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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector's Note: The Art of Savoring Hope in Tough Times-1.4.24

I’m not going to lie, 2024 looks like it’s going to be a tough year. As a parish we are holding space for one another in losses and leave-takings. Our prayers cry out for an end to war and a slowing of climate change. The election season looks dire.

For me, having a Happy New Year is going to take some work, and some imagination. So, I’m going to practice savoring.

I like to imagine hope as being like an aroma or a taste of something wonderful or longed for – soup on the stove for example, or batter in the mixer.  Hope contains a little bit of that promised thing – enough precious molecules to make present a bit of what is on the way. Christian hope is like that anyway, a belief that God is in the process of bringing comfort or justice or a new heavens and a new earth. That’s why our Beatitudes insist that the blessing is happening now, even when the promise is not yet fully realized.

In the meantime, we get a taste, a scent – and an invitation to savor and spend time with the longing.

I received an invitation to savor yesterday with a sweet email from a friend. She and her family are conservative Jews, quite liberal in their political beliefs and deeply devout in their religious practice. When they visit us, her children are very curious about our Christian faith and ask lots of questions, telling their own stories of what they have learned in their Jewish schooling. They are quite remarkable in their religious curiosity.

On a visit one Sunday, they asked what I preached about that day. The Gospel had been on the Parable of the Talents, and I retold it to them and briefly described how we reflected on those talents being the Word of God, and the grave disappointment that burying the Word yields.

Yesterday our friend Sharona sent us this email: “Yishai’s school Rabbi told them a parable yesterday about a master who gave his servants flax and flour.  One wove the flax into a blanket and turned the flour into wheat and bread.  The other did nothing.  He said the parable was a metaphor for Torah, which is meant to be dynamic and changes in the hands of those who have it.  (I’m summarizing.)  Yishai got super excited and told his whole class about Barb’s parable and its message!” 

My husband read me the message and I found myself in tears. They’re back now as I write this. What is it about this little story, this tiny example that it brings such a deep response? As a person of faith, I find myself tossing out lots of seeds with little idea of how or where they actually land. I offer comfort and hope it sooths, presence and hope it helps, gratitude and hope it uplifts, stories and hope they make sense.

What I’m savoring today is the glimpse of a seedling, a sign of how God’s Word, Yishai’s Torah, does its work. That little bit of connection between two faith traditions, a listening, a learning, a sharing, a sense of common story and synchronicity – the flavor is almost overwhelming.

So, I will hold this personal parable close as I make my way through 2024, knowing the Word is doing its work, God is tending the seeds that faith prompts me to sow.  And I’m reminded that my path is actually dappled with these invitations to savor. It may be they are not signs of a future reality, but indications of a great work that is happening largely out of my perception. It may be that this taste is all I can bear of the great thing that God is doing. Heaven may be too strong a stuff for me to take in fully right now.

So, I will practice savoring these moments as they present themselves, and I hope you will do the same as you find them on your path. They are strong medicine for an aching world.

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1 Comment

sam hogg
sam hogg
Jan 05

thank you, barb, for your ongoing depth and hope which springs eternal!

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