Guests: and

Read: Matt. 19:3-8; Luke 17:26-30; Acts 7:1-15; Heb. 11:1-22

One of the key features which distinguishes the Judeo-Christian perspective from other “natural” perspectives is that history has a goal. You can chart the key events on a line and the line is going somewhere. History has a goal. And for Christians that goal can be characterized by the term “hope.” Yes, there is also a judgment — which potentially could shape the goal through fear and dread, rather than through joy or hope. But for the believer, the end of history as we know it is a matter of hope.

But to be able to live in hope, we have to have a secure framework which allows us to look to the future with some sense of security. Our lessons for the next three months focus on the first book of the Bible, Genesis. And our first lesson looks at how the New Testament looks back on the first book of our Bible as the basis for daily living and a future hope.

Discussion themes and questions:

  1. Matthew 19:3-8. Good homes, good marriages are rooted in Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. In Matthew 19:3-8, Jesus is talking about the messy business of divorce and in his response to the Pharisees’ question about divorce, he points to the first marriage, the ideal marriage, described in Genesis 2-3. Why were those early accounts important for Jesus? Why does he go back to the beginning to talk about broken marriages?
  2. Acts 17:26-30. Judgments in the past and judgment in the future. When Jesus was asked about the restoration of the kingdom, he chose to ground his answer in stories of the past, namely, the story of the flood and the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. To what extent is our ability to think about the future rooted in our understanding of the past? Why were these stories of the past important to Jesus’ vision of the future?
  3. Acts 7:1-15. People of hope didn’t always have “hard” evidence. When Steven talked about the hope for the future, he rooted it in the stories of Genesis: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. How did those ancient patriarchs live in hope? What kind of evidence did they have? Note Acts 7:15: “He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child.” How did these ancient people keep on living in hope?
  4. Heb. 11:1-22. Hope and faith are rooted in past history, but don’t require “hard” proof. Like Paul’s “hope” in Romans 8, so the “faith” of Hebrews 11 is something that is rooted in the past but somehow doesn’t require “proof.” How do those past stories link up with the hope of the future? The Genesis heroes somehow kept “faith” in spite of grim circumstances. Can that be useful for us today in our struggles for hope and faith?
Robert Frost : “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
Reinhold Niebuhr : “Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure…. Fundamentalism is, therefore, inevitable in an age which has destroyed so many certainties by which faith once expressed itself and upon which it relied.”

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