Breaking Boundaries

Some of the great moments of history, those that stick with us in positive ways, those that show us new and better ways to live, are incidents that break down the accepted boundaries that get drawn between us as fellow humans.  In our own nation’s history, The suffragette movement, the Birmingham Campaign, Pee Wee Reese with his arm around Jackie Robinson…those are just a few of the triumphant moments that have shaped us.

Jesus certainly was one who violated accepted cultural and religious boundaries during his ministry. He has ministered to those labeled unclean and unworthy with such regularity it becomes the action we expect as we read the gospels.

Then we come across a section like the text we’ll read this Sunday: Mark 7:24-37.

Jesus breaks from the script in a radical way. A pitiful character of a woman with a tormented daughter literally begs Jesus to help her…and he seems to deny her request, citing the ethnic and religious boundaries that separated them. He even compares her to a dog in excusing himself.

Needless to say, this has puzzled Bible readers from the time we’ve had it.

How would you feel had you received a response like she got? Some suggest it was all about timing, salvation had to come through the Jews, and Jesus knew she’d get her turn in due time. Some believe this demonstrates Jesus’ full humanity, where he had to learn that he had blind spots of cultural prejudice. Others think this was all done with a wink and a smile as Jesus tried to get this woman to press through in faith. Why do you think Jesus did this?

Imagine how you would feel after going home and finding your loved one healed. What do you suppose her thoughts about Jesus were at that point?

In the next verses, 31-37, how is the man who couldn’t hear or speak in a similar situation as the Syrophoenician woman? What stands out as unusual in this account? What do you make of the way Jesus addressed this man’s problems?

This study will give us a lot to think about, I think. Hope to see you Sunday!

Inside Out

One of the most common criticisms leveled at Christians and the church in general is that of hypocrisy. Religious playacting – speaking and putting on a show of one thing but living another. I think humanity’s genius for corruption is the reason any spiritual pursuit runs the risk of drifting into hypocrisy. I don’t think there’s a person on earth who isn’t guilty of it to at least some degree.

The commonality of hypocrisy isn’t an excuse for it though. Jesus spent a significant portion of his teaching time addressing the sin of religious hypocrisy. One of those times will be the subject of our study as we continue through the gospel of Mark, reading ch 7:1-23.

Another controversy with the Pharisees and religious leaders unfolds in our text. Why do you think the writer of Mark emphasizes that the issue in question was about traditions? What seems to carry more weight for the religious leaders, God’s word or their traditions about God’s word?

Traditions in and of themselves aren’t negative or bad. They can prove very helpful for remembering ones heritage and history. Why had they become a negative thing in this text? What traditions do we have at Eastgate? How do you feel or react when someone isn’t in step with our traditions? How can we keep traditions from becoming sacred in our thinking?

At the heart of this debate is the question of what is required to be one of God’s people. What do you think the Pharisees and Scribes thought was necessary? What does Jesus seem to think of their view?

Jesus finishes his address of purity and hypocrisy by exposing what the Old Testament purity laws were pointing to: the broken human condition. While Mark doesn’t state it in this section, based on everything Jesus says about the heart, what would constitute a cure for human corruption? How does the Good News tell us that is achieved?

It should be an interesting study – hope to see you there! Also – don’t forget The Great Big Water Balloon Fight of 2019 right after the service! Bring your own squirt-gun if you want, and a side dish to share if you can and we’ll provide the burgers and dogs! Also, you can get a free snow cone from Big Wave Snowballs! Come join the fun as we get refreshed on a hot, summer afternoon.

The “AH-HA” Moment

Last week we watched as Jesus performed the most wide spread miracle in all
of His public ministry, feeding the multitudes on a mountainside. Today in our text we’ll
pick up with an equally impressive miracle, the story of Jesus walking on the water and
then another wide sweeping miracle of healing. All of this wonder working reveals the compassionate character of a loving savior but it’s intended to reveal something else as well. The trouble is we humans are sometimes a little slow on the uptake. This week we pick up in Mark 6:45-56.

Jesus was up in a mountain miles away from the disciples yet he saw their struggle and headed towards them. How does it feel to know that Jesus sees and comes to us in our own difficulties? Can you think of a time he did so in your own life? There’s been a lot of opportunity to witness people struggling in Bay county recently. In what ways might we be able to “get in the boat” with them?

The disciples don’t initially react to Jesus showing up how we might expect. There are some cultural conditions along with their struggles that cause them some confusion. What ultimately helped them to recognize who he was? Does the statement “It is I” in verse 50 sound familiar to you at all. Check out Exodus 3:14. What did God call himself  to Moses at the burning bush? In Matthew’s gospel account of this miracle the disciples respond making their first proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus saying “Truly you are the son of God”. This was their Ah-ha moment in recognizing who he really was. What event or series of events preceded your messiah epiphany? It seems like it took a whole lot for the disciples to finally come to this revelation. Think of all the had witnessed and experienced up to this point. How does it make you feel to realize that God never gave up in revealing himself despite their “hard hearts”. How might we join his efforts in help others recognize him in their lives?

In verses 53-56 Jesus again extends his miracle working power to the masses. It says ALL who touched the hem of his garment were healed. What do you think the message behind the miracle here might be? Are there people you consider outside the reach of grace? How hard is it for you to extend grace or maybe even friendship to someone with a lifestyle other than yours. If your seats at the ball game were next to someone who identified as transgender or homosexual, how would you respond? Would you share the excitement of the evening with them or move to a different spot? Good food for thought.
This will be an intriguing study for sure! Hope to see you here!

Powerful Compassion

I hope everyone has been having a good holiday weekend and that you find some time to rest as well! We’re going to be reading about Jesus and his disciples trying to get a break from their intense ministry schedule – only to find that rest isn’t that easy to come by. The team quickly find themselves in a situation that requires attending to – and in the account of events, we get a glimpse into the motivating force of God’s kingdom.

We’ll be reading Mark 6:30-44.

As the Jesus team arrives at their secluded spot, they find it’s over-run with a mass of uninvited people who are hoping to find some help. How do you think the disciples felt when they saw this massive group of people at the border of their rest area?

We are told how Jesus felt.

What word is used to describe Jesus’ response to these vulnerable people? ἐσπλαγχνίσθη is the word used to describe his reaction. Who have you felt those kinds of feelings for? What does this tell us about God’s heart towards all humanity?

Read Numbers 27:15-17 and Ezekiel 34:1-16 (take note of v11-13). What bearing do these Old Testament passages have on our text in Mark? Who would the “shepherds” be in Jesus’ time? Who would the “shepherds” be in our context today?

The disciples wanted to send this mass of uninvited people away, why? What is the difference between the disciple’s view of the problem and solution and Jesus’? Why do you think the difference is so great?

When the disciples take inventory of their supplies, they are woefully insufficient for this task. When they bring what little they have to Jesus, what happens? What, if any, significance do you find in the detail about all the left-overs?

Where is God calling you to submit whatever you have to Christ so that He can bless others? What does compassion look like in your interaction with others? What causes and interests do you have that are compatible with God’s compassion? What does God’s compassion look like at work in this world? What steps can we take to get in sync with God’s powerful compassion?

Looking forward to exploring this together this Sunday! Hope to see you there!

 

A Conscience Resisted

Whoops! I was sort of under the weather and forgot to update Wonderwhat! Sorry about that. This Sunday we’ll be reading a very intriguing story as we continue exploring the Gospel of Mark. We’ll be reading chapter 6:14-29.

The writer of Mark does something noteworthy in this section: he slows down the narrative. He even adds in some thoughts and motives for his characters. I suppose, for the first readers, this was all contemporary news and still scandalous enough to catch their ears. We certainly have no lack of love for political scandals and gossip about the famous in our day, why shouldn’t it be true of them?

This section tells the sordid account of how Herod Antipas executed, without trial or provocation, a religious leader who posed a political threat to him. When you word it like that, it does sound like a contemporary headline.

You’ll notice as you read the text that Jesus is not center stage in this section. Instead we have Harod Antipas, his current wife Herodias, her daughter and John the Baptist. There are a lot of issues being addressed in this story. Abuse of power. The importance of character for leaders. Political machinations. Commodification of women. Lust. Ego. Murder. I’m tellin’ ya’, this section is downright Shakespearean.

As you read the story, put yourself in the position of each of the characters. John was faithful to the cost of his life. Herod was intrigued but unyielding. Protective but controlling. Ultimately, he is backed into a corner where if he were to do the right thing it could cost him his reputation. Little did he know what his reputation would really be.

Track Herod’s interest, but refusal to heed what John had to say. What can we learn about the ramifications of ignoring God’s attempts to shape us? What is the reason given for Herod acquiescing to his step-daughter’s request? What areas of your personal reputation do you spend a lot of time protecting? What if God called you to do something that would diminish that reputation?

It could end up being a convicting study…a challenge towards yielding our hearts to God. Hope to see you then!

Your Life Comes with a Mission

“We’re on a mission from God” ~ Elwood Blues

It’s pretty amazing what a person with a sense of purpose can accomplish. It’s equally disheartening to witness a person with no sense of purpose. Nothing withers so tragically like a human soul. We are hard-wired as a species with a need for something to do.

When Jesus gathered his disciples, and later commissioned his church, it was all with a sense of purpose. A mission. I’m convinced we don’t fully grasp the power of the new life in Christ until we awaken to that sense of divine vocation.

We’re going to be looking at Jesus’ commission of the 12 disciples in our text this week, Mark 6:7-13.

As you read through the text, how would you describe the purpose of this mission? What did Jesus want his disciples to be doing? Our mission may not always involve casting out demons or seeing people healed physically – but what are those miracles a picture of? What other ways can we be opposing evil and promoting restoration in our world?

Why do you think Jesus put such restrictions on his disciples concerning what they could take on their journey? How would you describe these restrictions in one or two words? In what ways can we make our mission in this world more simple and humble?

Do you believe there is significance to Jesus sending them out in twos, if so, what is it? How have you found encouragement in your mission by talking to someone else?

Hope to see you Sunday!

 

Certainly Wrong

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” That’s what Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft said in 2007. 

It’s a funny topic to research, the hilariously wrong predictions that some folks have made throughout the years. There’s a notoriously wrong assessment of Jesus that we find in the gospel of Mark where Jesus’ hometown rejects him as significant because they knew him for so long. We’ll be reading about that this Sunday as we explore Mark 6:1-6.

When the text tells us that the people of Nazareth were amazed at Jesus, the context makes it a negative reaction. The questions they ask indicate that they are suspicious of his training and ability to say and do what he has. What is the reason they give for being doubtful of his calling?

Why do you think his family and trade have any bearing on their evaluation of him? They were certain about who he was…but they were certainly wrong.

If we would have asked them why they rejected God’s kingdom, what do you think they would have answered?

What can we learn from the closed-minded way the people of Nazareth reacted to God’s unexpected kingdom? What would a godly open-mindedness look like to you?

These will be important and timely questions we’ll consider this Sunday. And it’s SURF N GRILL this Sunday…and FATHER’S DAY! If you haven’t been baptized and would like to be, sign up online!