Rev'd Rory Redmayne
At the present time I might well say, “I do hope that I won’t get CoVid 19." An entirely understandable hope! The question is, ‘what is that hope based on?’ For me it is not about any expectation of divine intervention. Nor does it come out of any thought of statistical probability. For me, my hope that I will avoid contracting CoVId 19 is largely about human effort. I hope that I will remain well because I am largely confined to my home bubble (including not seeing my children and grandchildren) and I am confident others in my community (supermarket workers and the like) are taking careful hygiene precautions.
But this sort of hope, while perfectly valid as a wish for my life and well-being, has little to do with Christianity. The Christian hope is something quite different, something more vital even than my hope of physical survival from CoVid 19. In the New Testament, mentions of hope most usually refer to the confident expectation that life continues beyond physical death.
Jesus himself clearly believed in life after death. He had a debate with the Sadduccees, for whom the thought of life after death was an absurd idea. Jesus’ final argument came from the Jewish Pentateuch (the most holy books of the Jewish Bible). Quoting Exodus 3:6, he said, … as for the dead being raised have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush how Go said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God Abraham”? He is the God not of the dead, but the living…“. (Mark 12:26). Jesus’ point was that as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were physically dead long before Moses met God at the burning bush, there must be life after death if God can say, “I am” (present tense) “the God of Abraham etc”.
St Paul too has a very clear faith that spiritual life continues beyond our physical death. Chapter 15 of the first letter to the Corinthians lays out his firm on the matter, including this most biting of comments: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”, (1 Corinthians 15:29). For Paul “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”, (Hebrews 11:1). So, although he can’t see the living departed, he has the conviction that his hope in eternal life is not without foundation.
So, in conclusion, both the aspirations I have named above are worthy of hope: a) the hope that I won’t succumb to CoVid 19 because my community and I are taking sensible precautions and b) the greater Christian hope that spiritual life will continue beyond this physical life, primarily because that is taken as the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus and because this was the experience and reasoned position of people of the Bible and countless Christian theologians down the ages.
Be built up in hope in the days ahead – and beyond!
Rory Redmayne – Associate Priest – April 2020