Our societies are built upon the oppression of the poor and marginalised and yet, unless we remove ourselves entirely from the web of cords, laws, taxes, products, and biological needs inherent in twenty-first century life, we are forced to participate in the oppression of others, and the destruction of our habitats. We see, we know that the world is on the brink, yet we cannot escape. Facing such a reality, Jeremiah offers us a way forward: we lament, we express our rage, we retain hope by continuing to call for change, and through it all we never allow ourselves to be numbed or silenced by the enormity of it all.
No matter how established we may think we are in this life, we are always on the way to another. To steady our step and to guide our path, we need to practice hope.
Transformation begins by inspiring—by breathing in—hope. Only then can we exhale justice. In ‘Immanuel’, God’s sign of hope for a desperate world, we find the means by which we can pursue justice.
The psalmist wrestles with despair, drawing strength from remembrances of God’s past protection and help. Politics, which must also face the threat of despair, can learn from the way that both the psalmist and Christ after him preserve the glimmer of hope against despair’s engulfing darkness.
Ezekiel’s prophecy to the dead bones of exiled Israel brings life and restoration to a people who considered themselves beyond hope. Faced with lost causes, recognition of the creative power of the prophetic word can extend the horizons of the possible and inspire a wider range of political action.
In Isaiah’s prophecy a young child serves as a sign puncturing the gloom of a dark political situation. The use of infants and young children to draw attention to God’s future within the book of Isaiah has significance for our own political visions. In regarding the sign of our children we can accomplish an existential turn from a politics driven by the selfish interests of our own generation to one of responsibility and hope for the well-being of those to come.
The policy of accommodation, cooperative political activities and praying to God for the well-being of a foreign city as suggested by Jeremiah was both innovative and a great challenge to the exilic community. It also has lessons for us as we seek a public, politically and socially relevant theology.
Hope is not drawn from the world-that-is. Hope is grounded in perceptions of the world-that-ought-to-be. It arises from the power of the world-that-ought-to-be. For Christians, the world-that-ought-to-be is the eschatological Kingdom of God. It is expected in the future, in God’s time. But, it is also in the present, which is God’s time. The Kingdom is a perpetual possibility, even as its realization must be perpetually deferred in its fullness.