Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 a short treatise on love and concludes the chapter with;
13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Love or grace is the glue that binds the three gifts, faith, hope and love, together. However, faith and hope have their place and it is hope that I would like to explore a little.
In January of 2020 COVID 19 was first reported in Wuhan, China and in the space of less than 3 months and thousands of miles away Alberta was into lock down with social distancing, hand washing and mask protocols in an effort to limit and stop the spread locally. As of this writing the world has had 85.8m cases, 1.86m deaths out of 7.8b population, a 2.2% mortality rate/ 0.024% of the population. Alberta has had 106k cases, 1,142 deaths out of 4.4m residents, a 1.1% mortality rate/ 0.026% of the population. Scientists worldwide have collaborated and in an unprecedented short amount of time produced new vaccines that are currently being distributed to combat this pandemic. It is hoped by year end 70% of the world will be vaccinated thereby stopping the spread. If successful it will be a history making story of cooperation and logistics for humankind. But in the background is the emergence of new COVID variants on all continents and to date it is not known if the vaccines will be effective against the variants. Historians remind us the Spanish flu of 1918-20 infected 500m, 25% of the world’s population, in four waves with an estimated 50m deaths, 2.5% of the world population.
Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen and the opposite of hope is despair, the loss of hope. Despair is seen in the countless numbers of people who have become unemployed because of shuttered businesses, depression due to isolation from friends and family, finding alternate realities through drug abuse, and through the final escape of suicide. People are increasingly frustrated by losing the freedom of association and become angry when political leaders and celebrities of low moral compasses circumvent protocols to maintain their family and friend social circles.
So, where do we find hope? How do we develop an expectation for a better and more certain time? Again, we turn to Paul, and his letter to the Romans;
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The central message of the letters to the Romans is that the Gospel reveals salvation for everyone who believes through the power of God. Romans was written 2 to 3 decades after Christ’s crucifixion and many followers were still in expectation of his eminent return. But Paul and his followers have determined that they cannot predict when Christ will return but they are confident of his return, someday. They began to look to the future with hope, through prayer, through encouraging each other, through looking to each other for support, through deeds of kindness, and through their certain belief in a God of grace.
Today people look for a return to “normal”. We do not know for certain when “normal” will return, will it be the end of 2021 when enough of us are vaccinated to accurately determine if it covers all the COVID variants or will it be when the pandemic has run its course as it did with the Spanish flu? We do not know, but we live in hope, we live in the expectation that we will gather as families around the table celebrating birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, blessings, and yes, the lives of people who have passed from this life to the next life.
And hope is revealed in the conduct of our lives with each other, as we pray together, as we speak to each other, as we reach out to each other with kindness, as we love wastefully, and as we seek the divine in each other and in the mystery of our home, earth. Open your eyes, heart and mind to the great unknown without expectation and with expectation so that you may be surprised by the divine.
Lamentations 3:24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.
May the streams of the Spirit flow to you and through you.
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