As I was smearing the ashen cross with the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I found myself saying, “How morbid, should I add another line and end on a more hopeful note?”
-Does every worship service have to end on a cheerful note?
-Well, of course! Our God is a God of hope. To withhold hope is to withhold the power of God!
-But is hope and cheerfulness the same? Does hope need a little emotional boost, a smile and a high-give for it stand up and do its dance?
Hope and cheerfulness are not the same. But American Christianity can often confuse the two. Just as optimism is not faith, so cheerfulness is not hope. They are interrelated, but not the same, the way my cousin and I are not the same, though related and feel tighter than long time friends.
Hope is like the ember in the ash. It can be invisible, but smoldering there. Actually ashes itself is the sign of hope. It is the power of hope, but also what protects hope, keep it hot even if it is not visible.
That we Christians can come up, and hear the words that we are going to die is the power of hope. We are not afraid to say what is taboo in the world, that we are all dying beings. And it is that death that keeps hope alive. Hope in this world dies with everything else in this world. When hope in this world dies, then we have the hope for what is not of this world and what does not die with this world, but that hope is only found in the ashes.