Lent: Living the Questions (5) What Hope Is There?
Sometimes life feels like the branches of a tree in winter: barren, empty, cold, hopeless. You feel powerless. There’s the appearance of scarcity.
When life seems like a barren winter branch, it can feel like things will be that way, forever. But trees teach us to wait a little longer, to watch and see what unexpected things will happen next. One week, you’ll notice little buds beginning to form. Wait a little longer, and you will notice gloriously small and translucent leaves beginning to emerge. By the end of summer, the tree will have been transformed into a canopy of green.
Trees are wise teachers. They remind us that new life appears in seemingly barren places. When viewed from the perspective of a tree, hope is the most sensible thing in the universe.
Trees teach us about hope, and so does the Bible. “Can these bones live?” God asked Ezekiel once in a vision. “Only you know”, Ezekiel replied. “Speak to the bones, Ezekiel. Call them to life. Call to the breath of the four winds to fill them.” As Ezekiel spoke, an entire valley of dry bones came to life.
In response, God spoke directly to the bones, “I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! … I’ll breathe my life into you and you will live.”
It’s as if God was saying to Ezekiel, “It doesn’t matter whether you have hope for your people. What matters is that I have hope for your people. Where you see perpetual, endless death, I see life. Speak not from your perspective. Speak from mine.”
Can we find hope, and even faith, when we are sitting in a valley of dry bones? When we are lost within a copse of winter trees? When we are grieving over something loved, something lost?
Fear can make it hard to hope. What if we are disappointed again? Paired with this question, hope can feel like a dangerous thing. Cynicism can make it hard to hope. What if it’s all a pile of wishful thinking? Paired to this question, hope can feel like a foolish thing.
Yet Ezekiel’s dry bones and winter’s barren trees remind us that things are not always as they seem. In the midst of damage, violence, decay, death, and barrenness, might God, the Lord of Life itself, be growing something from within the barrenness that we cannot yet conceive of or imagine? Paired with this question, hope rises up like a bird in flight.
God doesn’t ask us to believe the situation will get better. God simply asks us to believe in God’s capacity to generate abundance, even in a valley of dry bones.
I end with this prayer from Richard Rohr’s Sunday morning blog:
“Life upends us. We face divorce or miscarriages, financial struggles or job insecurity, and the people we love are tossed about by disease or loneliness or homelessness or addiction.
We are afraid. We don’t have adequate answers. And sometimes we can’t find You. Or, we can’t find the person we hoped You would be.
May we learn to trust that You aren’t asleep on the job. That You haven’t forgotten us. That You are as near to us as our very breath. Give us the courage to press on. To suffer with hope that You have overcome the world.
May again and again we be awed by Your presence. That even when we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom, may we recognize we have fallen into Your arms because there is no place so deep or so dark or so scary that Your presence cannot reach.”
Deep peace and blessing,
Rev. Anne Baxter Smith
Pastor, Church at Southpoint
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Matt 21:1-11 Arrive by 10:00 am to help welcome Jesus!
Readings for Maundy Thursday
Will I Let You In?
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Good Friday Stations of the Cross
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Do I dare believe?
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At Southpoint, it all begins with God’s love. Just as a plant grows, it receives sunshine, so we grow as we receive God’s love. At Southpoint, we are growing in our capacity to love God, ourselves, one another, and creation.
We seek to be a community of grace that is intentional yet organic, spacious yet authentic, grace-filled yet accountable. * We are fully welcoming. *
We encourage relationships rather than run programs, yet we recognize the importance of intentionality and structure as we nurture life together.
As a community, we seek to put our love in action. We value helping out on Sunday mornings, sharing food, and showing up in hard times. We keep our church life simple so folk have time to build relationships with family, friends, and neighbours. We encourage folk to serve in tangible ways within the wider community. We rent space rather than own a building, allowing us to do more with less, supporting missions at home and abroad.
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