I was very privileged a couple of weeks' ago to sit with Rev John Chalmers (Moderator of the Church of Scotland) over dinner and then to hear him speak. John is a powerful advocate for justice and peace, and during his tenure as Moderator has given a dove of peace to many people (including Clare Balding, David Cameron, the Pope and me!).
In his talk John spoke of an illustration used by Augustine of Hippo: Hope has two beautiful daughters, Anger and Courage. Christian hope likewise must give birth to these two beauties. We must feel angry about injustice and we must have the courage to speak out and to act.
What shape is Hope? John asked. He had three shapes to offer - a dove; a woman and a cross.
The dove of peace bringing God's peace to the earth when a dove returned to Noah with an olive leaf after the flood, and when the Spirit descended as a dove on Jesus at his baptism.
The shape of a woman around the world and in Scripture. In areas of conflict such as Southern Sudan, Syria, Palestine and elsewhere it is often the men who fight and the women who beg them to stop, just as Abigail prevented David from shedding blood when her husband offended him. The biggest justice issue of the next decade will be gender equality, according to John.
The shape of a cross. Reflecting on the pain of women around the world we were cautioned not to loosely suggest that Jesus died in our place - when we put Him on the cross and take ourselves down, we remove from humanity the very real suffering that many experience. Hope is cross shaped because God, incarnate in Jesus, went through suffering with us as well as for us.