Lesson 11: Hope 2

Bob’s comment makes a wonderful summary:

“The nexus between faith, love, and hope is exemplified by the phrase “what we will be has not yet been revealed.” It is not fully spelled out, but our faith assures us that we will be what God wants us to be, and since he is a loving God, this will a wonderful experience that we probably cannot even envision now. It is an idea or concept that cannot be fit into simple rational or logical explanations.”

Paul certainly agrees when he says we see hope in a mirror darkly. He does promise this includes love and glory (I Corinthians 13: 12, 13 and II Corinthians 3: 18). John says much the same when he speaks of an eternal life he characterizes by unconditional love. He uses Jesus sharing meals with and sacrificing himself for his friends as examples.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke teach us to pray, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done”. They claim we can already enter this kingdom, if we repent and believe the good news of the Gospel (Mark 1: 14, 15). However, when Jesus is asked to explain what this entails, he tells stories that maintain the mystery rather than definitions that limit our imagination.

Those parables acknowledge the present Kingdom (Luke 17: 20, 21) might be small and even hidden, but promise it will grow until it includes all creation (Mark 4: 30-33). Jesus speaks of separating the good from the bad, but this has more to do with making all right than restricting salvation. He promises God will save large numbers. Even people we do not associate with Christ will come from far away to eat in the Kingdom (Luke 13: 29).

This will take place, because God wants to restore the goodness of his creation (Luke 12: 32). Jesus’ healings and exorcisms are signs he has begun.
To share this hope demands a change in our thinking, a repentance or rebirth. The Kingdom does not operate on conventional values. The first shall be last, and the last first. It is always marked by a justice that includes special care for the needy and the poor. All shall be made right; all shall have enough (Matthew 20: 1-16).

Our hope is not for purity, but love. Last night one of our small groups read a short story that pictured the Buddhist Pure Land where people enjoyed music without playing instruments, food without eating, and love without sex. In contrast, Christian hope includes playing, tasting, and sharing. The goal is not to separate from other people, but rather to live in the right relationship with them–and God. Jesus likes to picture it as a great wedding feast when he and his people will be united like husband and wife (Luke 14: 15-24). In fact, we even proclaim God as Trinity who by nature enjoys loving relationships.

Of course, the way we prepare for what we hope is to live in love as much as possible today. Next week we’ll examine what that means.

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