Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Finding Hope

Tuesdays in the Chapel at MIT is a new weekly morning period of reflection and meditation led by members of the chaplaincy and the MIT community. These are the words of the Chaplain to the Institute, Robert M. Randolph.

Thoughts for the day:

Romans: 8:38 and 39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any thing else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As a Christian this text is a concise statement of what often gets me through the day. I believe that in the presence of death and when overwhelmed by the challenges of life, God remains with me/us. We cannot be separated from the love and care of God. The loss of family members, the deaths of good friends- I have done a memorial service a month this year and often more than one- the loss of jobs, declining savings, hopelessness is not surprising. Graduation in June, usually the most hopeful of moments, was marked by the anxiety of those who had not found jobs.

Yet I have been shocked by the hopelessness that has translated into anger and incivility in our country as people have attacked one another at town meetings and vilified our elected leaders in ways that would have been unthinkable in recent memory. The radical left seems to have been not as creative as they thought. Alfred E. Neuman as President does not hold a candle to our President being likened to Hitler.

As we go into fall many for good reason feel despair. Religious people are not unfamiliar with that emotion. Think for a moment of the Israelites on the edge of the wilderness, the Christian community pre-Easter morning. Christianity grew out of a hopeless situation. The Easter experience is the experience of finding hope in the most dire of circumstance. The Christian response shaped the world. In Paul’s words in 2nd Cor. 4:8 “We are afflicted in everyway but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed…
Christians believe that Jesus conquered death; therefore there is nothing the world can do to us that can destroy hope. So it is a paradox that those claiming to wear the name of Jesus, find their hope in anger that pits friend against friend rather than in dialogue that allows for conversation and compromise. Peter Gomes likes to say that Christian hope is less about Jesus than it is about us. If Jesus has taken the sting of death away, how are we to live? And for Jesus I do not think the answer to that question is that we are to live as mean-spirited, frightened, foolish folk who wear side-arms to demonstrate that we are not afraid.
Christians know that death is not the end of the story; they learned that their struggles ere not the end of the story. So too with us. We live in this moment called to make a better world, to heal its broken places so that our children and their children will not inherit fear, but the hope of problems solved and good will triumphant. Peace is possible; do not listen to those who say we must always give into our fears. Reform in health care is doable; the economy can be reborn. As a child I grew up knowing the fear of the stranger who did not look like me; I was taught to fear those who were of different color from my family , those who talked differently were to be avoided. Time and hard work has changed that world; there is no reason why the problems we face will not respond the hard work of reasonable men and women. This is God’s work and God is at work with us in remaking our world.

Let us pray: God give us courage as we face the challenges of our time; give us hope that will sustain us.

Hear our prayer.

Robert M. Randolph