Hope is a Verb

“Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.” – Luke 20:36

“When I was growing up in eastern North Carolina,” the Rev. William Barber says, “I used to love to sit in my grandmama’s kitchen and listen to her sing as she made dinner. Whenever she was done cooking, she’d give me a plate to eat. Then she and some of the other sisters from the church would make up some to-go plates and, with their aprons still on, they’d head out the door to visit the sick and shut-in. ‘We going to hope somebody,’ Grandmama would say.”

He loved his grandmama but he was convinced she had really bad grammar. He knew well that hope isn’t a verb.

He’s right. It isn’t a verb until you or I need it to be. The rules of grammar must change because a child of the resurrection needs it to change. That’s what the Sadducces ask Jesus.

They’ve convinced themselves that they know everything there is to know about hope. Nothing is unexpected. Everything is clear but that’s not so for the work of justice and love.

We don’t do this work because we are convinced we will win. We struggle for justice because there isn’t enough hope and somebody needs it.

Jesus sides not with the good reverend but with Grandmama.

Hope is a verb, he says, that pulls you up from the depths of despair, shakes you from your pain and points toward life. It’s not just an idea, but it’s what pushes you out the door to say that this isn’t the end. This isn’t all there is and there is justice to be done.

Head out the door and go hope on somebody.


God, make me one of your angels today. Help me to hope on somebody. 

About the Author
Elsa Cook contributed this devotional to Rise Up! Spirituality for Resistance, a collection of devotionals to keep you burning bright without burning out, whether you’re leading a justice effort at church or heading out to join a local protest. You can order Rise Up! from UCC Resources.