If you listen to the Weather Channel, which is all I seem to do of late, adjectives have taken over the scientific forecasting of weather. The next hurricane, Michael, is perhaps more fear-inducing than Florence. Beyond the terms to which we have grown numb; such as “storm surge” and “eyewall”, we listen for increasing hyperbolic adjectives to modify the strength and category of the storm. For example, Michael is a “massive Hurricane,” a “strong Category 4”, a “dangerous storm,” and a “deadly formation.” Fear is traded like currency, like bitcoin or the dollar. The more alarming the fear, the higher the value of fear becomes. Fear takes on a priority greater than preparation. The greater the fear laced images; the more hopeless and helpless people become. Fear paralyzes and distorts reality. On a good day, fear can cripple an individual’s ability to respond rationally to stressful situations. Imagine what happens when you’re told non-stop, on channel after channel, the world is about to end, one adjective at a time? People stay where they shouldn’t, they place themselves in the path of deadly storm surges, they risk their lives and the lives of their family because the ability to be rational died the moment fear became the dominant metaphor in explaining nature.
When push comes to shove, the church has no adjectives. The more adjectives we use the more watered down our message becomes. We are not like the Weather Channel or the broadcast meteorologists. We have one word, “hope” and there are no adjectives for hope. All we have is hope. There is no “massive” hope, “firm” hope, “dangerous” hope, “awesome” hope, “abundant” hope, or “living” hope. Hope need not be modified. Hope is hope. Hope is enough. Hope is what gets you through concentration camps. Hope brings victims and oppressors to the same table in a Truth and Reconciliation process. Hope is not wishful thinking. Hope is Christian living.
Hope is not easy. Two massive hurricanes in a month’s time do not offer hope. Encountering the empty tomb was not a hopeful experience. Had Jesus’ body been stolen? Before there was hope, there was fear and doubt. Living into the Resurrection challenges the very notion of hope. Our hope grows from the darkness of Easter Sunday morning. Hope begins to take shape in the Resurrection even before we’ve arrived at the grave. God has gone ahead of us, in the darkness, amid the ruined remains of our flooded lives to start resurrecting Hope.
We don’t find hope on our own. Hope finds us. Hope dwells, grows, and is nurtured in community. Through our Baptism, we are brought into a community orientated toward hope. A compass always points north. We always look toward hope. A hopeful community is the antidote toward fear being traded on the open market.
Be safe, evacuate when told, and live hope.
Richard Lowell Bryant