I don’t have the time or the energy to work through the entire Old Testament to prove it, but somewhere in the synapses of my mind there is a tidbit of information that says that every time a prophet declares God’s judgment, there follows a word of hope. There is always the promise of restoration. There is always the assurance of a faithful remnant. There is always hope, which in this day and age of fear-mongering, might be the most prophetic word of all.
Hope is Paul’s prophetic word to the Christians in Rome in this Sunday’s New Testament lesson. Despite what appears to be some minor persecution and perhaps more significant infighting between Jewish and Gentile Christians, Paul uses this second to last chapter of his letter to encourage the fledgling Church. To the Jewish converts, he notes that the Old Testament Law, though brought to its perfection in the Law of Christ and no longer necessary, was written “for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”
To the Gentiles, he offers the assurance of inclusion in God’s Kingdom, “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”
And to the whole church, in 1st century Rome, 21st century America, and everywhere in between, he offers the blessing of hope, “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.”
Christians are a people of hope. We take seriously the idea that God’s plan is good and perfect. We believe that the moral arc of the universe is bent toward justice. And we work tirelessly, oftentimes without much success, alongside God to bring about the future that has been promised. We do so because we have hope. In a world that oftentimes feels hopeless, or as our Presiding Bishop is fond of saying, “the nightmare this world often is,” we stand for hope, we believe in God’s dream, and we work to show God’s love. Hope is the work and the word of the prophets.