Devotion for June 2, 2021 from Tori Valcarcel, Ministry in Context Student for CTK and HTLC:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
That sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
There is a nest under our porch. Turdus migratorius – the American Robin. A part of the thrush family, notable for their orange belly and blue eggs. As a child, robins were disappointing to me. I wished they were the more exciting and flashy Baltimore oriole, or the bright blue jay. Robins were common, both in sight and sound, and their commonness meant I would overlook them.
Sometimes, hope feels like that to me. From political campaigns to calligraphy verses of Scripture hung on walls, talking about hope feels a bit too common, something I can’t be bothered to think too much on. It has lost meaning to me, when people talk about a hopeful future or an end to climate change. Sometimes I think bitter thoughts when someone mentions having hope for change- change of heart, change of soul, change of weather.
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
What has this year, or indeed, my life, shown to me about hope? Hope seems to have abandoned me at several points, often when I needed it most. During deep depressions, periods of long and painful grief, in the midst of familial strife or relational conflict. Hope seems to have been silent during this global pandemic, not just for me, but for whole countries. As a virus courses through humanity’s veins, as it blazes across continents like an uncontainable wildfire, it seems that Hope has taken wing to bluer skies.
What do our Scriptures and traditions say? That our hope should rest in Jesus? But what kind of hope? There is a difference between the colloquial hope- wishing, expecting, desiring- and Biblical hope- more on the side of trust and belief. Does hope require our constant attention, like coaxing green life out of dry ground? Or is our hope in Christ self-sufficient? Does the Spirit work to keep hope alive for us, in the storms that bluster and drown out Hope’s sweet tunes?
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
The nest I mentioned, the one under our porch- it feels a bit more like that Biblical hope. About a week ago, my father asked if I had seen the nest had fallen to the ground. He didn’t see any of the four bright blue eggs inside. I prepared to take the nest into the woods, mourning those small lives. Instead, I found three just hatched nestlings, and one untouched little egg, scattered by the overturned nest. I picked them up carefully and tucked the nest back under the eave, hoping against all odds that they would live. We watched and waited for a day, combing the sky for the parents to fly back. The next morning I went out and a robin fled from the nest, but not far. She tucked her head under her wing to preen a feather that stuck out at an odd angle. In the nest I found all four baby robins, looking like small pink dinosaurs. The past few days I go out and look at them each morning, watching with awe how they grow feathers and stretch their greedy mouths wide.
What hope did the robin have of her nest being returned, her babies surviving? What hope does any creature have for its survival in the face of overwhelming odds? What insignificant, tiny, wavering sense of hope do we have for a world and people so broken and battered?
Hope has perched in my soul, singing her song without words, never asking for my acknowledgement. Sometimes I do not see her, or hear her, or feel her, but like the wind and the Spirit, her invisibility does not lessen her power. She is trust when all trust is broken, she is love when all love seems false, and she is Hope when all hope is lost.
Poem by Emily Dickinson