By Rev Mercia Malcolm
Hope can sometimes seem to be in short supply in a world of bad news. We are living through times of recession. We hear concerns over obesity, even in children. We read constant reports of violence and conflict in many parts of the world. We have to put up with the endless bad weather our part of the world seems to supply. We perhaps must endure tragedies, both personal and national. It can seem as if we are for ever bombarded with depressing realities.
But when such things seem overwhelming I sometimes remember one of the Charlie Brown cartoons which was a kind of oblique comment on the true source of hope. The cartoons feature the daily ups and downs of the young Charlie Brown and his friends along with his dog, Snoopy. The author of the cartoons, Charles Schulz, was a Christian who deliberately used them to sneak theological ideas in under the radar.
Snoopy the dog sometimes stands as a kind of Christ figure, or perhaps a ‘holy fool’. In one such cartoon Schulz has Snoopy dancing along with great abandon, ears flying and exuberant joy pouring from him. As they observe this, the world weary Lucy comments to Charlie Brown, ‘Floods, fire and famine, doom, defeat and despair! I guess it’s no use. (Sigh) Nothing seems to disturb him!’
I don’t think Schulz means that we should not be disturbed by sorrow or tragedy or suffering in the world. But Snoopy’s joyful display is intended to point to a deep contentment in God and a joy in the gift of life which will not be shaken even by harsh external circumstances or difficult times. It is this trust in the goodness of God and of his will for us that is at the heart of the gospel message. God’s grace is there for us at all times and in all circumstances and when we know his love in our lives we can hold on to that whatever comes.
There’s a story of a black American preacher who kept repeating this refrain throughout his sermon: ‘Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming!’ It is a reminder of the Easter story that is the source of all Christian hope. Gethsemene and the Cross take us to the depths of despair. But Easter Day is the central fact that restores our hope and changes everything. We may be living through some tough Fridays. But the Easter story promises us that Sunday will always come. Because Jesus is alive, even in a world of bad news, we have hope in the grace and mercy of God.
Of course holding on to hope is still not always easy. But Easter Day says to us that doom, defeat and despair can never be the end of the story.
God is the one who changed the greatest apparent defeat to the greatest triumph. And God is the one who has promised never to leave us or forsake us.
So let’s hold onto the hope that can set our feet dancing even in the midst of struggle and difficulty.
Christian hope is not dependent on circumstances. It is rooted in God who promises that in the end, ‘all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’
Trusting in the God who made those promises and made them good in the resurrection of Jesus is the one true source of both hope and joy.