Sunday, April 20, 2014

Celebrating Hope

Today is Easter Sunday, and it has different meanings to different people. The practice of coloring, hiding, and finding Easter eggs seems to be an ongoing custom that is likely to be observed, and enjoyed, today in most homes with small children.
Some other Easter activities, though, definitely seem to be a thing of the past. Easter Sunday used to be a time for wearing new clothes and even a time for women to wear new hats.
Remember the Irving Berlin song “Easter Parade”? In the 1948 musical by the same name, Fred Astaire sings, “Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet / And of the girl, I'm taking to the Easter Parade.”
I wonder how long it has been since any of you ladies reading this has worn an Easter bonnet—and how long it has been, if ever, that any of you has been to an Easter Parade.
I am currently reading “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (2011) by Martin Thielen, a Methodist pastor in Tennessee: In spite of its tongue-in-cheek title, it is quite a good book. Chapter 17 is titled “Jesus’ Resurrection: Is There Hope?” and I found it quite thought-provoking.
From time to time (like on 4/10), I write about movies I have seen. The chapter just mentioned begins with the author talking about a significant movie he had seen: “Cast Away” (2000). June and I just watched for the first time this month after reading about it in Rev. Thielen’s book. Perhaps many of you have seen that intriguing film starring Tom Hanks.
In the movie, Hanks is Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island after the airplane he was on crashed in the South Pacific. Alone there on the island he opened many of the FedEx packages that washed up on shore. But he keeps one unopened.
He even takes the unopened package with him on the raft when he leaves the island after four long years there by himself—and still has it when he is finally rescued.
At the end of the movie, he takes the unopened FedEx package to return it to its sender. But no one is at home. So he leaves the package at the door with a note saying that the package saved his life.
There is no reason given in the movie why Chuck would write that on the package. Thielen’s interpretation is that the package represented hope.
Thielen goes on to write about “The Shawshank Redemption,” another meaningful movie I have seen a couple of times. It, too, is about hope. But one of the inmates in the brutal state penitentiary is quite negative about it. He exclaims, “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”
Those words remind me of a paragraph in State of Wonder (2011), an excellent novel by Ann Patchett. A wife whose husband is presumably dead, exclaims,
Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don’t know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it’s not. It’s a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it (p. 43).
There is such a thing as false hope. And people don’t always get what they hope for. Nevertheless, there is also well-grounded and well-founded hope. That’s what we have in Easter.
Thielen is correct when he contends that “hope is what the resurrection of Jesus Christ is all about.”
Happy Easter! And may today be, truly, a celebration of hope.


  1. Actually it is humanly impossible to live without hope. We are the animal that hopes.

    Happy Easter to you, too, Leroy!

    1. Thus the power of Dante's haunting words at the entrance to Hell: "Abandon all hope, you who enter here" ("Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate").

  2. There was a wonderful YouTube video a decade or so back hope. "Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is HOPE!" For both of the others spring from Hope and are snuffed out without Hope.

  3. Yesterday afternoon Thinking Friend John Tim Carr in California wrote,

    "We love the expression of 'HOPE," and only with our Lord & Savior do we have what you called, 'well-grounded and well-founded hope.'"

  4. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson wrote,

    "A searching blog, Leroy. I think Martin Thielen was once one of my students at Southern Seminary; he had a sharp mind."

    1. After posting the blog article in which I mentioned Thielen, I found out that he graduated with an M.Div. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1982 and then left the Southern Baptist Convention in 1994 because of his disagreement with the way women were being treated.