There isn’t much in Bean Blossom, Indiana. There hasn’t even been a post office there since 1911. The town might have gone away completely except for a Bluegrass music festival that takes place there. There isn’t much in Bean Blossom, and yet the little Episcopal Church there was desecrated last week. Vandals spray-painted the exterior of the church with homophobic and racist slogans. In Bean Blossom.
Bean Blossom was not alone. For reasons I cannot fathom, some have felt empowered to commit hate crimes recently, directed against several groups. The name of our congregation means hope in Spanish. The root is the same as the verb “to wait.” That describes the season of Advent. It is not just a countdown to Christmas, Advent is also waiting for the coming of the kingdom of God. It is a waiting that is seasoned with hope.
When I read of the church desecration in, of all places, Bean Blossom, I realized that we are still waiting. I remembered the speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. following the march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama in March of 1965. 25,000 people were gathered, and Dr. King spoke defiantly about both hope and waiting, justice and perseverance. He encouraged the people, even in the face of violence and the threat of violence to continue the struggle.
“How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, you shall reap what you sow. How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
On the Plains of Nineveh between the Kurdish North and Arab South of Iraq, Christians have coexisted since the beginning of Christianity. That is, until recently. Since the beginning of the war in 2003, 75% of the Christians have fled persecution by ISIS and after 2000 years, the future of Christianity in the region is in doubt. Father Emanuel Youkhana recently returned to his church for the first time in two years. Inside and out, the building was in ruins. “We may be helpless,” he said, “but we are never hopeless.” Waiting with hope.
Isaiah’s life was in similar ruins. In exile, he too waited with hope: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
How long? Not long!
Here is the poem, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickenson:
‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—
I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.