I don’t recall the 1st time I heard the word apologetics. But I assume I had to be at least a little bit older. No high school maybe even college. Apologetics is or at least has become, a study or a defense of faith, like proof for the existence of God for, for the reality of Jesus. There are books and books on the subject to make a reasoned argument for one’s faith. And one of the reasons given that it needs to be done comes right here, in the middle of chapter 3. You probably focused on the first half… But, right there in verse 15, always be ready to make You are a defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you. This verse has been Interpreted that the only defense that we have or that we can give is to prove the reality of God through there’s science history As if God needs defending and as if that is what the question was. I think there are a lot of folks out there who were expecting to be asked all the time to prove why they believe, like as kids, we thought we’d be on fire all the time as we got older, given how often we were told to stop drop and roll. Hope actually seems to have become an afterthought instead of the reason and people rarely ask why someone believes. I was never good at apologetics.
When I was in high school, my church would take us on work mission trips. We painted a lot of buildings, installed one bathroom, and built a footbridge, and, when we had gone through all the work they thought we would do in a week in just a couple of days, we painted some more. Sometimes we were in cities, one time a church camp–that was the footbridge. But unlike in our normal lives, this time, folks asked questions. “Who are these kids?” and “Why are you here doing this?” And we probably responded with, “Jesus sent us.” We were also not very good Evangelists.
There are good ways and there are bad ways to do mission trips and we tried very hard to make sure we were doing it in a way that might be good. but I think a mission trip down well it’s one that kind of like the story we heard 2 weeks ago about the butterflies Under the hats that made that maybe if there’s just a little remnant a little change a little bit of hope that it might Be enough to build upon.
I think hope can be really complicated, misunderstood, and easily lost and easily lost. Sometimes hope can get wrapped up in optimism and sometimes it can get wrapped up in denial. Sometimes hope can be confused with this thing called Toxic positivity, That is best summed up as this image where the world is on fire but you just decide everything’s fine. Toxic positive activity pushes down all of the negative emotions and tells people that everything will be fine and will work out or that other people have it way worse.
Of course, one might look around and see the trouble and not fall into AM blind positivity and instead fall into despair.
This excerpt from Benjamin and Rosamund Zander’s book, “The Art of Possibility,”
A monastery has fallen on hard times. It was once part of a great order, which, as a result of religious persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, lost all its branches. It was decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the mother house: the Abbot and four others, all of whom were over seventy. Clearly it was a dying order.
Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery was a little hut that the Rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. One day, it occurred to the Abbot to visit the hermitage to see if the Rabbi could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot and commiserated. “I know how it is,” he said, “the spirit has gone out of people. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the old Rabbi and the old Abbot wept together, and they read parts of the Torah and spoke quietly of deep things.
Hopelessness can feel overwhelming. Hopelessness comes when we are so overwhelmed by what is happening around us that we can’t see where the next step might be. Hopelessness comes when it feels like we’re only going to fail again and only going to fail Always. Hopelessness can come out of pain and anger and anger and leave us feeling helpless.
Toxic positivity says everything is great while denying the reality of the world. Optimism says everything will be ok, even in the midst of the current reality. Hope says there is something greater than this reality, this moment. For some, It might be truth. It might be family, it might be community, It might be God. For 1 Peter, it was resurrection, Resurrection life resurrection living, resurrection community.
While I was in seminary, one of my professor’s daughters died of Hodgkins Lymphoma. She was 19. He told the story that when they were at the doctor and they Heard that the treatments hadn’t worked the way they That they wanted them to, She held her dad’s hand and said “it’s OK I believe in the resurrection, So either way I have life.” I don’t think this is the statement of somebody in denial of the reality of what Awaited her, but a statement of faith that there is something bigger and something beyond and something mysterious, Something that brings life In situations that might seem hopeless.
Hope is not platitudes or promises that it will get better. And hope is not optimism that things will all work out in the end. Hope Is a deep belief that either way will have life. That God, that this power, that the mystery of the universe is calling and bringing life even in the darkest situations. When the churches of Peter’s time were facing persecution and abuse. When we are facing our sickness or our own mortality. When we are looking out at a world where the values of the powerful seem to be in conflict with the lives of the vulnerable. When we noticed that our religious institutions are not unlike the monastery in our story and we have failed to learn how to tell our story well, how to live it in the world, failed to explain our hope, and we live in fear, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, that is when we need hope, real hope, the most.
Our story of the monks isn’t over…
The time came when the Abbot had to leave. They embraced. “It has been wonderful being with you,” said the Abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose for coming. Have you no piece of advice that might save the monastery?” “No, I am sorry,” the Rabbi responded, “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”
When the other monks heard the Rabbi’s words, they wondered what possible significance they might have. “The Messiah is one of us? One of us, here, at the monastery? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Of course – it must be the Abbot, who has been our leader for so long. On the other hand, he might have meant me. Of course he didn’t mean me – yet supposing he did? Oh lord, not me! I couldn’t mean that much to you, could I?”
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the Messiah. And on the off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, people occasionally came to visit the monastery, to picnic or to wander along old paths, most of which lead to the dilapidated chapel. They sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that surrounded the five old monks, permeating the atmosphere. They began to come more frequently, bringing their friends, and their friends brought friends. Some of the younger men who came to visit began to engage in conversation with the monks. After a while, one asked if he might join. Then another, and another. Within a few years, the monastery became once again a thriving order, and – thanks to the Rabbi’s gift – a vibrant, authentic community of light and love for the whole realm.
That 1st Peter’s hope, found in resurrection life, hope is found in new life in Jesus, who was raised to show us that death is not the end, that we need not be lost in despair. AND a community that lives in that lives in resurrection hope is a community that embodies hope to each other–lives resurrection. That is the point he is trying to make about wives submitting to their husbands–it isn’t about the act of submitting it is about living well and treating each other with respect. As if each person is the beloved child of God, made and god’s image, and vital to the community. Recognizing each other as siblings. Treating yourself as a blessing. And it isn’t just how we treat each other but how we treat all of creation. That the sun and the moon and each creature is are siblings and the beloved creation of God as well.
It is counter to this world, to embrace the diversity of creation, from those of us gathered here and each creature and plant, as beloved and family. To have hope in a world that generally offers fear. To offer hope of that inside each of us that there is something more, something beyond, something that is bringing life in times of darkness and death. Living in resurrection hope, that either way, any way, there is life, may cause folks to ask questions, not to create a reasoned argument but to tell the story of hope, new life, resurrection living found in Christ and in the community of believers that follow Christ’s way.
It means being honest with ourselves and vulnerable with each other. It’s recognizing when the house is on fire and knowing you need to ask for help. And here’s the thing about the church is being able to trust that someone will show up with a bucket And water. Or a lasagna or look after your kids for an afternoon or just sit on the porch and be there. Looking out and caring for each other as one of the ways that we should reveal hope and new life in the world around us.
Resurrection living is kin-dom living. It is living in community with intention and respect. It is living in community in a way that each and every person is named and called sibling as well as beloved. It is recognizing in ourselves and in each other the resurrection life, And hope and caring for each other.
May that be the answer, may embody it for each other when one of us has lost the and can’t find the next step. May we embody it in the world, and tell the story of hope.