Much lives in a single word. Near the end of his life, my father lost his ability to speak — one of the effects of pressure that his tumor was putting on his brain stem. Most of the time, he would point to pictures on a chart or try to indicate with facial expressions what he wanted (I wrote a short article on this in 2017, “Death, Dogma, and Discourse”). But there was the occasional word that tumbled from between his lips, rolling out into the open air like a flag that flapped his humanity.
After a phone call from one of the doctors, my mother and I learned that there wasn’t anything else they could do. We were free to take him home and start palliative care. An hour or so later, once I’d gathered my bearings, I went into his room after my mom told him we were taking him home. I looked into the coal-black pupils of his brown eyes. “You know why we’re taking you home, right?” He nodded once, lifted his bony left arm, and pointed up at the sky. “Home.” I nodded in response. “Yes, you’re going home.”
That little word from my father’s mouth holds a lot of weight. What lives in that word is hope itself — the hope of not having an end to . . . you, the hope of living on into eternity. Such a high and lofty hope, but a hope that is promised to us and prayed for throughout Scripture (see Acts 26:6 and Romans 15:4). Remember the words of the psalmist:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Our hope is in God, not in any other thing that this world holds out to us in its tattered and broken hands. And here’s the best part: that hope has content. We don’t just hope to keep living; we hope that we “shall again praise him.” Our hope is a hope for unending worship of the God who loves us, who chose us, mysteriously, before all things began (Eph. 1:4)
I hope you hear the word “hope” with new ears today. What lives in that little word is nothing short of eternity, an eternity that’s been given to you by the God of hope, who loves you and longs for communion with you. One day, I’ll go home, too. And my father will be there, worshiping and praising. Our voices will join together in awe of our one great Father, whose Son was given for our souls, and whose Spirit enlivens us, both now and forever. Amen.