Recently I have been reflecting on the subject of hope. This reflection comes in the context of the news of the removal of several prominent clergy from their ministries, as well as recently participating with a residential recovery program where men shared personally and painfully of their loss of a cherished friend.  This friend was a role model who relapsed while in the recovery program, tragically bringing the end to his life. His life, recovery and ending was deeply felt by all those present at the meeting – and by me – and I didn’t even know him!

As I have absorbed all this news, I have been moved to a different place of reflection. The stories of clergy and the resident who was in recovery, while very different, are weaving together in me something new in my own soul. Something new that I am trying desperately to grasp as I engage the work of Gracebridge Alliance to clergy and ministry leaders.  We all are unfinished people – we are yet… and still… incomplete;  our Savior sees equally our incompleteness and our brokenness, and yet He wonderfully sees our becoming. He gets “every bit of the unfinished  stuff about us! Even when it is messy, full of mistakes, and even when it has tragic endings, Jesus has compassion! I am beginning to embrace how this is lessening my own desire for making judgments against others and how it is increasing within me a greater pursuit of Jesus’s command in Matt 9:13  “go and learn what this means, I desire mercy...”  For all of us, it takes going…going a different way…in order to really learn.

These reflections have brought me to a place of hope, but not a hope that is far and away, distant and future…i.e what we will one day have in heaven.  There is a good and needed place for exploring hope in this manner, it is just not where I went this time.  Hope in this moment for me is tethered to something very earthy and very present: it is tethered to me and to you and to all of us!   You and me, hopeful, today!  Not because we have all the right kind of information, but because of what we all share in common every day. We are all still unfinished and incomplete – all of us are broken. Slowly, I have begun to see something wonderful in the midst of my hearing of the recent mistakes made, of knowing about real failures – both of others and my own – we are all still becoming!   It is creating in me something new and what I need to learn and practice today – compassion…mercy!   I am coming to recognize that it is Compassion, more than anything else, that brings us to being present, really present, with others – a  failure of compassion what keeps me absent and imprisoned.  Compassion lifts all participants, both those receiving it and those extending it, to new heights – to a hopeful place where God can do the good and redemptive work among and within us.

Mark