May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
As Paul spoke of the truthful reliability of God’s promise, he knew about a world of fickle deception and betrayal, as do we. The world of advertising, of ideology, of euphemism offers us endless phoniness that coerces and manipulates and invites into a virtual world that has no staying power. Well, here is the news. Out beyond that fickle world there is the world of God’s reliable fidelity, a God who makes and keeps promises, and you can dwell there. As Paul speaks of the God of hope who gives new futures out of love, he knows about a world of despair that traffics in brutality. And so do we. The world of despair believes that there are no new gifts, no fresh generosity, no possibility of newness or forgiveness, and so life becomes a zero-sum game to see who can stay the longest on top of the heap, all the while knowing that there will be no good outcome to the futile rat race. But here is the news. Out beyond that despair that sanctions road rage and violence against the poor and war and ruthless exploitation that leaves one exhausted if not half dead, there is an alternative world bodied in Jesus. It is a world of new gifts and fresh starts grounded in divine forgiveness and sustained by generosity. That world is on offer in this one who is about to be born among us. As Paul envisioned welcome of one another, he knew about a world of exclusion that is grounded in fear and anxiety. And so do we. All around now are barriers and gated and fences that draw lines around gifts and possibilities and resources and access. The lines are drawn closer and closer until all are excluded except the blessed, cunning ones, and even they are left nervous about when the next wall will be built and who will then be excluded. Here is the news. Out beyond the world of exclusion and rejection and hostility, there is on offer a world of welcome that sees the other not as threat or competitor but as cohort on the pilgrimage of humanity. That alternative world of welcome is signed by bread and by wine; but it is known by lives that reach out and touch in order to heal and transform.
God of all hope, we know all too well a world of betrayal despair, exclusion, and conflict. May we live into your alternative world of truth, hope, welcome, and harmony as we trust and follow you. Amen. (Walter Brueggemann, “A way other than our own” pp 84-5)