On 30 January, I spoke at a ‘Vigil for the World’ service at the Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Allentown PA. This is the text of my presentation:
Words on Hope
Here we are at the end of the first month of a new year and a new decade. The earth is melting and crumbling. There are fires, earthquakes, volcanos, viruses, and all manner of pollution. Nation is poised to fight against nation, and some seem intent on provoking conflict. The world is governed by people whose qualifications and integrity are questionable. Our own government squabbles within itself when there needs to be unity. Despair and anxiety seem like the only intelligent response, and certainly, they’re the most understandable. I don’t recall the world ever seeming darker or more frightening than it does now. Psalm 46 is a reminder that we’ve been here before. God has never turned away from us.
Despair and anxiety blind us to hope and beauty. They tell us lies: we don’t deserve anything better; we did it to ourselves; things will never improve. They encourage us to cling to fear and doubt, because Darkness thrives on this.
We can direct our thinking to something else, because there is something else to consider.
It might seem frivolous or naïve, but there are a lot of positive things we can look to: the Arts, for example, reminding us of beauty in its very many forms. Sport, which teaches us about competition and reminds us of fair play. Small children blossom with innocence and beautiful curiosity. There are people who openly resist Darkness every day: healers, teachers, and clergy; police, firefighters and other emergency responders. Some are dedicated to feeding the hungry, healing the sick, comforting the sorrowful. Some protect victims and some safeguard the vulnerable. Some look beyond the differences that separate us to see the commonalities that join us.
And, some of these people are closer than you think: your spouse; your family; your friendly neighbour; the shop clerk who smiles while counting out your change; the person who asks you to pray because they also believe in God; the complete stranger who passes you on the street and nods, telling you that you aren’t alone and you aren’t invisible.
So long as there are such people – and that includes you, or you wouldn’t be here tonight – people who resist Darkness, we can have hope for ourselves. Even if all we can do is remember that these things exist, that those people are out there, Fear can’t prevail.
Let’s fight Fear with Hope.
Hope is a vital first step in having faith. Hope is consciously acknowledging potential, and once you recognize potential, the full power of Faith is unleashed. We have to allow ourselves to let go of beliefs that block hope, of thoughts that we don’t deserve better. We deserve to surrender our doubts, to allow ourselves to expect positive outcomes. In the face of disappointment and frustration, we can decide that what’s happening isn’t the end of things, but only one more step on a much longer path. It isn’t necessary to know exactly how a situation can be resolved, just that it will be. We hope in God, we have faith in Him, we must be open to Him showing us His love.
If you have no hope, there’s nothing from which faith can grow. If you do have hope, then you know change is possible. Hope is openness. Hope is confidence. Hope is trusting that things can and will improve. Hope is a light shining in darkness.
There’s no reasonable way to avoid being aware of what’s happening in the world to-day. We need there to be a balance between Good and Evil, Peace and Chaos. When we see the Darkness, we need to remind ourselves there is Light. We do have a choice – to be swallowed by the Darkness, or to light a lamp.
With one lamp, you can lead the whole world.