On October 14th, 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in combatting racial inequality in America.
He was assassinated less than four years later.
He once wrote: "We must accept finite disappointments, but never lose infinite hope."
What stories or images do you associate with hope?
Do you feel there is any difference between hope and optimism?
J.R.R. Tolkien had lived through two World Wars when he wrote The Lord of the Rings. As a soldier, he struggled to find hope in the midst of grim reality.
Yet hope is such a key them in Tolkien's stories that he invented a new word to describe the kind of hope he seeks to convey:
"I coined the word 'eucatastrophe': the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears."
Why do you feel hope can be such a precious thing?
In the stories that you shared, what are the enemies of hope?
After Katniss Everdeen takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, the games’ organiser, President Snow, begins to resent her. He is worried that the hope she is bringing to impoverished districts is allowing her to rally rebellion against him.
When might some people feel hope is dangerous?
John Lennon famously sang:
"You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one"
Why might people say John Lennon was a dreamer?
Was his hope based in reality?
For many, the world and its people seem so broken that the idea of any happy ever after seems ridiculous.
Yet without denying these realities, followers of Jesus have believed that they can live with hope.
In one of the biographies of Jesus' life, Mark tells the story of how Jesus interacts with a nameless woman in a hopeless situation.
Jesus is on his way to the place where he has been told a young girl is dying when a desperately sick woman crawls through the crowd to approach him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around Jesus. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
Why might this woman have felt beyond all hope?
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
What was the woman’s biggest dream?
What was she hoping for?
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.
Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
How might the woman have felt when Jesus started asking questions?
What additional hope did Jesus want the woman to encounter?
Jesus would go on to give his own life to offer others hope. But how does even this episode suggest that Jesus was more than just a healer?
Do you think followers of Jesus have any more concrete reason to hope than John Lennon?