The Reverend Christine McSpadden looks at hope against hope and says at this Easter time "we glimpse the eternal in us and in our world".
Isaiah 53: 6-12; Romans 4:13-25
At the opening of his memoir, entitled Blood and Oil, Iranian Prince Manucher Farmanfarmaian describes the surreal dread of sitting over his tea
awaiting the news that he has been called up as a traitor by Ayatollah Khomeini.
An ancient Persian story plays in his mind as he waits: A minister, tied to a pillar, awaits his execution by the caliph's soldiers. Asked if he
has a last wish, he requests to be moved to the next pillar. Just as he is being untied, news arrives that the caliph has been overthrown, and
instead of having his throat cut, the minister is freed.
A popular wisdom-saying proceeds from this story, "From this pillar to the next, one can hope."
Hoping against hope.
In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul describes our ancestor Abraham hoping against hope over, and over, again: Hoping for the promised land, like
all those longing for deliverance into a better life. Hoping for a child, like all those longing to be fruitful. Hoping for respite, like all those
living in turmoil and fear. Hoping for communion with God, like all those longing to love, and to be loved—truly, utterly, deeply.
Hoping against hope, Abraham trusts, and waits on that for which he yearns. He trusts in God's Word even though all he can see suggests
If you have been in church these past weeks, you have just journeyed through Holy Week to arrive at Easter. Here at this cathedral we passed
together through the moments of Jesus’ Passion and death: his entrance into Jerusalem with a fanfare of hosannas shouted by thousands in
Paternoster Square; to betrayal in an Upper Room; to the death march unto Calvary; to Jesus breathing his last on the cross.
We journeyed from pillar to pillar, hoping against hope that the crowd would come to its senses, that authorities would stop hiding behind the
rules, that God would intervene with a mighty hand to stop the run-away madness of a bloodthirsty mob.
And when all seemed lost, and the debris from shattered dreams hemmed in hope with insurmountable stumbling blocks, a giant stone was rolled away,
and an empty tomb fulfilled the promise that resounded from the foundation of the world.
He is risen!
Ushering in an Easter faith, grounded in the Already—that which God has accomplished in Jesus Christ through the resurrection, and anticipating the
Not Yet—the time we inhabit now in which all things are moving to full consummation.
But, as yet, things are not perfected. Indeed they are painfully pock-marked with human frailty and failing. They are woefully laden with a longing
that there is more.
And so we wait.
Yet as an Easter people with an Easter faith, we are not sitting over our tea in dread. We, too, have a story to play in our head. Our waiting in
hope has content and it has vitality. It has content, in what God has already done. It has vitality, by moving toward what God is in the process of
Ours is an active hope then. It waits in tension, open for what it might encounter, always at the ready to receive the work that God is doing - a
pulsing force toward growth and opportunity, toward love and new life.
God's promise is based in, and issues forth from, divine fidelity. Even now, we glimpse the eternal in us and in our world. We experience it in
moments of joy and in bursts of creativity. We sense it in clarity of conscience and in times of tranquillity with ourselves. We feel it in the
dissonance of brokenness and in the ecstasy of love.
Ever, hoping against hope!