That’s the title of one of Kate Atkinson’s novels. As I write this, recent world events invite the same response. I for one find it a challenge to respond with the ‘good news’ of the Gospel when faced with the apparently intractable conflicts or indeed the individual grief in the lives of friends.
Yesterday’s reading from Romans 8 explores the same question as Paul talks about the ‘groaning of creation as it waits to be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’. The point of hope is that we hope for what we can’t yet see – or it wouldn’t be hope. Being human, I do appreciate having some evidence that things can improve. In my lifetime I have seen an end to segregation laws in America and the end of apartheid in South Africa. Injustice and discrimination have not gone but two great institutional wrongs have been abolished. It is hard, however, to believe that some of the great and longstanding hostilities in the world will ever be resolved, far less in my lifetime.
Vaclav Havel said: Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.
The Brazilian theologian Ruben Alvez says this:
“What is hope? It is the viewpoint that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks. It is the suspicion that the overwhelming brutality of fact that oppresses and represses us, is not the last word. It is the hunch that reality is more complex than the realists want us to believe – that the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual – and that, in a miraculous and unexpected way, life is preparing the creative events which will open the way to freedom and to resurrection… So, let us plant dates, even though we who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see.”
Back to Romans 8. Paul’s thought is summed up in the post communion prayer in our 1982 liturgy. ‘Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us so we and all your children shall be free and the whole earth live to praise your name.’