Friday, 25 November 2016

This is what hope looks like

One of Laura de Jong’s “all-time favourite movies” is Princess Bride.

The 1987 film is a story within a story, de Jong said, with a grandfather reading a story about pirates and princesses to Fred, his grandson, who is sick in bed. As the story ends with the good guy dying and the princess marrying the evil prince, Fred protests.

“Grandpa, you read it wrong!” he says. “That can’t be how it ends! She can’t marry the prince. She doesn’t love him. And what about Westley? He can’t be dead!”

De Jong said the movie scene shows that we all have a pretty good idea of how stories should end. “There should be triumph, right should conquer wrong, the hero should get the girl. We know a good ending when we see one.”

De Jong’s final message during Spiritual Emphasis Week 2016 focused on the final chapter of Jeremiah, which, like the story in the movie, had a similarly bad ending. The king is still in captivity, the country is still under foreign occupation and the people are still exiled.

The last few verses of Jeremiah 52 end with forgotten King Jehoiachin being released from prison and dining at the table of the invading king.

“Still an exiled king, still technically a prisoner. Eating fish and dates and drinking wine with the enemy until the day he dies,” de Jong said. “If I was an Israelite, this would seem like an unsatisfactory ending to me.”

After chapters and chapters of God warning the Israelites of the consequences of their unfaithfulness, of capture, exile and occupation, and of God’s promise of restoration, the ending seems anti-climactic and unfinished. And that’s not the only unsatisfactory story we see. We turn on the news and see stories of out-of-control wildfires, villages being bombed, racist attacks or children sold into slavery by their impoverished parents. We look around us and see cancer, family breakdown, or parents who lose their jobs.
Like the people of God at the end of Jeremiah, we are “still in limbo,” she said.

De Jong said the story of Jehoiachin dining at the king’s table is an example of “anamnesis” and “prolepsis” – Greek words for lived memory (anamnesis) and lived future (prolepsis). A modern example of anamnesis and prolepsis would be turning up the heat and having an impromptu Hawaiian party in the dead of winter, complete with barbecued food, flip flops and dance tunes. The party is both remembering what summer feels like (anamnesis) and a bold declaration summer will come again (prolepsis).

That’s what is happening at the end of Jeremiah. The writer is emphasizing that despite his captivity, Jehoiachin is still the king of Judah and he is still in the lineage of David – and Jesus.

“And though captive, we see a glimpse of what things were like before – fine clothes, good food and a seat of honour,” she said. Jehoiachin is acting out a memory of the time when God’s people lived in God’s favour.

These verses also represent an invitation to all of us to live into God’s promise, she said. Jehoiachin’s dinners at the king’s table are a reminder of God’s promise of another king, and indeed, Jehoiachin is mentioned in Matthew 1 in the genealogy of Jesus.

“For the people of Israel, hope looks like King Jehoiachin eating at the table of the king,” she said.
For the people of God, in all times and in all places, hope still looks like a table – a communion table or a library table or a classroom table.

“It’s all the places and times we gather together and offer love and courage and hope to each other through our small acts of service and love,” de Jong said. “We are the body of Christ and we remind each other that God is faithful.”
“God is faithful, and the end of the story is a good one,” de Jong said, because God is good and he loves us. Even when we mess up, run away or yell in anger, God loves us, and invites us to live in the goodness of his new creation. Even if things are going wrong, we get to practice the end of the story.
Whenever we, as Christ-followers, act out the ending and live the goodness, joy, peace and love of the Kingdom of God, we are showing the world and each other how good it will be, de Jong said.
“That’s what hope looks like.”

DeJong said she had a great week at Smithville Christian, and took a selfie with the school.
Spiritual Life Director Gord Park prayed a prayer of thanks and blessing over de Jong as she finishes her studies at Calvin Theological Seminary.

"God's word came through you to us," he said. " You revealed Jesus to us."

Click here to read more about where Laura de Jong's been and where she's going.
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A student praise team led in worship with "Love Come Down," "Holy (Wedding Day)," and "I'm Not Ashamed." We are so blessed by the musicians and AV technicians who make worship possible every day during Spiritual Emphasis Week. Join us for chapel every Wednesday morning -- everyone is welcome.

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