How would you define hope?
What are symbols or images that speak of hope to you?
In the movie The Sound of Music Julie Andrews sings the song “My Favourite Things”. Some of the words from that song are:
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don't feel so bad.
Having something to cheer us up and give us hope is important.
At this time there are many in our community and world who are finding it hard to hold on to hope. There has been so much change that has been thrust upon us, with new restrictions and changes happening almost on a daily basis. People are fearful.
Unlike other disasters such as the bush fires from last spring and summer we cannot see this thing that is attacking us. We all feel vulnerable, with those in the higher risk categories feeling even more vulnerable. We fear the virus and how it may infect us or our loved ones. We fear the economic consequences as businesses are shut down. We wonder how long it will last and what the world will look like when we come out the other side.
One of the difficulties with this crisis is that we are unable to do some of the things that would normally help us cope with a crisis. We can’t meet up with friends and family, at least not physically. We can’t gather for worship in the way we usually do and be reminded of the presence of God with us.
Some of us may be wondering how do we worship God in these circumstances? Maybe the words of Psalm 137 have become more personal for us as we share a sense of loss the Jewish people felt during exile:
By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
This Psalm like the Ezekiel reading was written after the Babylonian armies had invaded and the city of Jerusalem, the capital city of the Kingdom of Judah. The city and temple was destroyed. Many of its inhabitants were killed and others, (artisans, craftsmen/women and leading citizenry) were forced to move to Babylon. Forced to live in a new land with a foreign culture and foreign language.
In the last few weeks our world has changed so much it feels like we are living in a foreign land. For those who are not so comfortable with technology it may feel as if you are living in a foreign land with a foreign language. We are feeling isolated and separated for life as we knew it has changed.
When the Judeans were first exiled, they were able to hold on to hope and believed that everything would work out well for them (Ezekiel 33.24). But the exiled community’s hope eventually come to an end and hope was lost. Ezekiel’s startling vision is an illustration of the death of hope.
When all hope is gone there is not just dead bodies but dry bones that have been picked clean by vultures and bleached by the sun. At this low point, the word of the Lord sounds out as it did in the beginning, breathing life (Genesis 1.). Even in complete hopelessness the creative power of God is at work to bring hope to life, to turn the piles of dry bones first into skeletons then corpses, before revitalising them and raising them to their feet with life giving breath (v.10).
Hope, like life, comes from God but God does not work alone. God told Ezekiel to say: “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.”
In this time of uncertainty we need to discern and listen for what God would have us say and do. We need prophets both inside and outside the church to speak truth to power, to speak life to death. To offer words of hope and life. Can you share a word of hope or an image of hope for others? This week are you able to handwrite a prayer of hope? Are you able to take a picture (photo) or draw a picture of a symbol of hope? Can you send your prayer or image to someone as a way of speaking hope to them?
Please share with me your words and images of hope with me so we can use them on Easter Sunday as we figure out how we worship, how we sing the Lord’s song in this strange new land.