The word "hope" has been occurring everywhere in print and electronic publications from newspapers to TV and radio newscasts, even to sermon series.
A sharp downturn in world economics, which has resulted in a downturn in business with lay-offs and increasing unemployment here in Indiana, across the country and around the world may be directly responsible for us seeing the word "hope" more often these days.
In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama called for an end to vitriol in the political process, declaring that Americans chose "hope over fear [and] unity of purpose over conflict and discord."
In the midst of a national economic collapse in the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spiced his speech with "hope." He proclaimed, "We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon."
In light of the emancipation of slaves, Abraham Lincoln wrote to Congress in 1862, "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."
A century later, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood."
Centuries earlier Saint Augustine put a different twist on the word when in dire times he said, "Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be." These words resonate with today.
Saint Thomas Aquinas came close to a biblical definition of hope when he wrote, "Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand."
Hope is nothing new to our tradition. We believers just need to brush the word off when things go sour and remind ourselves that hope in something is only secondary to hope alone, if we are to see our way out of distressing times.
In an online Web search at www.americanbible.com, "hope" is listed in 176 Bible verses. The Apostle Paul uses the word more than 40 times in his letters to the early church.
Through advice like: "Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying" (Romans 12:12) he gave early followers of Christ encouragement to continue to follow in the ways that lead to life eternal.
The writer of Hebrews proclaimed: "Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see" (Hebrews 11:1).
Our faith tradition is abundant in hope and in the ultimate hope of faith in Christ. We can overcome if we persevere, if we put more emphasis on the intangible aspects of life and less on the tangible.
The abundance of hope is around us and written into the pages of Together this month. You will experience:
- The hope of imprisoned women put into making bed nets to lower the risk of malaria in Africa,
- The hope of a new conference as Hoosier United Methodists step into the future with faith to make a difference in Indiana and around the world,
- The hope of North Indiana volunteers who build bunk beds for Pine Creek campers,
- The hope of Evansville youth who serve the less fortunate in summer camp projects,
- The hope of a newly crowned Miss America from Indiana with focus on community service,
- The hope of UMCOR to meet a 10-ton challenge for churches to use free-trade coffee,
- The hope Africa University students to continue their education despite a failing economy,
- The hope of Gaza civilians to survive their present crisis, and
- The hope LaGrange United Methodists place in filling backpacks for school kids.
We will overcome our present economic condition with a rearranging of values. In the meantime, read these stories of hope and share your stories of hope with others.
Daniel R. Gangler