Easter Hope Is an Action
Easter dawns; the tomb is empty. The women rush to tell the other disciples that Jesus has risen. Then He comes to them on the road, in the workplace, in the upper room. The hope this experience inspired in Jesus’ followers powerfully reverberates into our lives this Easter Week.
So what does it mean to hope?
In Kittel’s Theological Dictionary, Rudolf Bultmann summarizes our common understanding of Easter hope: “If hope is fixed on God, it embraces at once the three elements of expectation of the future, trust, and the patience of waiting.” (Vol. II, p. 531)
But hope is not only patiently waiting and trusting in the future. It is an action. Indeed, in the Gospels, hope is only used in its verb form. If Jesus’ disciples had lived their hope by patiently waiting, none of us would know of, and embrace, Jesus as Lord now thousands of years later.
For those things over which we have no control, no possibility of impact, trusting in God and patiently waiting is the way in which we must hope. But in this beautiful world, given to us by God’s grace alone, we have infinite ways to make an impact and so, as God’s arms and legs in this world, we are compelled to act on our hopes. We create God’s Realm here and now, where we are, among ourselves, and invite all we meet to join in. That’s exactly what the disciples did starting on Easter.
Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr, Honorably Retired Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PCUSA, embodies this way of living by putting one’s hopes into action. Like millions of others, Janie hopes for a day when our nation and our church will recognize the loving relationships of every couple, equally and without judgment. So when she is asked to preside at the wedding of a lesbian or gay couple, and their love, faithful commitment and mutual support for one another shine forth, Janie acts out her hope and says yes.
Now, for a second time, colleagues in the PCUSA have accused her of offending the church constitution by presiding at these weddings, even when it was legal in her state, California, to do so. For a second time, she must face a trial for embodying Jesus’ love for all the faithful and for her hopeful vision for a more loving future.
What sustains a person like Janie Spahr? As Jesus says in John 12:32, “When I am lifted up, I shall draw all people to myself.” There is awesome trust in Janie Spahr that God’s loving Will shall be done, but there is no patient waiting in her. She knows that Easter hope is a verb, and that God sets before us infinite opportunities to act. May we, this Eastertide, hope like Janie Spahr.