9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.
This week was my official transition from my old church, New Hope on Moreland Avenue, to my new church, New Hope 40 minutes south of the church on Moreland, in a gorgeous part of the state called Chattahoochee Hills. From New Hope to New Hope. It is funny, and leaves me a little breathless and occasionally confused in the general conversations of how my church is going, but also, from New Hope to New Hope, isn’t that always the way?
What are we hoping for? I live in America and there are people flooding our streets (masked, thankfully) protesting the structures of our systems that are deeply unfair. Many of them are religious and they are leaning on God to show them the hope that is a mandate of this faith of ours. New Hope isn’t just the name of the church that I served, and the church that I serve, it is a blessing and a burden that we hold as Christians. If we know God, if we follow Jesus, we are Prisoners of Hope.
There is a lot of darkness in our world, and I am in no way asking us to just “look on the bright side.” I am not. As prophets to this world we aren’t called to sugar coat the truth, but we are called to remind the world, as Andre Henry says (and has a t-shirt!) It Doesn’t Have to Be this way. Desmond TuTu said “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” I think that is what being a prisoner to hope is all about. Acknowledging the darkness all around us and then pointing to the one tiny sliver of light, that could grow is we wanted it to.
The people this scripture was originally written to were no strangers to darkness, they knew what oppression felt like. And I am sure that very many of them would have been just fine with the same systems that were, as long as they were the ones on top of the whole thing. But God isn’t after maintaining the pyramid scheme of flourishing this world wants us to believe in, simply replacing those on top with others, God is after a world where EVERYONE gets to flourish. This is why we see God come in powerful and humble, aligned with the poorest of the poor, and then cutting off the systems that are hurting people “He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Hope isn’t about being on the top. Hope is about believing that we could live in a world where everyone is on top.
This pandemic has opened my eyes to all the beliefs I have about scarcity and opportunity. I have to do it NOW. I have to get whatever I want to do in! It will be too late! With my book advance money we had planned on going on a Disney Cruise (don’t tell my kids). When, I thought, will I ever be able to do something like that for them again? The week everything shut down my husband and I were going to go on a just us trip to New York City. And even though I know it is about the dumbest thing on earth to do, and I especially know that taking risks like that would cause risk to my family, and also would absolutely not be loving to my neighbors who are at a higher risk, there is a piece of me that thinks if I don’t do it, it will just disappear. Somehow the scarcity justifies behavior that is not loving, and won’t please God. God promises that we don’t have to do that.
My examples are selfish and self focused (though real, I mean I think God is sad I didn’t get to do those things too but also..) the things God is promising to restore two-fold are generational. They have had property and promises stolen from them for yours. The people God is speaking to have lost just so much. But God sees it, and promises to restore it beyond anything they have asked. God promises to move them from a prison with no water to a fortress of hope. God is their fortress, and God will restore them. It is more than optimism, it is living into a place of belief. I want in on that restoration. I believe that we aren’t free until everyone is free, that our liberation is tied up together, and in that believe I that we are all invited to participate in this restoration. The world will tell us that if we give up our privilege in the service of our siblings in Christ means less for me. But I know that is a lie. I live in the fortress that is our God and I get to be a Prisoner of Hope.
Prisoner of hope On Being