Hope is much more than mere optimism: that is the lesson of faith and that is why Lent is the Season of Opportunity.
Optimism, that feeling, view of life, that everything will work out well and that things can only get better and we have a right to expect everything to go well. That view of life offers a fraudulent certainty. Lent presents us with the God-given opportunity to recognise true Christian Hope, which is different from optimism.
Hope, true Christian Hope, is based on the vision that we want to be with God who is already with us in the love we experience; but that love gives us a vision of peace, fulfilment, security that we experience here and now but also teaches us to trust in God. That trust is the essence of faith – the vision. In other words, we live in what by tradition we call, ‘the Hope of Heaven’.
It was the late Lord Jonathan Sacks, who made the distinction between Optimism and Hope. Lord Sacks, as Chief Rabbi, said that the history of the European Jewish community in the twentieth century meant that they could not be optimistic, but they lived in Hope. Without that Hope in God, their community could not have continued. Their experience taught them that things do not always just turn out well, but that God is faithful to his people and Hope in God and in God’s faithfulness leads us into a new reality.
That is the Hope that makes Lent the season of opportunity. That is the Hope that in Lent 2021 gives to each one of us the opportunity to embrace our own new reality. In tiny, trivial ways, giving up biscuits for instance. Amidst all that we have been denied, had to give up in these past months, during Lent, as we reach for the biscuit tin, reflect on the many people who have found themselves at food banks for the first time in their lives.
Take that thought and that reflection into bible reading, prayer, and Zoom worship. Listen, read, the scriptures assigned for these weeks of Lent. Notice the optimism of the disciples from the mount of Transfiguration to the glory of Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday they felt, they knew, they were on the winning side, but that soon proved to be false optimism.
The desolation of Holy Week and the tomb, but God’s faithfulness, Jesus, with us in the desolation, there is Hope. Hope of the glory of light and life on Easter Day. The new reality that God is with us but the excitement that we can be with God, God who is love.
Hope lives. The scriptures teach us that, as our communities reflect on the need for food banks, a more just and equitable society must be our hope of the new reality. The Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah, the prophets, that justice, peace, security are God’s yearning for us all.
During Lent, there are many opportunities online, in books, in conversations with those leading our congregations, for us all to reflect on scripture in prayer. Seize the opportunity to embrace the new reality, the journey to and with God, offered this Lent. To bring to ourselves, to share with others, the Easter new reality of Hope that is eternal.
I wish you all a happy and Holy Lent.
Glasgow and Galloway