BLOG 11.12.19


In one of the darkest moments of ancient Israel’s history, they were captive to the Babylonian Empire as a huge colony of exiles. It was to the exiles in all of their despair and hopelessness that God spoke to them through the prophet Jeremiah, these words: “I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, … a future and a hope, …” (Jeremiah 29:11).

It was said by a wonderful Christian writer that we need to understand that the tragic is at the heart of our human experience because of our rebellion against God. Yet, even in the midst of that tragic and hopelessness there comes this note of grace. All of us within the family of God are called ‘aliens and exiles,’ and live in the context of the very evident brokenness and often hopelessness of this present sojourn. The evidences are everywhere: 78 million refugees, homelessness, world hunger, injustices in many forms, from hopeless poverty to obscene wealth, racial prejudice, vast humanitarian violations, environmental exploitation, global warming, all kinds of questionable political shenanigans, homelessness, and lurking hopelessness in so many forms.

But the promises of God from the outset are that God has a plan, a hopeful and redemptive plan, which will unfold over the ages (promises to Abraham, and to David, and the prophets). In the midst of so much that defied hope there was always that note that God would inaugurate a whole new creation through the agency of his anointed Son/Messiah. Thus, the huge note of hope in the forthcoming Advent/Christmas celebration. In Christ, the already-but-not-yet Kingdom of God would be inaugurated, and would ultimately be manifested to every nation.

Yet, you may protest, the tragic still persists. Yes, but not without hope. Jesus reconciles us to God by his blood, gives us new life by the Spirit, and encourages us and fills us with hope which hope will be consummated when Jesus has put all his enemies under his feet at the end of the age. Meanwhile, each of us is called to live our daily lives as stewards, or of the incarnation of God’s new humanity in Christ, to be light in the darkness, to be agents of God’s future and the great hope which that brings with it, practitioners of God’s new creation in the whole new lifestyle and ethic of that new creation.

“The God of hope fills us with all joy and peace in believing, hope by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) And that hope will consummate as God’s future more invades our present.

… for starts (and expressed all to inadequately I confess.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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