The Word Of Hope

From “Seeds of Hope” by Henri J. M. Nouwen

“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.”

Our salvation comes from something small, tender, and vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the creator of the universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness.

I find this a hopeful message. Somehow, I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God’s saving power, but over and over again I am reminded that spectacles, power plays, and big events are the ways of the world. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the “shoot that shall sprout from the stump.”

When I have no eyes for the small signs of God’s presence, the smile of a baby, the carefree play of children, the words of encouragement and gestures of love offered by friends, I will always remain tempted to despair.

The small child of Bethlehem, the unknown young man of Nazareth, the rejected preacher, the naked man on the cross, he asks for my full attention. The work of our salvation takes place in a world that continues to shout, scream, and overwhelm us with its claims and promises. But the promise is hidden in the shoot and sprouts from the stump, a shoot that hardly anyone notices.

I remember seeing a film on the human misery and devastation brought by the bomb on Hiroshima. Among all the scenes of terror and despair emerged one image of a man quietly writing a word in calligraphy. All his attention was directed to writing that one word. That image made this gruesome film a hopeful film. Isn’t that what God is doing? Writing the divine word of hope in the midst of our dark world?

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