Easter is the prelude to spring, the bringer of new life, new light and new colour into the frozen landscape of Sweden. Everything about these first few timid weeks of long awaited Spring correlates all back to HOPE. and Birth. The flowers bloom anew, the leaves bud, the birds hatch and the lambs are born……. It is as if nature itself is teaching us the message of Easter. What C.S. Lewis taught us with the witch’s curse of winter being broken by the warm sunlight of Aslan’s return (from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)– All of this story is symbolic of the April morning almost 2000 years ago when Christ arose from the tomb, not only being resurrected for himself but promising us all resurrection, both of body and soul, if we follow Him. It was the greatest moment of human history and not only changed the Western world with the birth of Christianity, but changed our spiritual existence, allowing our souls to be saved and reborn through the miracle of Christ’s atonement. The greatest and most promising hope in the universe.
Being Easter week, we have asked many on the street what they hope for. To the agnostic mind, it seems with the dark state of the world today, there is very little to have hope in. Another bomb was set off by ISIS this week in Brussels, sending Europe, including Sweden, into a state of frenzied fear. Hope is a fool’s mind trick according to some…..and honestly, I do not blame their pessimistic view of humanity in the slightest. Without the gospel, I would see very little light in this world myself. The good hearted Swedes can list off what is wrong with the world very easily. ISIS, Donald Trump, EU disintegration, economic catastrophes, suffering Syrian refugees, Donald Trump, increasing neo-nazis movement in Sweden, some more Donald Trump, and world poverty, to list a few of the answers given on the street.
So, what is there to hope for? Why are we not downhearted by the slings and arrows of the world? It isn’t that we possess any strong state of apathy. for the world sorrows do pain us and break our hearts and harrow us deep……..but it is HOPE that lifts us from the fall. It is HOPE that raises us from the dusty floor of bitterness and pain and fills our lungs with the energising light to stand up and start making the world a better, happier, more loving place, one person at a time. Hope in what? Hope for “a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” (Ether 12:4)
It is hope upon our faith that God is our loving Heavenly Father, that He loves each and every one of us personally and will make all right in the end. Life is hard, life is dark, evil is out there and big and scary, but oh so temporary. It is hard to see from this end of the tunnel…..but this darkness is but a short while, which we will look back on as but a sliver in comparison to the light we will receive on the other end. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of the terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the HOPE…” (1 Peter 3:14-15) “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God….” (1 Peter 3:17-18) .
This gospel gives us the beautiful gift of perspective. Yes- life is hard. Bad things happen to good people, the Devil is tearing the world apart……..but we know the ending to this story. When it would seem all hope is lost, when we will feel hopeless and outnumbered and facing the jaws of darkness….when all seems over……we know plot twist. We’ve read the story. You can read it in the Bible. You can also read it in The Lord of the Rings, so you know. When King Theodin and the remaining riders of Rohan, worn, injured, hopeless, holding back the pounding force of their adversaries, Theodin asks “What can man do against such reckless hate?” The truth. Nothing. They literally had no feasible way of survival with the number of men and resources they had. We alone are powerless against the darkness, but we are not alone. Rohan was promised that Gandalf the White would return with the rising of the sun joined with the banished riders of Rohan to come to the rescue. What Theodin needed to do was hold onto that hope, have faith in the rising sun, and not forfeit. And so, with the power of HOPE the last of the little band of brothers rode out into the engulfing sea of evil at the rising of the sun. They were embarking into certain death if the reinforcements did not come…. but they would rather die holding on to HOPE than forfeit to evil. And upon the eastern hill with the sunrise came, most symbolically, Gandalf the White, the literally resurrected being, with his enumerable hosts of soldiers.
Had Theodin given up he would of perished in the siege mere minutes before the aid came to save the day…but because he held onto HOPE and ACTED on his hope he lived to see evil conquered by Gandalf the White and his army.
We must be as Theodin. Theodin was not a perfect man. He had his sins. He was under the spell of Sauruman until Gandalf the White cleansed him (more symbolism) and even after his repentance he made more follies, such as not heeding Aragorn’s council and seeking refuge in Helm’s deep, because of his pride and confidence in the power of man. But, despite Theodin’s imperfections he in the end corrected his mistakes and held to hope in the sunrise. We cannot lose hope and let the enemy break down the doors of our fortress and devour us. We need to hold on to the last minute we can, when all seems lost, and then act on our HOPE….ride out into the overwhelming darkness with faith that Christ and his army will come with the sunrise, destroying all evil and setting all right. Patience is needed….and no small measure of bravery….but blessings are promised. Our battle is but a small affliction in comparison to the battle Christ went through for us already.
This point was illustrated wonderfully for me this week when, while taking morning studies out on a frozen lake. I took a step too close to the unfrozen river and fell through the ice into the seemingly bottomless lake. I must sheepishly admit that I loved the sensation…. It was a delightful thrill of adventure I was in much need of……but the sensation afterwards of the long walk home was not so pleasant. I was completely drenched, which fast was fading feeling completely frozen solid. My companion for the day, Elder Harrison, my district leader, complained about getting a bit of water in his shoe and I just looked at him, inquiring how he could possibly be complaining about a little water in his shoe when I was soaked to the bone in frozen lake water…….then I realised how often that is us. We complain and cry and curse God for the little bit of water in our shoe disregarding the fact that Christ was fully immersed in the frozen lake for us….the difference between He and I being that He is far more patient with our complaining than I would be.
HOPE became a brightly beaming theme of my week. HOPE that we can find the prepared in our hours of street contacting and door knocking. HOPE that we can help bless someone’s life. HOPE that I am doing the right thing the right way. HOPE powered me through the week, and it will power me through the next and the next, and onward till eternal life I expect.
Really, Dalarna, in it’s silent wild beauty has taught me the WHY to missionary work. It was so easy to be a missionary in Göteborg; so so very easy. It came with loads of bonuses. Friendships were formed, social events were always happening, places were always to be seen, people were always out to be talked to, the city was always alive and happy and you always could count on the dozen other missionaries and the dozens of YSA buddies to cheer you up and keep you laughing through the months of west coast mild winter…. The work was great, but in it’s temporal pleasure bonuses, did not have it’s full meaning. I needed to serve somewhere with no YSA, no peers to befriend, no social gatherings to attend, no other missionaries but my companion to talk to, no soul out on the street after 5 pm, essentially nothing but my companion, the Lord, the work and I to teach me the WHY. Because when you take out all the joy of Göteborg city life, and strip it down to simply the work and nothing else, you see if you are really here to serve or not. The WHY is LOVE. Love and Hope. It is LOVE for your God, your Saviour, your Gospel, and THE PEOPLE and HOPE for them that should be the real reason for your labour each day. The bonuses that came in other areas were nice but I needed an area with no bonuses, no alluring trophies of self ambition, no friends, no anything but the work, to give me the needed perspective for my work. Friends will fade and trophies will rust and ambition will lead you into the deathly snare of pride but LOVE AND HOPE will be the eternal fire to keep you burning for the whole two years, and the whole of eternity.
It is when you do not get anything tangible out of the work that you see the real reason why you work. and if you love God, truly, you will give your everything every single day, in the times with the bonus joys or, more importantly, in the times without. Because John said it perfectly in the simplest of statements: “And this commandment we have from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21)
I love Dalarna, and I am thankful for this lack of success to humble me and give me proper perspective. If I never had these times I’d return from my mission with an inflated ego, having learned nothing really of the gospel.
Much love and peace,
Äldste Erik Scott