Faith, hope and love in Passover and Easter
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
As is my daily routine, I entered the coffee shop for my usual caffeine fix. My thoughts were elsewhere, however.
With the Jewish feast of Passover and the pre-Easter Christian Holy Week upon us, I was trying to get my head and heart around the relationship among the three pivotal virtues of faith, hope and love.
Little did I realize that my friend Ian Medland would have just the insight I needed that day. Inviting me to join him at his table, he allowed me to ramble on for a while about the three virtues, and especially about hope and how some people think of hope as merely sentimental wishful thinking.
Now, Ian is a poet in silver. His skillfully crafted bracelets and necklaces have won international acclaim because of their seductive simplicity.
With that same simplicity, Ian finally added his wisdom to the conversation.
"I don't see what your difficulty is," he said and proceeded to illustrate the relationship among faith, hope and love with the following analogy:
In the middle of the night, two-year-old Billy wakes up from a scary dream and cries out, "Mommy, Mommy!" He has every confidence in the world that Mommy will hear his cry, come quickly and comfort him. Indeed, he can't conceive that she wouldn't.
This is Billy's sure expectation, Ian said, Billy's "hope" a hope not based on wishful thinking, but on trust and love.
"Of course!" I agreed, "It's so simple. This is a fine example of faith, hope and love in a nutshell."
Regardless of whether Billy acted like a brat or an angel the previous day, he lived in the comfortable assurance that he was in a loving relationship with his mother. Even if he was a terror while at the supermarket the previous day, pulling canned goods off shelves, grabbing candy bars at the checkout counter, and screaming and kicking when he didn't get his way, he had no reason to fear that his mother would reject him in his midnight hour of need.
His mother's loving response was Billy's full expectation, as well as hers. That's just the way the mother-child relationship is supposed to be: full trust in unconditional love, with the assurance of the "hope" of Mommy's presence when needed.
Obviously, two-year-old Billy wouldn't be going through all the intellectualizing that I'm going through here. For him, trust and love are taken for granted, and hope is what carries him through with patient persistence till finally he feels his mother's hands lifting him for a hug.
To put it another way, Billy's mother hears him cry and says to him, "I'll be right there, Billy; I love you." Billy believes her and eagerly awaits her arrival.
Returning now to the themes of Passover and Holy Week, I think Ian's analogy has much to offer.
Passover celebrates the liberation of the Hebrews from their enslavement in Egypt during the time of Moses, about 3,300 years ago. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the people of Israel had cried out to God in their affliction. God listened and sent them a deliverer, Moses, with a message of love and comfort: God would lead them out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, triumphing over the seemingly impassable waters of the Red Sea.
As the people believed the promise, so they were filled with hope.
In a similar way for Christians, Holy Week also celebrates liberation, a liberation from spiritual bondage to fear and hate, a liberation made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. According to the Christian Scriptures, God heard the cry of His people and sent them another deliverer who Himself is the message of love and comfort; He Himself is the way to a promised new life, triumphing over the waters of sin and death.
Again, as the people believe the promise, so they are filled with hope.
In both Passover and Holy Week, then, faith and hope are of the essence. But above all, there remains something even more fundamental to life. As the Scriptures declare:
"The greatest of these is love."
© 2003 Warren Harbeck