Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. - Psalm 42:11
The other afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to see a hummingbird hovering outside the side window of the parsonage’s enclosed porch. Later, I surmised that this little ball of energy was a Magnificent hummingbird (yes, that’s a real hummingbird name!). As far as I’m concerned, they’re all magnificent.
Anyway, this tiny being helicoptered in front of and insistently pecked at the window to the porch. What she saw that seemed worthy of her attention, I’ll never know. But how my spirits soared to see such an incredible creature at close range.
Later, she showed up at the front porch near the petunias in one of the planters, pretty as you please. Again, it was such a delight to see her. It made my heart race. Why?
Aside from delight and wonder, my little feathered friend symbolizes hope.
Poet Emily Dickinson wrote in part:
'Hope' is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops-at all- …
Throughout the biblical narrative, hope has been the thing that despots and evil-doers have tried most to quell in God’s people. In Ezekiel 37, God says to the prophet, “11 … Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again.” One can only imagine the hope Ezekiel’s words from God gave to the people of Israel.
And to think that God planned to use their “graves of exile” as a means of their rising again! It’s hard to escape the similarity from that of Jesus’ death and being laid in a grave in order that he might rise again. God uses the elemental stuff of life and death to fashion a new thing, be it a new identity, a new order, or a new way of life. It happens in that liminal space between believing that all hope is gone and rising again.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, “Just as a man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope.” In fact, dreams and hope belong together. Two seemingly feathery things that the powers and principalities of today sneer at and ridicule while at the same time try their level best to destroy.
In our country alone, we have enough people who have been on the outside looking in for far, far too long. Is this the time when their graves of exile will at last be open for them to rise again? Furthermore, as the privileged, will we welcome this and actually give them a helping hand to experience the fullness of human dignity meant to be afforded all of God’s children?
No matter who we are at this juncture in time, we all could use a good dose of hope. Those who have suffered wrongfully need to hold on to hope so they can realize their dream of full personhood, justice, and equality. Those who suffer from the pandemic to achieve healing. Those who are unemployed to receive employment. The hopes and dreams of these and so many more hinge on the God of hope.
So, I leave you with Paul’s words to give you hope in the times ahead:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in God, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13