world. The biblical instruction to go home by another route seems the basis of hope. It is no longer enough to just meet the Christ, nor to merely recognize the Christ; it is now necessary to live in unity with the Christ. What does going home by a different route, living in a new way mean for me, for my church community, and for the world I live in?
Huge divisions in our world have come into focus with Black Lives Matter, the invasion of the Capitol building in the U.S. and the long transition of power in the White House — leaving a huge divide between the conservative right and the progressive left. And not to forget the COVID 19 vaccine rollouts in the midst of economic challenges that will stress governments around the world for years to come.
Climate emergencies continue to remind me that the clock is ticking on the future of human life on our planet. Hope is hard to hang onto in the midst of a whirlwind where there are too many issues and too little agreement — wondering if there is enough time to make a difference. And still I carry on with new initiatives and actions: we put insulation in our attic and are now talking about solar panels for our house. I have joined with a few others wondering about the future of the church and how we can focus the energy of hope and love to make a difference. HOPE is Having Other Perspectives Emerge. Or Helping Other Perspectives Emerge.
Commanding Hope by Thomas Homer-Dixon has been a guidebook on hope for me. He talks about hope needing to be honest, astute and powerful. It is the movement from “hope that” to “hope to”. The former phrase is passive, and the latter phrase needs a verb, an action. The Evolutionary Spiritual perspective is not that someone or something is going to come and save us. That is a passive approach to life. Waiting on Jesus, or a vaccine, or some new technology to get us out of our predicament so we can get back to being the same people who caused the predicament in the first place is not an active approach. Continue reading