The journey to a deeper faith can take us down many paths. By spending the last few weeks and the bulk of the rest of the summer exploring a “Way to God,” we aim to build up a spiritual toolbox for beginning to think holistically about faith. Kind of like the foodie trend of a “deconstructed meal,” we are separating out specific aspects of faith to learn and appreciate all the elements that make up a faithful life. However, when we journey to seek out a “Way to God,” we also have to remember that there really is no formula for how to be faithful or reach an enlightened state.
The push for a uniform faith and approach causes many to explore the non-Christian forms of enlightenment through meditation, seeking interpersonal revelation, or something else to find the answers that seem to be lacking, because often the church is afraid to engage a questioning faith with nurture instead of answers. This means, as we are finding out, that when we engage a discussion on the topic of a “Way to God,” we find that it is not an easy path. In fact, it is quite hard!
So far, we have explored being gracious and trusting. Being gracious can feel impossible when you do not feel very gracious. Trust can be equally difficult when your mind can go to every reason possible why you should not trust. This makes practicing grace and trust out of reach for most people. Being human, this is a great roadblock, but, as we will learn as we continue our quest, when we learn to “let go and let God,” we begin to find trust because our values and expectations become aligned with God.
Think about it this way. Pretend you have a teenager, and you see him/her biking without wearing a helmet. You run out and scold the child for not wearing the helmet, and they come back at you for how unfair you are for making them look stupid in that helmet. You, as the adult, know that the safety issue is paramount to the coolness factor, though your child can only see it from the perspective of being a teenager with the idea/understanding that they are invincible and coolness is way more important. We know that God has more knowledge than we do, just as the parent has more knowledge than the child. Once we accept that fact, it becomes easier to trust and subsequently easier to be gracious.
This week we lift up the topic of hope. Hope and trust are integrally linked since one cannot trust without hope, and that hope is what allows us to live. Without hope in the future, our lives become focused on the now, and our future is lost to survivalism or egotism, both of which take us to an empty life. However, when we have hope in God, we are living for something bigger than ourselves. This means that our values realign to a focus on living to God, rather than the reality of living for today. This means that the overriding question of our lives is not “what is best for me”; rather, it is what the greater good in fulfilling God’s mission might be.
Living into hope is very basic; it is the acceptance that there is something more than what we have, or as Donald McKim puts it, “the Christian anticipation of the future as the fulfillment of God’s purpose based on God’s covenant faithfulness and the resurrection of Jesus Christ as known by the work of the Holy Spirit in the church.”
In lay terms, hope is the knowledge that God has a greater plan for the future, which he has shown us through the promise he made to us through the life and death of Christ, which we exemplify through the church that witnesses to each other the work of the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen