I don’t get many calls to do handyman stuff for friends or family. But when I do, I often bring a roll of duct tape with me. You never know when it might come in handy for holding things together.
And these days, “holding things together” is about as much as some of us can say about our lives.
This is a time for believers to renew their hope. I don’t mean the mere wish that things would return to normal. I don’t mean mere everything’s-going-to-be-okay optimism. I mean hope — Christian hope, biblical hope, what theologians call eschatological hope. It’s living in the present with our imaginations bathed in the anticipation of a promised, glorious future.
Truth be told, we don’t think much about hope when things are going well. Life seems to be what we make of it, much of it under our conscious control. Who needs hope when everything seems just peachy?
And then, suddenly, the world seems to turn upside-down.
In reality, it’s the same old broken world we’ve always lived in, a world desperately in need of healing and redemption. Intellectually, many of us acknowledge that Yes, yes, the world is broken, isn’t that terrible? But day to day, we pay little attention to that brokenness when we’re protected by economic and social privilege. Only when something happens to threaten our way of life do we begin searching for hope.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to make light of the many and various struggles we and our families and communities have had to face in the wake of pandemic. But hope was a daily struggle for many before the pandemic — even among our brothers and sisters in faith — and will continue to be after the threat passes into the vague shadows of memory.
We, the church, must live in hope, whatever the circumstances, whether things go well or ill. We must live in the certainty that the life we see is not the only life there is, that the world reported in the news is not the whole story of the world in which we live. We must live in the assurance that these bodies of ours, susceptible as they are to disease and infection, are not the only bodies we will ever have. Resurrection awaits. Glory awaits. An eternal home with our loving Father awaits, in a renewed creation where death and pain and sorrow and every kind of virus are all banished.
Meanwhile, what? We still live in this world, and it doesn’t help for us to be, as the saying goes, “so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good.” Our biblical hope is not in an eventual escape from this world to “someplace better.” Rather, our hope is in the anticipation that our bodies and our world will one day be what they were meant to be. All things will be made new, not swapped out for an entirely different model in another place.
But there’s more: if we’re to be true to our calling, we must take firm hold of the fact that we are already made new. The future can be glimpsed in the present. The divine work of restoration has already begun, and we are summoned to be part of it. How? By living in newness. By living in hope. By showing what it means to not give in to hell-in-a-handbasket fear.
And to do this, we need both the Holy Spirit and each other. We were not meant to hold hope alone. We may not be able to gather together for worship. We may not be able to join hands as we pray. But we can still worship, and we can still pray — and we can reach out to one another in whatever way we can, virtually.
It’s not everything, but it’s not nothing. Get creative. Find ways to serve one another, to pass on the virus of hope.
Because when it comes to right down to it, we were meant to hold it together.