Our stories from Scripture are a powerful means for speaking healing into a world that often feels devoid of hope.
In the midst of our current socio-political disarray, I’ve been reflecting on the two creation stories in Genesis, for instance. The Hebrew writers have God speaking creative power, beauty and definitive order into what they considered to be formless darkness and chaos before the world began.
It got me thinking about the writers themselves. What were they possibly experiencing in their own lives as they wrote down these age-old stories?
It is believed the book of Genesis was written over the course of five centuries and completed shortly after the Babylonian exile. Upon completion, these writers would have been rather familiar with war, dread, trauma, terror and heartache.
Much like ours, their world must have felt like it was spinning out of control. Yet these writers grounded themselves in their unlimited trust in God. They sought to change the narrative. They did not let fear win out and overwhelm.
The entire book of Ruth is another example of trust in God’s redemptive love. Early on in Genesis, Abraham and his nephew Lot decide to part ways. Abraham’s call to lead a nation of people into a new covenantal relationship with God, therefore, had a bumpy start from the get-go.
Then generations later, Ruth, a Moabite, marries Boaz, an Israelite. Sure enough, Moabites just so happened to be descendants of Lot. In this amazing story of familial reunion, God is never mentioned. Nonetheless, God’s hand is evident throughout its entirety. When interpreting life, love and the complexities of their own often brutal realities, the writers of Scripture turned toward hope.
Within the book of Psalms there are indeed hymns of despair and lament, yet there are those bursting with optimism and expectation. Prophets like Jeremiah spoke harsh words of judgment into the world, yet the book’s writers then overlaid dreams of future prosperity for God’s people (see Jeremiah 29:11).
While underfoot and controlled by Roman occupation, the writers of Revelation and our four Gospels concluded their stories with an overwhelming sense of optimism. “Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!” they proclaimed.
Yes, there are stories of God’s people struggling to contend with ruling empires and tyrannical kings in our Scriptures. Yes, some stories consequently come off as disparaging on the surface. Yet underneath, if we peel back the layers, we see how our ancient writers chose not to dwell on death and foreboding for long. They were faithful in their belief that God restores and they acted upon their faith. They assure us that God is working to redeem our world now and into the future.
Motivational author Wayne Dyer once said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” If we want our world to change, we need to change our narrative from one of dread to that which exemplifies and proclaims God’s grace-filled resurrection promises in Christ.
To speak a word of hope into our context — to acknowledge chaos as being preliminary to God creating and making all things new — is to take part in God’s restorative work.
To be hopeful is an ancient spiritual practice. It is an art form. It is one we would do well to hold and rehearse in the form of sacred ritual and the act of creating inclusive, loving space for each other.
To be hopeful is subversive and revolutionary in our time and context. The healing of our world can only begin if we, too, start writing, noticing, loving and proclaiming the beauty of God's hand in the world.
The Rev. Stacey Siebrasse is the pastor at First English Lutheran Church. Watch her chat about faith and society with her colleagues on their new program, “Another Voice.” Archived episodes can be streamed online at https://comm7tv.viebit.com.
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