Hope after the Debates

by | Sep 28, 2015 | 1 Poor in Spirit

woman in the rainBlessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
Recent Republican Presidential debates roused foul humors among my friends of both parties, rudely reminding us of the descent of political discourse to schoolyard jabs and insults. I hear disgust and fear. We cast a jaundiced eye on all politicians.
Why does politics prompt such passion?  We bring our hope for a better world to the voting booth.  When others disagree with our vision of the good society or the means to get there, they threaten the only worldly hope we can understand.
Polite folks avoid not only politics but religion at the dinner table because if politics sets the terms for hope in what mortals can do, religion sets the terms for what we can expect from higher powers.  Religion raises the stakes.  Passions run notoriously high.
Paul said, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24b-25).
Let me propose a corollary by substituting “control” for “see”: Now hope that is controlled is not hope. For who hopes for what we control? But if we hope for what we do not control, we wait for it with patience.
In theory, our governing system offers us some control called a vote.  But we know that those who drive the media message through money sway so many votes that yours and mine seem trivial.  We feel little if any control.
In theory, religion offers some control called petitionary prayer.  But we know we don’t always get what we pray for. Those who persist in prayer practice hope for what we do not see or control, waiting for it with patience.
Poverty of spirit marks the difference between those who sustain hope with patient waiting and those who despair and take refuge in low expectations.  This radical gratitude insists that anything worth hoping for comes as a gift and that there is plenty for everyone as long as we share it.  Hope, after all, does not hoard.
Jesus came to preach a vision of hope called the kingdom of God.  He used the highest political term, kingdom, and the highest religious term, God.  This vision encompassed every field of hope.
Every healing offered a glimpse of the wholeness God offers in the kingdom.  Every parable disclosed an order in which the honor/shame system gets turned upside down, abundance reduces every property claim to embarrassment, and gratuitous mercy scandalizes the control freaks.
Jesus’ death and resurrection opens the clouds for God’s reign to rain on us all, and the poor in spirit receive it with outstretched arms, palms open, and tongues catching the cool water of life amid dancing and laughter. Try casting votes with that hope in mind. Better yet, try not waiting for politicians and prayerfully doing what little you can to prepare the world for God’s loving reign. You’ll be surprised what God does with your best hopes when you open a door.


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