Hope!  A most excellent week one for Surprised By Hope.  Our reading and video helped wind us through the streets in our community.  As we look out the window, we see that everyone is busy.  Production is high, success is often the focus, our married couples are both facing challenging demands in trying to get ahead…and this is just the day job.  Our kids are over-programmed as we face our fears of failure in the pressure that they have to commit now, in third grade, or they are going to get passed by.  Meanwhile, an economy that has pressured middle class families with stagnated wages that have not kept up with inflation, all the while trying to balance monthly expenses that did not even exist 15 years ago just to try to keep up.  For our young people, entry level is much different than 20 years ago while student loans have skyrocketed making mom and dad’s basement not a luxury–but a present day reality.  Our loved ones are getting older and best decisions for all are complicated?

So our study starts out–“What are we waiting for? And what are we going to do about it in the meantime?”(p. 6, study guide).  What is our ultimate hope?  Then we are challenged from what is so common in the church with either: 1. The “Secret Code” approach to Scripture-if only we can crack the code–then we are in; or 2. The “Escape the World” approach–that if our concern is our ticket to often–then we will be leaving this all behind–so who cares about this place anyway?  But then we are challenged that God’s purpose is to restore all of creation. (Read Psalm 96) To add my favorite translation/definition of righteousness that God’s purpose is ‘restorative justice’.  To vindicate the oppressed, the poor, and those on the margins.  And so we are challenged with how are we living as people of hope?  Individually and as a community?  And how are we expanding this into the margins so that at least in our corner–by standing on the margins, hope is helping to eliminate them altogether.  When we are living into hope that is not removed, but present now–that we live into being a church that is made of people gathering to share hope with one another and sharing this out in our world.

From our first meeting, most excellent questions were raised at the end.  I encourage you to help respond.

1. What is God waiting for?

2. What would the world be like if there were no Christians?  (The video helped share the nuance of the terrible things that have happened in the name of Christianity such as Crusades, Inquisition…, and great things with references to the earliest Christians, abolitionist William Wilberforce, etc…)

3. Why this planet? Of all the planets in the cosmos, are we the only creatures made in God’s image?

4. Looking at the beauty of creation and the hummingbirds that gather at the feeder, there is one that always drives the others away?”  When we say we see God in nature, what about the realities such as this?

Great questions.  For those that missed the first session, Tony Winter will be leading another group starting this next week, Wednesday night at the church at 7:00 pm.  Join us on Wednesday nights at 7:00, or Thursday mornings at 7:00 am as we enter into being surprised by hope.