Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling. Ephesians 4:4
“Hope is a dangerous thing.” Shawshank Redemption.
Each Advent and Lent, I read one book a week. I have begun my Advent reading with Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. I’m enjoying the book as it takes me through her neighborhood on the southside of Chicago, where I too was born. She talks about Chicago winters and owning way too much wool! But when she talks about having a snow shovel in the trunk of the car, I knew she is a real Chicagoan!
Michelle Obama tells the story of interviewing for admissions to Princeton. The admissions counselor tells Michelle that she is not sure that Michelle is Princeton material. Michelle writes, “Failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result. And for me, it felt like that’s exactly what she was planting. A suggestion of failure long before I would even try to succeed.” Of course, Michelle would go on to be a student at Princeton and graduate at the top of her class. She would go on to Harvard law school as well.
The concept that failure is an idea before it becomes actualized, strikes me. This is not a book about false positivism or Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. Becoming is about growing up as an African American woman surrounded by assumptions our culture has regarding what is possible for a black child, and the role family plays to combat these false expectations. If failure begins as an idea, so can hope. Michelle shares how hope pushes her and challenges her to take risks and follow the paths into the unknown to reap the fruits of a life with impact.
If the field of your life is experiencing dry spots, perhaps Advent is the time to plant seeds of hope. Sessions can use Advent to regenerate the corporate imagination and dream new dreams for the church. As Chris Keating said in his Advent sermon on Sunday at Woodlawn Chapel, “Advent is the time we contemplate the nature and audacity of hope.” It is an inclusive waiting for a radical hope.
This is the work of the church. We are the place where the idea of hope is planted and the fruit of hope is actualized. The church of the resurrection- God’s ultimate statement of hope- is what the world needs. May each of us and our congregations do the work of spreading hope this Advent season.
Rev. Craig M. Howard