West End United Methodist Church

Summer Sunday Series 2021 - Alive: Re-engaging Theologies of Hope

This Summer Sunday Series will be in a Hybrid Format with Online and In-Person Options!

   Don't turn the page
I'm not finished
   Life is so uncertain

-Lyle Lovett

“But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more.” Ps 71:14

Lyle decides eventually that he would rather have the cheeseburger. We never know what he ordered before then. Arguably hope, not meaningless, brought him to the point of wanting something different, even better - if cheeseburgers are your thing. The psalmist points us in the direction of a stance of hope, against and despite whatever forces might be at play against us and our common life. The writer of Ecclesiastes, known as Qohelth, seems to want to split the difference between Lyle Lovett and the psalmist, wondering where, how, and perhaps even if we find meaning in life. The refrain that runs through Ecclesiastes is that the meaning of life is like wind, or breath, or an image that soon disappears in mist. Perhaps life, and death, and time, and God, and parties, and our common life is bursting with meaning, but we don’t see it because we are looking for something deeper that may not be there, or we keep looking in the wrong place, or we are so tightly bound to a certain past that we miss the beautiful, terrifying, and yet hopeful immediacy of the present. During this summer series, we will engage with theologies of hope as a way to look afresh at the wonderful and intricate world in which we live. Our common life can be shaped by different forces, good and bad. The good news is that our shared faith, and the wisdom of the world, is full of resources to help us understand and take action for the good out of an abundance of hope.

Note: these topics might float to different days because I like to bring in conversation partners on the various topics. 

June 6: The Bible and Hope: Optimism in Ecclesiastes

June 13: An Introduction to Theologies of Hope

June 20: Hope and the Future of the Church. Guest: Alan Whitley 

June 27: Hope and Racial Justice. Guest: Cecilia Olusola Tribble

July 4: No class

July 11: Hope and Joy. Guest: Mary Cady Bolin

July 18: The Johannine Tradition and the Future of Hope

July 25: Hope and Ecology. Guest: Timothy Eberhart

Matthew W. Charlton is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Conference, currently working on a capital campaign for Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. He teaches at Belmont University and, this fall, at Vanderbilt Divinity School. At Belmont, he teaches a course called “Trauma, Grace, and Resilience,” which is the background for the West End Summer Series. He is a research fellow at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and a research associate with Wesley House, the Methodist college affiliated with the Cambridge Theological Federation. He holds Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Religion degrees from Vanderbilt University and PhD in contemporary theology from Garrett. He has edited three books and contributed to multiple church-related publications. Like many, he and his spouse, Amy, and children enjoy traveling far and wide. They are looking forward to catching up on missed trips over the next year or two.