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Today’s Need for Hope
There is a great need for a sense of hope today.

William Shawcross, in his book “Deliver us from Evil” says that the last decade of the 20th
century has seen the interaction of three benign forces and one malign force. The benign ones
are mercy (as in the work of non-government relief agencies), justice (through the UN) and
human dignity (the increasing concern for human rights). But the malignant force of rampant
greed allied with unprincipled lust for power is seen in so many countries.

Shawcross says that since the end of the Cold War there has been a new kind of conflict
between order and chaos. Technology has made new terrors available. Global alliances
struggle to enforce a kind of peace. We are involved in a war of ideas and passions to which
there are no boundaries. It is this undeclared “war” which led to the events of 11 September.
The benign forces continue to struggle to counteract the chaos but our television viewing
gives us limited confidence in their success.

There is a great need for a sense of hope today.

At home in corporate Australia we have seen a disastrous array of collapses in the last year:
HIH, One Tel, Franklins, Daimaru, Pacific Dunlop, Ansett and Harris Scarfe is still struggling
towards an even keel.

There is a great need for a sense of hope today.

The way our own nation is dividing between rich and poor more effectively every year should
be a cause of concern for every Australian. The problems facing our own state, our level of
unemployment, the incidence of gambling, and the continuing ‘brain drain’ to the eastern
states and overseas must create great anxiety. The recent SA Business Vision 2010 report
about the problems of our population size (and its likely decrease) bring no confidence about
the future of our economy. The rate at which South Australia’s population becomes the most
ageing community on the mainland foreshadows massive problems for our social security
system. The projected drop in school-going children means enormous challenges for our
schools, both state and independent. It was good to read this week of hopeful signs in the SA
economy. But will they last?

There is a great need for a sense of hope today.

I have said some things in my Report to Synod about the way in which religion is posing
increasing difficulties on the international scene. It appears that Europe and Australia

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                Page 1
continue the move toward secularisation while the rest of the world is becoming increasingly
desecularised. Muslim Jihads are just one example of a fundamentalism which has crept into
every major world religion and is causing significant crises.

There is a great need for a sense of hope today.

The churches are amongst many voluntary organisations in the community which are
desperately seeking to increase membership, maintain expensive heritage buildings, and have
a significant service role in the community. At a time when fewer and fewer people are
willing to make long-term commitments, congregations are ageing and diminishing and
financial resources dwindle accordingly.

Hugh MacKay has documented many of the dilemmas facing the mainline churches in this
country. In “Generations: Baby Boomers, Their Parents and Their Children” (1997) he
compares the “Baby Boomers” - those born in the post World War II years - with their
parents of “the lucky generation” - born in the 1920’s - and their children, the “options”
generation born in the 1970’s and since. The “lucky generation” (which probably includes
most of us here tonight) were probably sent to Sunday School but (as MacKay puts it) “grew
up in the years when it seemed safe to jettison their parents’ traditional moral values -
including values rooted in religious faith - in favour of hedonism, materialism, consumerism
and cynicism.” (p 113)

During our adult lives the proportion of Australians attending church once a month or more
has fallen from 35% to 20%. Many of the Baby Boomers are passionate about religion,
including those who have shifted their focus from Christianity to other religions, especially
eastern religions, like Buddhism. In mid-life they sense that there is something missing but
they seek all kinds of new ways of satisfying these yearnings. Materialism is usually pretty
dominant and so things like sex, travel, food, information, and personal growth are the major
foci of most Boomers and their middle-class capacities for indulging them. Physical fitness
and the body beautiful is also a key focus. Says MacKay:

       “Boomers jog for their lives and, like religious zealots of old, seek enlightenment
       through intense self-discipline sometimes amounting almost to self-flagellation.
       (Who said the Boomers were saying “No” to religion?)” (p 120).

The “lucky generation” see the values and institutions they grew up with collapsing and their
children in the melée of divorce. Many are shell-shocked. Hugh MacKay suggests that this
goes some way to explaining the defensive reaction to the boat people and asylum-seekers
upon which the present government has relied. On the other hand, the Baby Boomers are
depressed by the uncertainty of their employment and the challenges to our formerly stable
way of life.

But while the Baby Boomers seem to be noticing that something is missing, their children, the
‘options’ generation, are determined to do their own thing regardless of cost. Those who
cannot cope with the uncertainty tend to move either towards religious fundamentalism for
the security it offers, or to a chaotic lifestyle which leads, in an increasing number of tragic
cases, to nihilism and suicide.

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                  Page 2
And in terms of personal well-being Rita Nakashimo Brock, the feminist theologian, says,
     “to be alive today is to live with pain. For some of us, our pain is the daily
     struggle to survive and to find a safe place to live. Others of us work to lift
     oppressive barriers that silence us and batter us into submission. For those unable
     to hope or to find one sustaining, enabling relationship, a quiet, desolate
     loneliness defines the center of our existence, a center sometimes hidden by
     intense, aimless activity or hollow friendships. To live with our pain without some
     comprehension is to exist in the denial of pain or in the overwhelming, intractable
     presence of it. Both lead to despair.” (Journeys by Heart: p 1).

There is a great need for a sense of hope today.

The recent crises involving the churches, especially matters of sexual misconduct and sexual
abuse, have made life very difficult for some people within and without the church.

Our clergy no longer have the accepted place in society we once enjoyed. Many of us who are
ordained are confused and uncertain about the roles we are expected to play.

For Anglicans there seems to be some crisis in identity in recent decades. The National
Church Life Survey tells us that younger people in the churches no longer have the
denominational allegiances they once had. In the ‘options’ generation this is perfectly
understandable. However, for older Anglicans to be incapable of articulating their faith and
uncertain about their identity is surprising. It has contributed, it seems, to various levels of
anxiety, fear and difficulties in coping with the results of change. All this is depressing to
some and adds to the uncertainty of the age.

The Hope which we espouse
There is a great need for a sense of hope today. Christians are probably in the best place to
offer it.

“Hope” is a primary word in the New Testament appearing throughout, although rare in the
gospels. P S Minear says, “the basis of expectation thus becomes the decisive constituent of
life”. (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, volume 2, p 641)

So hope in the New Testament has an eschatological perspective. It directs us towards the
future and the fulfilment of the promises made by God to us through Jesus Christ.

       “Because hope is God-grounded, God-sustained, and God-directed, hope is a
       reality within which (people) may dwell. Hope is simultaneously the response
       among (God’s) people to (God’s) activity among them.” (p 641)

For Paul, Hope is an expectation expressed in faith, confidence, patience, endurance and
eagerness. Our hope rests upon God’s promise (Rom. 4:17-21). Thus there is only one hope
(Eph. 4:4). And so there is one promise and one calling (Col. 1:23).

The power to hope is given to us by God through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts.
(Rom. 5: 5, 15:13; Gal. 5:5) It is the same as the living, indwelling Christ who is “in you, the

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                  Page 3
hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). As the “first fruits” of the spirit, hope is the assurance of the full
harvest (Rom. 8:23-30; Eph. 1:13).

For Paul hope is closely associated with unshakeable confidence (Rom. 4:18, 5:5), with
rejoicing (Rom. 5:2, 12:12), with steadfast endurance (Rom. 5:4, 8:25, 12:12; 1 Thess. 1:3),
with boldness (2 Cor. 3:12; Phil. 1:20), with freedom (Rom. 8:21; Gal. 5:5) with peace (Rom.
5:1, 12:13; Eph. 2:13 following) and with love (1 Cor. 13:7).

Faith exhibits a confidence which is strengthened, not weakened, by the apparent
impossibility of the promise (Rom. 4:16-25). It thrives on trials and on the experience of
suffering (Rom. 5:1-5, 8:17, 12:12; 2 Cor. 1:3-7). Hope derives its impulse from the victory
over death in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15: 1 Thess. 4). Hope is at
once corporate and personal, both in God and its manifestation in God’s people.

For Luke and Acts hope is quite simply the desire and expectation of the Messiah who will
redeem Israel (Luke 24:21).

In Hebrews those who now constitute the temple, the house of God, now have access through
the veil into the holy of holies (6:19-20). The process of entering is a continuous one - of
moving towards the End as the pilgrim or the runner (11:1-12:3). “things hoped for” are now
behind the veil to be manifested in the coming Day.

So faith is the assurance of things hoped for. This faith is illustrated by a confident and
obedient heart, a courageous and patient endurance - as Abraham showed. It is far removed
from apathy and sluggishness (6:11-18). It is an unwavering confession supported by love and
good works (10:23-12:3). All this is made possible by Jesus Christ who is the pioneer and
perfecter of this faith which is based upon true hope (12:2).

Our hope is expressed clearly in the classic passage from the first letter of Peter read a little
earlier this evening.

       “Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he
       has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
       from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and
       unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God
       through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you
       rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that
       the genuineness of faith - being more precious than gold that, though perishable,
       is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when
       Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even
       though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an
       indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the
       salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1: 3 - 9).

1 Peter has been called “the letter of hope.” It is a letter to Christians in Asia Minor
encouraging them to be patient and ready to endure suffering in times of tribulation. It was
probably written around 64AD and is thought to be a baptismal sermon. Hope, to Peter, is a
mark of rebirth through God’s mercy (1:3). The new life is participation in the resurrection of
Jesus Christ and therefore hope is the power of this life. Birth into hope is birth into an
inheritance which comprises both the coming salvation and their present baptised status as

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                     Page 4
heirs of the kingdom. Hope is both present and future in the same sense that the revelation of
God’s glory is present and future (1:13, 21).

It is an eschatological gift which now enables us to depend wholly on the coming glory (1:13,
20). The source and sustainer of this confident and patient expectancy is God (1:21). Hope is
our way of reverencing Christ as Lord (3:15).

The Christians’ hope not only marks the boundary between former and new life. It also marks
the boundary with and from the world. Hope, in fact, is the issue at stake throughout all
persecution. It is something to be confessed, defended, explained on the witness stand. The
defence which best conforms to the hope employs gentleness, courage, forgiveness and
reverence (3:10-16). As in Paul the prime corollaries of hope are faith, joy, and love (1:3-9).
Hope is that expectation of the coming grace which is manifested by sober obedience and

No one New Testament word is sufficient for expressing the full reality of this marvellous
concept and promise. Christ is the victorious king who promises to those who conquer full
participation in his sovereignty. This promise solicits a loyalty which takes the form of keen
expectancy, of continual wakefulness (Rev 3:2-3; 16:15) and of unwearying patience (Rev
2:2, 19; 3:10). To share in Jesus and his kingdom is inseparable from accepting his affliction
and endurance (1:9). Such endurance is an essential component of faith (13:10; 14:12).

“Thus throughout the Bible, the thought of hope fuses together the reality of God as the
source and goal of expectation and the totality of faith’s response: trust, eagerness, patient
endurance, and joyful assurance.” (Minear, p 643)

G K Chesterton once said, “hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we
know to be desperate.” (Heretics, chapter 12)

Hope is not just the superficial stoicism Chesterton seems to talk about. Nor is it the hope
which springs eternal in the human breast of which Alexander Pope spoke (An Essay on Man,
1: 95). Nor is it summed up in the sixteenth century proverb advising that one should “hope
for the best and prepare for the worst.”

Father Tony Kelly, a Redemptorist priest and theologian from Melbourne, writes:
     “however varied the accounts of hope might be, there are constants in any
     authentic Christian hope. These reduce to two: first of all, the grace, the giveness
     of the mystery of Christ; and secondly, the ever questing, ever unfinished
     thrusting of our lives toward an ultimate wholeness and a final homecoming.”
     (Touching on the Infinite: Explorations in Christian Hope, p 44)

Again he says, (p 3) “it would seem that true hope only becomes possible at the point of
disappointment.” Indeed, as St Paul said (Romans 8: 24) “hope that is seen is not hope”. Hope
only takes place at the point of uncertainty and disappointment.

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                 Page 5
But hope can often come, as a gift of God, to introduce a level of impatience or “divine
discontent” as Kierkegaard expressed it. Moltmann in his “Theology of Hope” develops this,
      “wherever (faith) develops into hope, (it) causes not rest but unrest, not patience
      but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in
      man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin
      to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world,
      for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every
      unfulfilled present.” (p 21)

So those who have found hope “at the point of disappointment” are those who can truly
engender change based upon the vision given to them. The other side of the coin of hope is
unbelief. Moltmann says about that,

       “If faith thus depends on hope for its life, then the sin of unbelief is manifestly
       grounded in hopelessness… The other side of… pride is hopelessness,
       resignation, inertia and melancholy. From this arise the tristesse and frustration
       which fill all living things with the seeds of a sweet decay.” (p 22)

This way madness lies, as Shakespeare put it, and must often be the nihilistic basis for so
much of our youth suicide.

In his later book “The Experiment of Hope” published in 1975 in English, Moltmann
considers a number of areas of life from the point of view of hope as he understands it.

In a powerful essay entitled “Dostoevsky and the Hope of Prisoners” Moltmann speaks of his
own experience in a prisoner of war camp for three years. In that camp he read, “The House
of the Dead”, “Crime and Punishment” and “The Possessed”. He says,
      “(Dostoevsky) showed me how to suffer and to hope in and with the people.”

This was the seedbed for “The Theology of Hope”. But the impulses did not grow out of a
yearning to be released and “go home”. Moltmann says,
      “rather hope came to life as the prisoner accepted his imprisonment, affirmed the
      barbed wire, and in this situation discovered the real human being in himself and
      in others. It was not at his release but even while in prison that the “resurrection
      from the dead” happened for him. Faith inside the “house of the dead” is
      resurrection faith, as Dostoevsky continually emphasises.” (p 88)

So Moltmann suggests that hope is only possible through the cross and resurrection and it has
its realisation in the eschatological dimension of the future.

Nowhere, says Moltmann, is this clearer than in Dostoevsky’s characters from “Crime and
Punishment”, the prostitute Sonia and her love for the murderer Raskolnikov. In her empathy
with the suffering of the criminal and total acceptance without disgust or conditions he is set
free to admit his guilt and to be remade, to be resurrected at the point of ultimate suffering by
her love.

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                   Page 6
Moltmann points out that Dostoevsky is read and understood in historical periods of “extreme
contradictions.” One of these was after World War I where a deep disillusionment about
traditional values and patterns of behaviour followed the brutality, treachery and betrayal of
those years. Again after World War II those who returned from the concentration camps and
the ruins understood Dostoevsky, but
       “as industrialism dominated the external and Existentialism the internal scene,
       Dostoevsky’s influence in Europe and America waned. As the established society
       reacted with increasing anxiety and rigidity to the protesting students’ rediscovery
       of socialism and the rise of left and right sectarian groups, Dostoevsky was

He goes on,
     “I believe that we are standing before a new “hour of Dostoevsky”, for many
     people are becoming inwardly disappointed over short-lived protests and mere
     technocratic reforms. They are struck by the ultimate questions and our sensing of
     the answers may be in religious dimensions. Hopefully they will find a religion
     that will carry on the revolution of man for which they were yearning.” (pp 86-7)

Dostoevsky actually saw human beings imprisoned as a normal human situation. St Paul
would have identified with that. Says Moltmann,
     “to live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that
     above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: “Leave behind all hope, you
     who enter here.”

       I have seen imprisoned men whose last hopes vanished. They lay down, became
       sick, and died. If there is today in our society sickness of youth, but by no means
       limited to youth, it is the sickness of objective and goal. The future becomes dark.
       It is the cold despair in which “nothing really matters” to a person and he or she
       succumbs to the death wish. Acedia, tristesse, or melancholy in the Middle Ages
       was considered one of the deadly sins against the Spirit. “It is not so much sin
       which plunges us into calamity but rather despair” said Chrysostom. Is this not the
       sickness of a society which increasingly eliminates human chances because of its
       cycle of work and profit, control and bureaucracy? Whoever takes away hope
       from a person or a society kills them. Dostoevsky gained an uncommonly clear
       recognition of this in prison.” (p 89)

As Sonia weeps for Raskolnikov and says, “there is no one on earth so unhappy as you”, so
for the first time tears come to his eyes and he finds himself in her. He throws himself at her
feet. She is horrified but he says, “I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all suffering

“He says, “so you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?” She whispers “what would I be without
God?” He says, “and what does God do for you?” she hesitates and whispers “he does
everything for me.””

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                   Page 7
Then Raskolnikov picks up the bible of the old woman he has murdered and asks Sonia to
read the story of the resurrection of Lazarus. Raskolnikov suddenly realises that it is Sonia’s
story. Moltmann says:
      “the harlot stands before the murderer in the place of Christ, as Jesus stood before
      the stinking corpse of Lazarus. Then she accompanies him, through the ordeal of
      confessing his guilt and suffering the punishment, all the way to imprisonment in
      Siberia. And there, what spoke to both of them in that hour of truth is realised:
      resurrection and life.” (p 94)

Says Moltmann,
     “resurrection and new life begin with taking up one’s cross, whatever personal
     humiliation and depravation might be involved in it. This truth of the human God
     and the human person is being lost today where a society or even a revolution
     establishes itself and defends its new order through law and morality, through
     hatred for the state’s enemies and through prisons. Life becomes inhuman; it
     becomes superficial. Work and consumption have the effect of repressing
     suffering, one’s own as well as the others. And when suffering is repressed, so is
     love. Finally with the loss of love, comes the demise of interest in life. One walks
     over dead bodies and one becomes a living corpse. The world is changed into a
     “house of the dead”, where dead relationships turn life into numbness and
     torpidity. The way to resurrection in such a world of dead, inhuman mechanism
     comes only through suffering, the acceptance of boundless suffering, and
     transfiguration brought about by the grace of love and the hope of the unhappy.”
     (p 96)

It may well be that the resurrection hope of the church will only be found in our own day in
our own country when the people of God are prepared to align themselves in prayer, planning
and action with the marginalised, rejected, deeply unhappy, lost and disturbed people of our
current culture. We are called to a sacrificial attitude, understanding and lifestyle. We are
called to die to ourselves that others may live. Only such a commitment can stand against the
hedonism, materialism, consumerism and cynicism in our society today.

I suggest to you, to paraphrase Dag Hammerskjold, that the road to God in the current age lies
not only through the world of action but through the world of sympathy and sacrifice. When
God’s church allows itself to be tied down by fear of risks, by concerns about losing
respectability, by unwillingness to give up ties to social structures allied to power, then we
have little to say to society. Hence we will give little sign of willingness to live a sacrificial
death to these things and little sign of resurrection faith, in example and leadership, in order
that a new culture may be born. From this “point of disappointment” as Tony Kelly puts it, we
can show ourselves willing to embrace a new possibility, a possibility of resurrection. As
Kelly says,
       “without radical and ultimate hope, we will find that in the end we have nothing to
       say to an agonising world… the ultimate question is always there. There would be
       no liberation for anyone if there was no hope for the martyrs who laid down their
       lives in their service of the great human causes, if there was no hope for the
       millions who died before the cause of justice could be served.” (p28)

It is generally said that more Christians have died for their faith in the 20th century than in all
previous nineteen centuries put together. If this is true then the seedbed of the church in the
blood of the martyrs has surely been planted. The question is - will we follow their example,
remembering the Greek word for martyr really means “witness”? Perhaps only if we can, will
we find again true direction and commitment.

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                     Page 8
What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of life. - Emil Brunner.

Other men see only a hopeless end, but a Christian rejoices in an endless hope. - Gilbert M

The very disillusionment of today is the raw material of the Christian hope. - James S

              Hope leads everything.
              For faith only sees what is.
              But hope sees what will be.
              Charity only loves what is.
              But hope loves what will be –
              In time and for all eternity.
                         Charles Péguy

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                              Page 9
From Moltmann: The Experiment of Hope, pp 186 – 7

In (the 1960’s) hope became visible as that which makes human life vital. Whereas other
living creatures are hopelessly sacrificed to a situation of no exit, man can set over against it a
liberating power - hope. If the hope which is sustaining him dies, he also succumbs to an
internal catastrophe. Philosophical reflection on the categories future and possibility create a
new understanding of being as history. The key factor in medieval theology and sacramental
life of the church was the supernatural reality of love. The Reformation shifted the focus to
the power of faith and the congregation. When we come to the peculiar trends of modern
times, we speak of securlarization, emancipation, and enlightenment. But why did Kant
believe that religion is supposed to answer the fundamental question, What may I hope for? In
former epochs one did not approach religion with this question. The development of the
theological doctrine of hope (eschatology) allowed us finally to take hold of the third
dimension of Christianity. Only with the beginning of modern times did the primacy of hope
seem to alternate with the primacy of faith and love. It was not explicitly the Christian hope
which first appeared. Rather the modern primacy of hope appeared most distinctly in political
messianism, the Enlightenment exodus from the constraint of tradition, and the enthusiasm of
that spirit which no longer needed any mediation to God.

It became all the more urgent, then, after the rediscovery of biblical eschatology at the
beginning of the twentieth century, to develop systematically a theology of hope. Grounded in
the biblical promissory history and directed toward the promised kingdom, the Christian hope
could then become responsible amid the revolutions and the repressions of the modern world.
The recent theological reflection on this responsible hope works self-consciously out of three
historical situations: firstly and immediately in the various movements of the sixties, secondly
and more comprehensively in the modern history of freedom following the Reformation and
medieval periods, and finally and most basically in the originating events of the Bible’s
promissory history which has called Judaism and Christianity into being and which must
determine their life.

The theme hope and the future is therefore not a momentary theme or a passing fashion. It is
the essential theme of Christian faith and of that love which in the modern context and today
more than ever has to be worked out. The centrality of this theme comes into focus as one
sees theology seizing on one fad after another. In order to indicate what the learning of hope
means for Christianity, we can turn to Franz Rosenzweig:

       If love was quite feminine, and faith very masculine, it is only hope that is ever
       childlike; in Christianity the commandment to “be as children” begins to be
       fulfilled only in it. … Faith and love, the old forces, are integrated into hope.
       From the child’s sense of hope they derive new strength, so as to renew their
       youth “like the eagles.”

       Rosenzweig: The Star of Redemption, transl. William W Hallo, p 284.

Pastoral Address, Thursday, 23 May 2002                                                    Page 10

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