The reality of God's new order seems stubbornly insistent on its own terms. That is, God's new thing—both then and now—breaks into the world as we know it, disrupts the status quo, disturbs the peace that is no peace, and reminds us that another world is possible here and now.

God's movement is, in short, an interruption. For those who walk in darkness, it is a flash of light. It catches the eye, you might say. Like a picture of hope.

God always makes the first move. To know the God of the Bible is to trust the God who created everything out of nothing, not because more was needed to somehow complete the circle, but simply because it pleased God. There's nothing necessary about our existence, just as there's nothing we can do to force God's movement in the world. God always makes the first move. Faithful action, then, is always a response.

So, if you're a bishop of the church in the turmoil of the fourth century, there's nothing you can do to guarantee the future of the church. And if you're a passionate, thoughtful person at the beginning of the twenty-first century, eager to sort out the big questions about God and life, there's nowhere you can go to start figuring everything out for sure. However strong our desire, however fervent our initiative, it's never enough. God always makes the first move. The Spirit blows where it will. When it does, it often blows our minds.

But after you've been knocked off your feet—after the Spirit has hovered over the chaos of your life and hurled you forward into a future beyond the limits of your vision—the questions are still there. God's interruption doesn't answer our questions. It doesn't erase them either. It leaves us, rather, with a photo album full of pictures of hope.

This is where theology begins. An album full of pictures before us, we begin to sort out the reasons for the hope that has been stirred up within us. "Keep asking the big questions," God whispers. But don't start with your own frustrations and disappointment …. Start with the places where hope emerged. Start with Israel in Egypt, with shepherds near Bethlehem, with people breaking bread in Emmaus, with monks in the desert, with little communities off the radar where something new is stirring. Start here, and ask, "What's going on?" Ask where God is moving and receive that first move as an invitation to you, an invitation to respond. All the living and thinking, acting and reflecting that follows is what makes for a faithful life.

Taken from The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Copyright © 2012 by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Use by permission of Zondervan.

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The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith
The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith
224 pp., 23.79
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