Impatient Optimists

Brian Bauknight



In an interview for TIME Magazine, philanthropist, Melinda Gates, was asked if she and husband Bill ever become discouraged or less optimistic about what they are trying to do with their great wealth.  She reminded the interviewer that she and Bill often refer to themselves as “impatient optimists.  Over the years, she reported that they have become “less naïve, but more optimistic.”
I am reminded again of one of my favorite quotes from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin : “The future belongs to those who give it the greatest hope.”  Or, even more definitively, the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (15:13)
Many years ago—early in my second church appointment—I arranged three nights of preaching by three different (and very good) preachers in our area.  One was newly ordained; one was mid-career; and one was nearing retirement.  I asked them to bring a message which answered this question: “If I had only one sermon to preach, what would it be?”  Overwhelmingly, the messages I heard from those three colleagues were messages of hope.  I concur.
I yearn for strong, vibrant, convincing messages of Kingdom-based hope in our churches.  Not simplistic hope.  Not tentative hope laced with doubt.  Not some Pollyanna-ish dream.  But profound, overflowing, sure and certain hope.  Hope, grounded in the God Who has given us a clear view of Gods’ self in Jesus.  So we can say with Paul, “For I am absolutely convinced….”  (Romans 8:39)
Two cowboys were out on the range overseeing a herd of buffalo.  One cowboy said to the other, “These buffalo are the dirtiest, smelliest, ugliest creatures on the face of the earth.” Whereupon one buffalo turned to the other and said, “I thought out here we weren’t supposed to hear a discouraging word.”
We have a treasure in earthen vessels.  No discouraging words.  Ever!
Throughout my 50 years of active ministry and into retirement, I do not think I ever felt truly discouraged about the Message we proclaim. During my childhood and teenage years, my parents somehow instilled in me the unshakable conviction that the church and its message reflect God’s best hope for a sane and stable world.  I am forever grateful for that infusion of hope. 
I still enjoy the simple lines by Nurse Nellie in South Pacific: “I’m stuck like a dope with this thing called hope, and I can’t get in out of my heart.”  (Except I don’t want to be a cockeyed optimist!)  I still believe that those of us who choose to follow Jesus can bring about some insightful transformation of this broken world.  With Bill and Melinda Gates and others, I hold steadfast to an impatient hope.


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