Going Deeper – 2 Cor. 13:14

Title and Text: “Grace, Love, Fellowship” – 2 Cor. 13:14

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • Paul’s benediction in 2 Cor. 13:14 is Trinitarian, referring to all three persons of God’s Self: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. What does the doctrine of the Trinity mean to you?  What does it matter to you?
  • Paul pairs particular nouns with each person of the Trinity: grace (Jesus), love (the Father), and fellowship (Spirit). In what ways do you associate these qualities with the corresponding members of the Trinity?
  • What is the significance of referring to Jesus as “the Lord” and “Christ” here? What about referring to the Spirit as “holy”?
  • Is there a sense in which these blessings of God are linked to participation in the body of believers?
  • In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates, “The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” Peterson adds adjectives to the nouns.  What adjectives would you choose?  Write your own version of the verse below.  Read it each morning and evening this week at the conclusion of your prayers.
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Going Deeper – The Harvest is Ready

Title and Text: “The Harvest is Ready” – Deut. 16:9-12; Acts 2:1-13, 42-47

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • What place does the celebration of Pentecost have in your church?—in your life? What is Pentecost’s significance for you?
  • Review the two biblical passages. What areas of correspondence do you see between the Festival of Weeks and the Day of Pentecost?
  • How do you express your gratitude for God’s provision, both materially and spiritually, for your life? Do these texts offer any ideas?
  • Those who have encountered God’s provision live generously toward others, seen in the OT gleaning laws and the practice of the early church. What are some practical ways that your resources (material, intellectual, and spiritual) can help meet the needs of others?
  • Pastor Nate challenged us to involvement in God’s harvest through 1) prayer, 2) personal witness, and 3) partnership with others. Which of these do you need to place emphasis on in order to become more active in God’s purposes for the world?

Call to Worship: Christ our King

This is a call to worship, which uses the full text of Psalm 93 along with part of Rev. 11, highlights God’s supreme rule over all through the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  The last Sunday in the Christian year, known as “Christ our King Sunday” would be a great occasion for this call to worship.  You might also consider using it on Sundays that coincide with major national political events, such as Independence Day or a presidential election.  In that context, this call invites worshippers to recall that only God’s kingdom is eternal and only Jesus is Lord over all, forever.

Call to Worship: Based on Psalm 93, Rev. 11:15-18

The Lord rules! He is robed in majesty— the Lord is robed, clothed with strength.

Yes, he set the world firmly in place; it won’t be shaken. Your throne is set firm for a very long time. You are eternal! 

Lord, the floods have raised up— the floods have raised up their voices; the floods raise up a roar!

But mightier than the sound of much water, mightier than the sea’s waves, mighty on high is the Lord! Your laws are so faithful. Holiness decorates your house, Lord, for all time.

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ and he will rule forever and always.

We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and was, for you have taken your great power and enforced your rule, in judgment and salvation.

(Together): So we worship you, Christ our King, for you alone are worthy.

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 6

“Dead or Alive” – 2 Sam. 6

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • When have you heard (or yourself said) that a worship service was “dead” or “alive”?  What is it that makes us describe worship in these ways?
  • Do you feel the punishment fit the crime when God strikes Uzzah dead for touching the Ark of the Covenant to keep it steady (vv 6-7)? Why or why not?
  • Pastor Nate suggested that Uzzah attempted to manage and control the ark, and God, through his own efforts and advanced techniques.
    • What do you think of this assessment?
    • Where and how do you observe such obsession with techniques and technologies in the church today? How might Uzzah’s end be a caution to such churches and church leaders?
  • Scan through the chapter looking for expressions of David worshipping God. How would you characterize his worship?  What can you learn from his example?
  • What is the fundamental difference between Uzzah and David? In regards to whatever you identify, where do you see yourself: more like Uzzah or David?  What are you going to do next?

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 5:1-10

“A Longer Stride and a Larger Embrace” – 2 Sam. 5:1-10

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • David waited a long time from when Samuel anointed him as Israel’s king (1 Sam. 16:13) to when he actually became king over all Israel’s tribes (2 Sam. 5:1-5). Recall all David has gone through in that time.  What do you think this moment in today’s text felt like to him?
  • Why do you think God places us in situations and seasons in life in which we have to wait for him to fulfill his word? Though hard for us, how is waiting good for us?
  • Israel’s elders challenge David to be a shepherd-king (v 2). In light of their past experience w/Saul, why was this shepherding role important to them?
  • David graciously includes these people in the northern tribes who had only just come around to acknowledging his authority, and agrees to be their shepherd-king. What does this reveal about David’s character?  How can his example challenge you?
  • In his letters, Paul regularly praises God for the “faith” (in God) and “love” (for others) that he observes in the lives of those to whom he writes (see Eph. 1:15, Col. 1:4, 1 Thess. 1:3, 2 Thess. 1:3).
    • Why is this combination of faith and love central to a life with God?
    • Where do you need “a longer stride”? How is God calling you to trust him?
    • Where do you need “a larger embrace”? Who is God calling you to love?

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 2-4

Title and Text: “In the World But Not Of the World” – 2 Sam. 2-4

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • We can hear David’s frustration and fatigue with having to deal with evil, violent men when he says, “And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak. These men…are too strong for me” (3:39, CEB).
    • Can you relate to this frustration with trying to live for God in the midst of the world’s sin and evil?
    • Besides expressing his feelings in this verse, how does David respond to the harsh realities around him throughout these three chapters?
  • Read John 17:13-19. How does the Christian self-understanding of being “in the world but not of the world” relate to what Jesus prays here?  Why does he desire us to stay in the world, though we aren’t of the world?
  • We always inhabit the tension that David experienced, as did Jesus later, of being part of God’s kingdom and living and working for that kingdom yet doing so in the conditions of this fallen world system. How can a thoughtful reflection on these texts in 2 Samuel and John help us navigate our life in but not of the world?
  • Pastor Nate’s message offered three ways to live for God in (but not of) the world: to stay attentive to God’s presence, faithful to God’s ways, and dependent on God’s strength. Which of these is the greatest challenge for you at this time in your life?  How do you hear God speaking to you right now?  How will you respond?

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 1

Title and Text: “A Time to Mourn” – 2 Sam. 1

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

Note: Whenever we’re talking about death and loss and mourning we’re dealing with something sensitive and possibly quite painful in light of people’s personal experiences.  Keep this in mind if using this study guide in a group setting and be sensitive to people’s feelings, experiences, and their sharing (or inability to share) with the group.

  • Choose one (or both) of the following to reflect on and share about:
    • Reflect on a time you mourned a personal loss:
      • Did you have a community that shared your pain with you? How were people helpful?  How were people hurtful?
      • How did you encounter God in your time of mourning?
    • Reflect on a time you mourned with someone else for their loss:
      • What did you do/say? In retrospect, were these actions/words helpful or harmful?
      • How did you encounter God by entering and sharing someone else’s loss and grief?
    • What experience do you have in corporate worship with mourning? Why might churches be quick to celebrate joys and victories but reluctant to lament pain and losses?  What does David’s lament teach about the value of mourning as an act of communal worship?
    • It comes as a surprise that David mourns the loss of Saul, who hated and tried to kill him. Have you ever been surprised by your own grief at the loss of a personal enemy?  How can the act of facing death by mourning help us heal from our own wounds?
    • How can times of mourning help us deal with and gain perspective on life, death, and God?

Going Deeper – 1 Sam. 30

Title and Text: “Governed by Grace” – 1 Sam. 30

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • In one word, what is the governing principle of your life? (Not what you want it to be, but what you believe it actually is).
  • Where do you see God’s grace for David in this chapter?
  • Where do you see David acting with grace in this chapter? What does he do?  To whom?
  • In the midst of personal pain and community crisis, David “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (v 6). How do you think this took place?  How do you find strength relationship to God?
  • Against the wishes of most of his men, David decides to split the Amalekite plunder evenly among everyone, including those who stayed behind at the Brook Besor. David then makes such gracious distribution national policy.
    • Read Jesus’ parable in Matt. 20:1-16. How might both this parable and David’s actions bother contemporary American hearers?  Why do social expressions of grace bother or offend some of us?
    • Would it be fair to say that the degree of our generosity toward others is a sign of the degree to which we recognize ourselves as objects of God’s grace?
  • Read and commit to memory Eph. 2:8-10. Ponder the relationship between grace and generosity in these verses, between what God has done for you and how you respond in relationship to God and others.

Communion Prayers: Eph. 2:8-9

Here’s a liturgy and prayers for Holy Communion based on Eph. 2:8-9 with words of institution from Luke 22:19-20.  Biblical text from the CEB.  The closing affirmation is from 2 Cor. 9:15, which I customarily say at the conclusion of Communion.

The Apostle Paul declares, “You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.”

Grace.  That’s what we find here, now.  The table represents fellowship with God, for it is the Lord’s Table.  And all are invited; we are invited; you are invited.  Grace.  This table isn’t a right that any deserves; it’s a gift that all who come receive undeservingly, humbly, and gratefully.

As we come to the table, let’s remember the institution of this meal on the night Jesus was betrayed.  In his Gospel, Luke records that “After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup after the meal and said, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Let’s pray:

Jesus, your body is given, not taken.  No one could have taken your life against your will.  In submitting your will to your Father’s, you gave your body for us.  Isaiah tells us that your broken body makes us whole: “by your wounds we are healed.”  We give you thanks for what you have done for us—become the sacrifice for our sins—and what you have given to us—new and eternal life.  Be glorified as we receive the gift of your body, which is given for us.  Amen.

Let us eat the bread with grateful hearts.

Let’s pray:

Jesus, your blood is poured out and a new covenant is established.  You give your life for us and we receive your life in us.  The Scriptures tell us that your sacrificial death brings us forgiveness for our sins and reconciles us to God.  We are made new to live new, to show forth signs of sacrificial love and resurrection life.  We give you thanks for guaranteeing God’s new covenant with us in your own holy and pure blood.  Be glorified as we receive the gift of your blood, which is poured out for us.

Let us drink the cup with grateful hearts.

Thank God for his gift that words can’t describe!

Call to Worship: God’s Kingdom

Here’s a call to worship based on Jesus’ basic teaching about God’s kingdom (Mark 1:15) and his Isaiah-sourced mission statement (Luke 4:18-19).  This responsive call to worship would work well for services focused on God’s kingdom and/or Jesus’ ministry.

Call to Worship: Based on Mark 1:15, Luke 4:18-19

Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news! Jesus comes with good news for the poor.

Now is the time!  Here comes God’s kingdom!

Jesus comes to release the prisoners.

Now is the time!  Here comes God’s kingdom!

Jesus comes to give sight to the blind.

Now is the time!  Here comes God’s kingdom!

Jesus comes to liberate the oppressed.

Now is the time!  Here comes God’s kingdom!

Jesus comes to bring the year of the Lord’s favor.

Now is the time!  Here comes God’s kingdom!

(Together): We open our hearts and lives to God’s kingdom, trusting the good news of Jesus Christ.  We will worship Christ our King, who comes to transform us with grace and truth.

Prayer

Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, today we give thanks, we rejoice, we worship you, because you have given us your Son, Jesus, who sets us under your rule, where we find justice, peace, and joy.  Now is the time to worship.  We place ourselves in your hands, God of love and power.  Be glorified in the praise we bring to you and transform us through your presence today.  Through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.