May 1-22, 2022
Week 4: Step Forward with Courageous Hope
1. What resonated with you from the message on Sunday? Was there anything that seemed relevant to your current situation? Was there anything you disagreed with or found uncomfortable?
2. Would you describe yourself as a hopeful person? In general, is the glass half full or half empty for you? What do you think has developed this perspective in you?
3. What story (or stories) inspire you to hope courageously? These could be non-fiction or fiction (books, movies, mythology, history, etc.). Share with one another about why you find them so inspiring and how they have impacted your life.
4. Read Matthew 13:31-33. These are two of Jesus’ parables, and parables often have ambiguous and multi-layered meanings. What do these ones mean to you? How do you read them? Why do you think Jesus is talking about the kingdom in terms of small things? How does this relate to hope and courage?
5. At Cedar Ridge we have a vision of “hope and transformation” lived out through a commitment to personal development (growth), love for one another (community), and working for healing and justice in our world (servanthood). Reflect on each of these three and consider:
- How might you have lost hope and given up on yourself, other people or the world?
- What would courageous hope look like for you in each of these situations?
- What small thing(s) do you sense you need to do to now to embody hope?
6. Read this short essay by the civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis, who died on July 17, 2020. He wrote it shortly before his death, and asked for it to be published via various outlets on the day of his funeral. After reading, take a moment of silence for reflection. Then discuss the following:
- What is he saying about the past? How can this inspire hope and courage for us? When you think about his life, how could the past have been a source of despair for him rather than hope?
- What is he saying about the future? How can this inspire hope and courage for us?
- What is he saying about the present moment and how to activate hope?
7. Each spend some time in quiet personal reflection about the ways in which past disappointments and pain might be suffocating hope in your life. This might be disappointment with people you trusted, or disappointment with faith and God. It could be disappointment with yourself and/or life in general. Take a moment to quieten your heart and identify an area of pain and disappointment. Invite God into that space and consider what you need to let go of the past (given that you have no control over that now) and what you need to do (and keep doing) in the present to move forward courageously. After everyone has had an opportunity for some quiet, spend some time sharing your reflections with each other. Then pray for one another and invite God’s love into each situation.
Practice for the week: The Examen
One way of viewing hope is as a decision in the present moment not to allow the present circumstances to overwhelm us such that we give up on the way of love. One of the challenges is that we are not always conscious of this in any given moment. The Examen is a helpful exercise to help us become more aware, and can be practiced at the end of each day.
Sit quietly alone and take a moment to center yourself. Then “relive” your day in your imagination by allowing your thoughts to guide you through the day’s events. As you do this, focus particularly on your interactions with others—in your family, at work or school, in your neighborhood or online. These “interactions” might be your internal thoughts or attitudes, or they could be actual conversations and encounters. Do this without judging yourself, but simply notice and ask the following two questions:
At what times during your day were your thoughts and actions grounded in courage and hope?
- What happened?
- How were you hopeful and what empowered you in this way?
- Were you aware of this hope, or is it only now as you look back that you realize it?
- What was the outcome?
At what times during your day were you fearful and despairing?
- What happened? Did you give up on yourself, judge someone else, or were you overwhelmed by circumstances?
- Were you aware of this fear and despair, or is it only now as you look back that you realize it?
- What were your feelings or beliefs about the situation and any person(s) involved, including yourself and God?
- How would being more conscious and grounded in courageous hope have made a difference in this situation for you?
When you have finished reflecting on your day, continue to sit quietly without self-judgment. Invite God’s presence and allow yourself to sink deeply into God’s total acceptance—feel this love as the source of hope and courage for you as you let go of fear. Invite God’s love to empower you to live more consciously from this center tomorrow.