Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sheltering Hope

"Hope is like love, maybe worse. It has to do with what is not yet, what is unseen, an architecture of dreams." - Nora Gallagher

Hope can be a scary thing sometimes, for hope leads us to believe in things not yet realized. When things go well and our hopes come to fruition, we are overjoyed. Yet, there are other times when our dreams fall short and we find ourselves deeply disappointed and resentful that we ever allowed ourselves to imagine things could be different in the first place. If we hadn't gotten our hopes up, we wouldn't feel so bad when they came crashing down, right? Sometimes it simply hurts to hope.

Nora Gallagher reminds us of a Spanish phrase, abrigar esperanzas, to shelter hope, in her memoir of faith, Practicing Resurrection. It is a way of protecting oneself from the disappointment of unfulfilled hope; of holding back desire or belief in order to shelter one's heart and soul from the disappoint of the world. I imagine that at some point in all our lives we have all tried to shelter our hopes for ourselves, our families, our communities, our world. Resisting the temptation to hope can be a powerful defense mechanism in a world that is by all accounts so filled with pain.

Last weekend over 130 Reconciling United Methodists gathered at the United Parish of Auburndale to celebrate and incarnate, "Holy Hope" in the work of resurrecting our denomination. While at times in our movement for full inclusion, we can become easily discouraged by the slow pace and seemingly apathetic stance of our Church toward the pain of us, their gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer sisters and brothers, we must resist the temptation of abrigar esperanzas, of sheltering our hopes.

When we give up our hope, we give up our ability to know and feel abundant life, the abundant life that God promises for each of us. Hope is the living breath that inspires us to continue the journey Jesus began toward a new world order of peace and justice. Hope is the living presence of the Holy Spirit that enlivens our souls and encourages us despite life's disappointments. Hope is the holy comfort that enables us to imagine the impossible becoming radically possible. Hope makes real the resurrection promise of our faith.

For those of us who gathered last weekend, we were able to experience what it is like to live into our Holy Hopes for our Church. We listened to glimpses of hope recalled by national denominational leaders in their work around the country. Rev. Troy Plummer, Executive Director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, reminded us of the sweeping changes happening in our culture...the decriminalization of homosexuality, the right to marry and form loving families affirmed by a growing number of states and the introduction of the new "f" word as our society begins to see the insidious web of homophobia. Rev. Gill Caldwell, chair of the United Methodists of Color, and Rev. Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, both reminded us past struggles in our Church that at the time seemed impossible. Yet, today we have abolished the segregated central jurisdictions and have established ordination rights for women in our denomination. Diane DeLap, co-spokesperson for Affirmation, rooted us in our belief in God through Jesus and called us to hold fast to the hope we know through our faith tradition. Cathy Knight, Executive Director of Church Within a Church, emboldened us with new possibilities to work cooperatively both from within institutional structures and from without in the growing network of congregations like Cambridge Welcoming. It is moments likes these, when we allow ourselves to live into the vision of hope and true resurrection, that can create radical transformation in our lives, in our communities and in our world.

As we enter into Holy Week, a week where we solemnly remember the pain of Jesus, may we hold onto our hope, refusing to shelter it, that we might know the abundant life and overwhelming joy that creeps up continually through the cracks of our suffering. May we allow our hope to pull us through the darkness of the week to come that we might with confidence enter into and practice the resurrection life we know through Jesus.

No comments: