I recently got into the habit of asking guests I chat with on my podcast what brings them hope. It’s become a nice exercise, ending every episode on an encouraging note. Sometimes it’s especially necessary after spending nearly an hour talking about the hard and discouraging things.
Not surprisingly, many of the responses I get have something to do with children—whether it’s what they say or what they do or how they understand the world. As I tweeted the other day, “it’s as if Jesus was on to something when he said, ‘the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” While I don’t spend much time with young children, I have been spending a lot of time the past few years with high school students, and I can concur…their love for justice and truth and equity gives me hope. Lots of it. Similarly, their boldness in asking questions and challenging ideas that are harmful or unhelpful is also a breath of fresh air. I’m always in awe every time I leave a small group session, often reminding myself that the future of the church looks bright and everything is indeed going to be okay.
Experiencing those glimpses of hope is special…and necessary. They keep me both grounded in the present and excited about the future. They give me the energy I need to continue this work, like a strong shot of Cuban cafecito on the morning of what you know will be a long and productive day. Or, perhaps more appropriate, that sacred sip of the wine and bite of the bread on a Sunday. As those who administer the Eucharist at my church say after placing the body of Christ in my palm or inviting me to direct the chalice representing Christ’s blood to my lips, “the body and blood of Christ, strength for your journey.”
Strength for my journey, indeed.
Such powerful words that always move me.
Last night I had one of those “strength for my journey” moments on the final day of my first doctoral seminar, “Human Rights in the Old Testament” (as I mentioned in my previous post). The last ten weeks we’ve translated and exegeted passages in Nehemiah, Exodus, Psalms and Leviticus. We’ve walked through Deuteronomy and its relationship to rights. We’ve wrestled with the difficult and often odd laws concerning women, marriage, and family. We’ve dialogued about the relationship between rights and the state, freedom of religion, what our duties are as God’s people and even property rights as it pertains to the Old Testament. At times, it’s been beautiful. Other times it’s been challenging. Most of the time, it’s frustrating, as any sort of work that involves different languages, cultures, and social understandings often is.
But last night, I experienced something a little different. For the final class, we were each to give a short presentation on what our major, final paper will be about. As each person had their time to share, I felt that familiar Sunday morning feeling swell up inside of me.
I listened to my colleagues share about their work on political and economic idolatry, the book of Exodus and the exploitation of Black bodies. I listened to presentations on dignity and Asian American women—the negative messages they’ve internalized in society and how God’s mission of liberation and flourishing dismantles and rewrites those oppressive narratives. I listened to my colleagues share about what the OT has to say about how we treat and understand undocumented peoples and those whom, I argue, are among the most marginalized in society: the disabled community.
As I listened to thesis statement after thesis statement—war cry after war cry—of this deeply personal, costly, and disruptive work—the kind of disruptive work Jesus was intimately acquainted with—I felt that Monday-morning, 7am-Bible-study-with-teenagers-feeling: the future of the church looks bright and everything is indeed going to be okay.