A very dear friend recently gave me a beautiful ceramic piece made of 4 letters: H O P E and as I've looked at it that word has been on my mind a lot.
Right now hope is hard to find in the world of the dispossessed, bereaved and devastated people of Japan, following the earthquake, tsunami and radiation leaks.
It's also nearly impossible to find for those who have lost a loved one to illness or accident, or face an uncertain future themselves with a terminal condition.
As the bills get higher and jobs get fewer, many are finding hope hard to hold onto.
Our communities (and often churches) are full of people who've got to the place of no hope, where relationships have unexpectedly shattered, and when even those closest to them have let them down and broken their hearts. If we're honest, most of us have been in a place where there seems to be no hope. Depression grips us when we feel the mistakes and messes we've made are too big and too un-fixable, the problems too complex.
2000 years ago another small community lost hope too. Their Saviour and Messiah, who'd they'd believed would lead their nation to victory against the Roman oppressors and corrupt establishment was gone. Their Teacher, Advisor, Confidant… and Friend was now dead and with His crucifixion their hope died too.
To the disciples the past three years now seemed like a dream at best, a waste of time at worst.
The truths His Voice had spoken into their hearts were now hazy and surreal. All they felt was emptiness and fear.
Can we truthfully say we'd have been any different?
When adversity or tragedy comes, either nipping at our heels or devouring us totally, is our humanity able to overcome the beast that threatens to destroy every grain of hope we possess?
Honestly, I have to say 'no'… my own human capacity for being an overcomer is at best limited, and closer to useless. Any strength or tenacity I have is weak and flawed in the face of overwhelming odds.
Yet, it's at these times, when we are strangely blessed with the recognition of our own weakness, that the Voice of Hope calls to us. It brings with it glimpses of brightness, flickers of strength that are just enough to believe it's not the end of the road for us. I'm only one of millions who've experienced this, and one particular person comes to mind…
Mary Magdalene came to the garden tomb on the first Easter morning (John 20: 11-18). Her hope seemed to be lost, the Voice of her Master, Teacher and Friend distant and gone for ever. He had been the One who'd saved her from the empty life she'd led before, where she'd known what is was like to be trapped by sin and hopelessness.
Through her tears she mumbled to the 'gardener', but really she was lost in her own pain. Was she really going to have to go back to a life she used to have before Jesus… with no hope?
Then it came… the Voice of Hope.
Not addressing the crowds as so many times before…
But speaking HER name… "Mary".
Even though she didn't totally understand what was happening, even though the Bible says she only managed to reply with one word, 'Teacher'… it didn't matter - she'd heard the Lord's Voice that brought HOPE back into her life!
And she didn't keep it to herself!
She shared the hope with those who were still hopeless… that Jesus is ALIVE forever, and we can be too!
That Voice still calls our individual names, just as He did in that garden...He sees just where we are and that we are struggling with our own pitiful resources.
That Voice still brings hope of a future, not without its problems, but with His help, His life in us, and His hope.
Are you SURE that you have your place booked in Heaven? Read this if you're not!