Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope...in the gospel

Already at 3 am this morning, busloads of people were circling RFK stadium in Washington, DC, looking for parking near the Capitol Building where they hope to be part of the standing room only crowd of thousands - maybe millions - to watch our next president take his oath of office. It's been a long time since Washington has witnessed such electric excitement. Why? Because - whether you're one of them or not - millions around the world see in Barak Obama a future of hope: hope for those caught in the cycle of inner city poverty, hope for those who grow up fatherless, hope for those who find themselves subtly marginalized because of the color of their skin or the ethnic origin of the name they bear. For millions on the margins, Barak Obama's presidency, which begins today, waves a banner of hope.

At the end of the day, though, such hope is only transitory. Hope for a life and world beyond poverty, instability and racism is a good thing. We should all hope for the increasing eradication of such blights in our world over the next four years. At the same time, many of the most wealthy, best eductated and most 'ethnically accepted' people in America are equally without hope today. The fact that suicide rates among the rich and enfranchised in our world greatly outstrip those of poor minorities should not be lost on us. It reminds us that the hope the human heart most longs for will not be found in healthcare reform, a renewed economy or the end of bigotry. The best America we can envision is not ultimately worth hoping in.

What, then, is? In Galatians 5:5 Paul tells us. "For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness." Such righteousness - right standing with a holy God - cannot be gained through our efforts or built by our strength. Peter tells us the source of righteousness which gives us true hope: "For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteousness for the unrighteous, to bring us to God...." (I Peter 3:18)

As I write this, thousands are packing the Capital Mall, frenetic with excitement over a new leader in whom they've found hope. But at best their hopes will be only momentarily and superficially realized. At worst they will be dashed against the promises which a human sinner like themselves could never fulfill. True hope is not found in Washington. It's not found in Barak Obama, John McCain or any politician. It's found in Jesus - the One Who died to make our righteous standing with God the Father possible - not just on this Inauguration Day but forever. Our hope is found in the gospel.