Pastoral Series

Church Matters: The Shadow of Hope

   We have the great fortune to be able to gather this evening at 7pm to meet and listen to Austin Channing Brown, one of the freshest voices on what ails our society and church I’ve heard in a long time. She explains how dealing with race can be exhausting for everyone, how white privilege but also white guilt are so very unhelpful, and how even “good white people” have a lot of healthy stretching to do.

I love her determination to be part of finding higher ground in our very divided society – and that reminds me how church matters. She speaks of a turning point in her life where a mentor said nine words to her she’s never forgotten or forsaken: “Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.” Everybody grouses about what’s wrong out there, and we find our safe little enclaves where all seems well. But the church can never opt out, the church can never do nothing. We cannot rest until the world looks like God’s kingdom, until love, peace and goodness are real not just for us but for everyone.

Mind you, we dare to dream dreams that are over the top. Many will dismiss us as idealists. Realists are always there to squash your dreams; they always know better and settle for a status quo nobody’s so happy with. Brown talks about what she calls “the shadow of hope,” which for her is “knowing that we may never see the realization of our dreams, and yet still showing up.”

Church people dream of holiness, of compassion, of a society that mirrors God’s goodness, of equity, joy and love. Skeptics scoff. But we still show up. We never give up. Reinhold Niebuhr put it well: “Nothing worth doing can be accomplished in a single lifetime; therefore we are saved by hope.” Hope isn’t passively waiting for pie in the sky. Hope gets busy. Hope gets its hands dirty. Hope shows up. Doing nothing is no longer an option for us.

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