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Reflections on Hope

When I was young, I spent a lot of time on different lakes and spent time in boats fishing.  I was fascinated by the anchors of various shapes and sizes.  My father would tell me to hold the anchor until he gave me the signal to toss it overboard.  Once overboard, the anchor held to the lake bottom and our drifting ceased.  I remember one fishing trip when the rope wasn’t tied to the anchor and it was thrown overboard.  Oh well.  Needless to say, that fishing trip we drifted around and didn’t catch many fish. There’s a certain feeling of uneasiness in drifting in contrast to being held secure by an anchor.  One time, we drifted into the reeds and had to dig our way out of them.

When I went to seminary, my uncle gave me a small pamphlet called Saints, Signs and Symbols.  In it I found a picture of an anchor.  I didn’t realize at the time but the anchor had been a Christian symbol for hope since the time of St. Paul.  I also realized the top cross bar of the anchor, making it a type of cross.  For Paul, hope was part of the big three of faith, hope and love (I Cor. 13).  The writer of Hebrews (Ch. 6) realized that We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.

Hope anchors us in God.  Of course unlike that day in the boat, we need to make sure we’re connected to the anchor.  Christ grounds us like an anchor grounds a boat and keeps it from drifting.   In my study this week, I reflected on the word, hope, and how different the biblical meaning of the word is from our modern English understanding to the point that we risk that we may not understand what hope is at all.

Hope in modern English has a connotation of crossing our fingers, hoping for a specific outcome to be realized, but with a void of certainty, living with feelings of chance that things might come out all right.  Little do we know in our day that the crossed fingers comes from the Greek Orthodox practice of making the X in the Greek meaning Christ.  So when we cross our fingers, we’re actually invoking Christ in prayer.  I find it sad that symbols and practices of our heritage have become so watered down and lost through time.

Hope for the Hebrew, such as David, the Psalmist (Ps.71:5) who writes, “For you are my hope…,” comes from a word meaning “a place of collecting” or “reservoir.”  Texas ranchers know how important tanks are for a reservoir of water for livestock.  So not only is God our reservoir but also a source of certainty and assurance that this reservoir won’t dry up.  In God, there is certainty to the outcome even if we don’t have the full picture.  We can expect for God to be involved in the outcome.  God imagines, speaks and creates into being.  We too can imagine along with God remaining anchored in the reservoir of his presence imagining along with him not only how God will act but how God will act through us.  This is a far cry from our common understanding of hope as a maybe, as in maybe it will happen and maybe it won’t.   In this way hope is not future based something we wish turns out all right in the end.  Hope is something we are anchored in now—in this present moment waiting for God to continue to stabilize and create with and through us.  It’s all kind of exciting really.

This is why I asked for you to email me with how God is using your imagination to create new ways of moving through this COVID-19 challenge.  God is navigating the way for us.  Share with others how the Spirit is moving you through the sea of change.  Remain tied to your anchor else you drift aimlessly.  In hope, we act with great boldness (2 Cor 3).

Amen.

Fr. Mark

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