Book Review: The Awakening of Hope
Author: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310293385
It is a little disappointing to me there are not more reviews and commentary about this book, although it doesn’t surprise me there is not. This book is about fully embracing the teaching of Jesus and covenanting with a community of believers to make every effort to live out those teachings in daily life. I think many, perhaps a majority, of “believers” aren’t ready to make that commitment and that’s why I think there’s not more conversation about this book.
I connected strongly with Awakening of Hope; I was nodding my head in agreement with almost every point of each chapter. The book is formed around a series of common practices that faith communities join in together as they endeavor to live out the teachings of Jesus. Each of these practices is talked about in individual chapters; Why we eat together, Why we fast, Why we make promises, Why it matters where we live, Why we live together, Why we would rather die than kill, and Why we share good news.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove does excellent work in presenting the challenging teaching of Christ in the context of real-world living. He begins every chapter with introductions to real people and real communities of people who have committed to live out the ways of Jesus with one another. For instance, chapter three introduces us to Don and Carolyn Mosley and the Jubilee Partners Community. Don, Carolyn, Jonathan, and others teach us about the reasons for a fasting together as a community. Another example, this from chapter four, about covenant and promise, Wilson-Hartgrove introduces us to Benedict of Nursia, Augustine, and Evagrius Ponticus to help illustrate the nature and the need for trust and commitment to the promises of God and the promises we make to one another in the name of God. One quote continues to speak deeply to me, Wilson Hartgrove writes the following:
“The challenge of faith isn’t so much to trust God’s promises when we hear them as it is to continue trusting t hem when it does not appear to our best judgment that they are being fulfilled.” (p.74)
My favorite chapter is six, Why We Live Together, where we are introduced to “David” from Reba Place Fellowship, a community in Evanston, Illinois. This particular chapter brought to my mind memories and recollections from other books about the ministry of communal living and shared resources. This is a topic very close to my own heart and perhaps why I was so captured by the stories and teachings from this section. Words from pg. 128 continue to reverberate in my mind and heart; “We live together, then, to realize our true vocation in Christ.”
The book includes a thought-provoking study guide and there is also a 6-session (90 minutes) DVD available that can be helpful with group discussions or as another medium for personal study. This is a challenging book, let there be no mistake. If you’ve ever thought Jesus might have been serious about the lifestyle he taught of in his Sermon on the Mount, The Awakening of Hope can give you a peek into several communities and their reasoning for the how and why of trying to live those teachings out.