Week 3: To See All the Stars
in Our Own Sky
Reflection 1 (Sunday)
Blessed is she who believed that there would be
a fulfillment of what was spoken to her.
—Luke 1:45, NRSV
A seed in the ground. A flame in the darkness. A hand outstretched. A child in the womb. Hope starts small and overtakes us, stretching the borders of what we have known.
One “yes” to an angel, and Mary becomes a revolutionary. The child is hardly noticeable in her womb when she arrives at the home of her kinswoman Elizabeth, but the transformation is written all over her face, and Elizabeth instantly intuits what has happened. She blesses Mary for her hope, for her radical belief that God will fulfill the promise made by Gabriel. Elizabeth, pregnant in her advanced years, knows the power of hope. She, too, carries it in her womb.
Her ears ringing with Elizabeth’s blessing, Mary pours out a song, a cry of hope that echoes the one raised by her foremother Hannah after giving birth to Samuel. The powerful brought down from their thrones! The lowly raised up! The hungry filled with good things! The rich sent away empty! But Mary sings about these things as though they have already happened! A tiny child in her womb, and God has transformed the world? What sort of outrageous hope is this?
Mary knows in her soul, in her womb, that radical hope is found at the boundary where the outrageous gives way to the possible. A child given to her aged kinswoman? The courage to say yes to Gabriel’s invitation to her, an unwed woman? Well, then God might as well have turned the world into one where all things are possible! Even justice. Even freedom.
Mary knows that some things are so outrageous that sometimes we have to talk about them as if they have already happened in order to believe they could ever come about. And so if we believe that God has brought justice to the world, we live that justice, and we share in making the world more just. If we believe that God has brought healing to the world, we live that healing, and we share in making the world more whole.
Hope starts small, even as a seed in the womb, but it feeds on outrageous possibilities. It beckons us to step out with the belief that the action we take will not only bear fruit but that in taking it, we have already made a difference in the world. God invites us, like Mary, to open to God’s radical leading, to step out with sometimes inexplicable faith, trusting that we will find sustenance. “Hope,” writes W. Paul Jones in Trumpet at Full Moon, “is the simple trust that God has not forgotten the recipe for manna.” The hope of God contains the promise that we will be fed, even if we never see the fruit of our hope-filled actions.
There are some things I have learned about hope in recent years. It is deeper than wishful thinking. It is bigger than a specific outcome. It does not depend entirely on the evidence at hand. It is stubborn. It is not something I can summon all on my own but instead comes as a grace that meets me even—and especially—in my weariness or anger or sorrow. I cannot manufacture hope, but I can practice it, open myself to it, notice it when, like manna, it arrives.
I have learned that hope has a wonderfully strange relationship with time. It is not strictly linear but has the power to enable us, like Mary in her Magnificat, to imagine a world in which God's restoring work has already happened, and to participate in bringing that world about.
What have you learned about hope? How does it live in you? Are there particular ways you practice hope? How does it enable you to imagine and envision and engage? When it is joyous or when it seems hardly possible, who helps you to hope?
Guardian of the seasons,
keeper of every time,
tune us so to your rhythms
that we may know
the occasion for stillness
and the moment for action.
May we be so prepared
in our waiting
that when you prompt us
our hands may be your hands
and our purposes