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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

4 September 2019: Sylvia Roberts, St Peter's Church, Petersfield

Hope in a world of doubt

Are you finding it difficult to be positive, optimistic and hopeful at the moment? The political situation nationally and internationally seems to produce ever more “Shock! Horror!” headlines daily, and argument and discord are everywhere. So I was pleased to come across an article by the theologian Walter Brueggemann which I share with you today. The initial heading caught my eye and lifted my spirits.

HOPE IS THE REFUSAL TO LET OUR LIVES BE DEFINED BY THE PRESENT WORLD ARRANGEMENT.

Brueggemann then goes on: “God’s promises concern social, bodily, this-worldly well-being. There is nothing like “generic religion” to distort our understanding of biblical hope. In “generic religion” (thoughts and prayers!) it is supposed that “faith” concerns the well being of our souls and that we are at best headed for “heaven” as a land of eternity. None of that however is central to biblical hope. Instead the promises of God speak of the “kingdom of God” which means the world arranged according to the purposes of God. That is why we pray that God’s kingdom will come “on earth as it is in heaven.” That promised coming arrangement of the world is:

“Jesus summoned his disciples to live differently as though the new kingdom arrangement was already in effect and to live in contradiction to the way the world seems to be without being under any illusion about how the world actually is. That means we refuse the exclusionary practices of the present world and enact hospitality that is a mark of the new kingdom. We refuse the parsimony of the present world and enact generosity that is a mark of the coming world. We refuse the thirst for vengeance that is all around us and enact forgiveness that is a mark of the coming kingdom of God.”

Hope is spirit-led imagination that refuses what we can see for the sake of “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven” which is (after all) how our Lord taught us to pray.

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