Today’s scripture reading from Romans 8:12-25 reminds us that while what we see all around us every day – human tragedy, strife, conflict, illness, and death – are signs of this life in the flesh, as children of God we are heirs to a future we do not yet fully see. The apostle Paul never claims that the lives of Christ’s followers will be trouble-free. In fact, he acknowledges the very real suffering at the heart of the life of faith. Yet these are not worth comparing with the glory that is yet to be revealed (vs. 18). Paul is convinced that nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (see verses 31-39), a powerful reminder for us to always remember who we are.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño and other interfaith leaders have called us to pray and act on behalf of unaccompanied migrant children. There is a humanitarian crisis at our borders and many of the thousands of children making the arduous journey north are refugees fleeing the violence of gangs, drug cartels, and severe economic conditions in Central America.
In many instances, the lives of these children have become so unbearable that they have little hope but to flee. Bishop Carcaño has reminded us that how we receive these unaccompanied children will determine whether our witness bears the heart of Jesus who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14b).
We are a people who live by hope! We hope for what we do not yet see – creation set free from the bondage of decay, the redemption of our whole selves, and the inheritance of the children of God. We hope for a world where vulnerable children do not have to flee their homes in order to merely survive.
Hope always moves us forward into God’s future! Hope helps us endure the suffering of the present age knowing that God even now is at work to redeem all of creation. Hope gives us a restless heart, because it is a yearning for a more peaceable and just world than currently exists. We can’t create this new world ourselves, but we can join God in the places God’s kingdom is coming and God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.
The American prophet William Sloane Coffin once observed: “God is as much ahead of us as within and above us. When asked, ‘Where do you stand?’ Jews and Christians should probably reply, ‘We don’t; we move!’ Both should regard themselves, if not as permanent revolutionaries, at least as pilgrim people, people who have decided never to arrive, people who live by hope, energized not by what they possess but by what is promised: ‘Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth’ (Isa. 65:17)” (“People Who Live by Hope,” The Living Pulpit, July-September 2006, pp. 23-24).
As people of hope, we lean forward into what God is bringing to pass, even though we do not yet fully see it. We have been adopted into God’s purposes and become heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We see the suffering of the world, and we don’t just take a stand; we move out into the world with the grace of the One who loves us with an everlasting love. We hope, because God has not abandoned us, and God has not abandoned the children who want nothing more than to live beyond childhood.
We also groan inwardly, along with all creation, while we wait for God’s redeeming purposes to come to fuller fruition. Hope saves us from a sense of futility or desperation. Hope saves us from throwing in the towel. Hope saves us from our own worst instincts of protecting life only for ourselves and those we love.
Hope calls us toward greater faithfulness, deeper compassion, and a more just and humane world where all of God’s children are given the possibility of life in its fullness. Hope calls us toward beloved community where we live in relationship with God in ways that give us freedom, joy, and life abundant enough to be shared.
Let us be a people who live by hope!
Words (c) 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson