Focal Passage: 1 Cor. 15:42-58
She lay propped up in bed. The family had gathered, filling the room and spilling out into the hall. Death was in the air.
She had attended our church years ago, a young mother with children in tow. Now the kids were grown with children of their own. She lived with a daughter and went to her church, at least whenever she was able.
She had sent word for me to come and pray for her one last time. I asked, “Are you afraid?”
“Why should I be? God has never let me down before, and I don’t expect Him to start now.”
Frederick Buechner wrote a book he called Wishful Thinking. Hope might be called wishful living.
Hope is not some pitiful benign whining in the dark: “Well, maybe, if only, I guess so, I surely hope so …”
Hope is not some superstitious incantation: “OK, if I believe with all my heart, and shut my eyes real tight, and clap three times …”
Hope is looking directly into the face of the worst the world can throw at you, and still believing that God cares for you and will provide for you, and then living like it.
I once heard Samuel Proctor, pastor emeritus of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, preach a sermon entitled “Living in the Subjunctive Mood” — as if. That’s hope.
Hope looks up at a cloudless sky, prays for rain, and then goes to the shed and gets the hoe and heads to the vegetable garden — as if.
Hope hears the dreaded diagnosis, “cancer,” and the almost equally dreaded prescription, “radiation, followed by chemotherapy,” and on the way home from the doctor’s office stops at the travel agent’s to book a flight to Houston in October for the birth of the new granddaughter — as if.
Hope dares to believe that we are all created equal and are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, and to prove it marches over the crest of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into the teeth of the police dogs — as if.
Hope stands in a pew on Easter Sunday morning, singing boldly, “Where, O Death, is now thy sting? Where thy victory, O Grave?” The next week that same hope stares misty-eyed at an open grave as the preacher declares, as boldly as possible, given the circumstances, “Look! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” — as if (vv. 55, 51).
Paul concludes this wonderful chapter (v. 58), “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” — as if. That’s hope.