Let me talk to you about a steeple and an editorial I’ve dipped into this week. Welcome to my world of random objects that someone connects in my mind—first, the editorial. There is an organization called the Institute For Advanced Studies in Culture that has a website called The Hedgehog Review. I like to go there from time to time because it offers critical reflections on contemporary culture that I find insightful. Their Fall Journal is on the theme of hope, and the cover displays artwork from George Frederic Watts, whose painting is entitled with the same theme. In the Editorial, the author quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 1959 sermon, Shattered Dreams, where the civil rights leader describes Watt’s painting as that which “depicts Hope seated atop our planet, but her head is sadly bowed, and her fingers are plucking one unbroken harp string.” King asked, “Who has not had to face the agony of blasted hopes and shattered dreams?” Here is what stood out to me from the editorial —
Infinite hope, hope against hope, is nothing less than what the great Christian thinker Søren Kierkegaard understood as authentic hope. By contrast with worldly hopes that focus on transitory goods such as success and happiness, authentic hope is nothing less than the will to live in faithful relation to the ideal of eternal and unchanging Good. To live without such hope, the Sage of Copenhagen held, is not only to live in despair but to abandon the task of becoming a self, a true individual. The great danger of our time is the loss of such hope.
The editorial ends by stating, "hope may be the most demanding virtue — and, in our time, the one in greatest need.” What do you think about the sentiment that “the greatest danger of our time is the loss of such hope?” Let’s put aside for the moment that it seems like everyone is telling us what the greatest danger of our time is. Interact with the thought that the loss of hope is one of those dangers in our time. Do you feel that? Do you sense them from your neighbors, colleagues, fellow students, and family? This could be a great conversation starter with people about their sense of hope these days. Let’s say you get into that conversation, and someone shares the sentiment that hope is dangerously lost these days. And let’s say they ask you where hope can be found. What would you say?
Now, let me talk to you about a steeple. On the way to church on Sunday, as I approached the Lowry Hill Tunnel on 94, the steeple on the United Methodist, which I see every time I go through the tunnel, stood out to me for whatever reason. When I saw it, while practicing safe driving skills, of course, I instinctively looked up. I am not a church architecturalist or the son of one, but from what I can gather, the intention of church steeples is to direct the attention of the one who gazes at it to look up. The gathered worshipper is not simply looking up at the sky, though. She is symbolically looking up at the one who made the sky. She is looking up to the one who answers the query of where hope can be found. Hope is found in the triune Godhead! The steeple calls the worshipper to look up and beyond himself — to look up and beyond her circumstances — to the one who is the very ground of our hope. Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He remains faithful forever (Psalm145:5-6). Do we live in an age of lost hope? I guess the answer depends on where you are looking.
Jubilee, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope (Rom 15:13)…even in the seeming age of lost hope!