I believe I’ve said it before. There are days when the news on the TV or in the papers is so bad that it seems to me that there really is no hope for this world. Sometimes the news of evil, crime, war, hatred, violence, intolerance, and corruption is so pervasive that it goes on for days at a time. Last week was one of those times. Yesterday (Sunday), as I turned the pages of the newspaper, I kept seeing one bad news item after another about the evil that had transpired during the week just ended. Every article seemed to be saying “there is no hope”. I asked myself “Who are you kidding? Where is the Ray of Hope you are always writing about in the blog? There’s nothing but bad news out there. Where is all this good news? Where is the hope that you write about?”
About that time God intervened and answered my question. I turned the page of the paper and there it was. An item I could not miss. Something drew my atention to that item immediately. I noticed that it was posted from the place where I was born and spent about the first half of my life – Jersey City, NJ. More than that, the headline alone was a loud and clear proclamation of good news and hope, in direct contrast to the seeming hopelessness of some of the other articles I had just read. The headline read “Egyptian Muslims, Coptic Christians show unity at event”.
Here are a few quotes from the news item: “Leaders of Egyptian Coptic (Christian) and Muslim communities from New Jersey and the New York metropolitan region met in a show of unity Saturday, , expessing pain over a wave of angry protests sparked by an anti-Islam film and appealing for calm. … more than 50 Coptic priests from across the U.S. had signed a letter supporting the Muslim communityand condemning the violent protests. …Coptic Christians and Muslim imams (met) at a mosque in Jersey in a show of solidarity and to urge Egyptians (Christian and Muslim) to stand together.”
The item closes with this observation: “Egyptian Muslims and Coptics live side-by-side in the Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City. Churches, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship sit in close proximity.” This observation reminded me of the church I belonged to for about eight years before I left Jersey City in 1974 – Christ United Methodist Church, which was and still is located in the same Journal Square neighborhood mentioned above. When I first attended that church, it’s membership and attendance was all white. But over the next few years we chose to become a church which would not hide behind its walls from the changing neighborhood around Journal Square. Instead we would become integrated with the changing neighborhood. As a result we began to become a church diverse in its racial and ethnic makeup – including people who were black, Hispanic, and even Egyptian. Never once did I hear a word from even the most conservative members about the influx of non-whites in our church. More than that, our church facility provided space for two additional congregations – one Hispanic and one Egyptian. We also took our Sunday School kids to visit houses of worship of other faiths, especially Jewish temples and Muslim mosques. In our adult Sd unday School class we studied the beliefs and ways of other faiths. We learned to respect and understand them. And I believe that we also had their respect and understanding.
All of this good news was taking place in a city which historically had a bad reputation – especially with political corruption and graft. I am reminded of another place that once had a bad reputation. A place called Nazareth. In the first century, people questioned the idea of Jesus being the Messiah. They asked each other “How can that be? Isn’t he Mary and Joseph’s kid? Isn’t he the carpenter from Nazareth, of all places? Can anything good come form Nazareth?” Well, whether or not you are a Christian, I believe you will agree that what came from Nazareth was something good – a young Jewish man who started a movement based on love. A movement based on what just about everone thought was a hopeless and impossible idea – all persons loving each other. In Jersey City, about 40 years ago, some of us got that message and became part of this movement that Jesus began about 2,000 years before. We believed there was hope for that idea of all people loving each other. And that idea started to become a reality. As time passed, there was more and more good news in the midst of bad news. After I read that news item, I thought to myself “yes, in Jersey City, it’s still true. There is good news in the midst of bad news. There is still hope, despite all that seems to be so hopeless.”
I was also reminded of the story in the Bible (Matthew 19:23-26) in which Jesus’ disciples are faced with what they saw as an impossible and hopeless situation. Jesus’ response was that if they depended on themselves or other human beings, there was no hope, but “with God, all things are possible”. That is, if whatever it is that seems to be hopeless is something that God desires, there is reason to have hope. Because whatever God desires is always good, and in God’s time and God’s way, it will be fulfilled.
One more thing, after I read the item of the good news from Jersey City, I looked through the paper again. Guess what, I found a good number of additional good news and hopeful news items. So as as I’m writing this blog, I don’t know what the news will be by the end of the day. I’m pretty sure that most of it will be about bad news. But I also know that if I look and listen carefully, I will find good news. I will find reason to hope. My hope is that so will you.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray