The Meal of Mission

It’s almost universal that important moments and significant occasions are marked by sharing a meal. We incorporate meals into our three main holidays here in the U.S. – Thanksgiving, Christmas and Superbowl Sunday. There’s just something inherent in us as humans that we commemorate things by sharing a common sustenance.

That’s probably why God incorporated meals into the great festivals prescribed in the Law of Moses. They served as a reminder of Israel’s heritage and calling, but also as a means of binding groups of people together. Meals communicate something.

This Sunday we’ll be reading about the most famous meal of the New Testament, and surely the most significant. We’ll be reading Mark 14:12-26 as we continue our study of Mark’s gospel.

Mark locates this meal at the beginning of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which would make this a Passover Meal. Jesus goes about re-purposing some of the integral elements of this most important Jewish observance.  If liberation is central to the theme of Passover, and Jesus ties his upcoming death to the Passover, what is that communicating to us about his mission and the mission of the Good News? What sort of liberation do you believe he had in mind?

Why do you think Jesus didn’t “out” Judas at the table? Why do you suppose he prompted all of his disciples to inquire if they were the one?

Jesus took the Afikomen bread and the Cup of Redemption and gave them new designations for us, saying they now represent his body and his blood. Clearly he’s pointing to role which the Passover Lamb typified – he would be our sacrifice. In v24 he states what that sacrifice will accomplish. What do you understand a covenant to be? How does that inform you about Christ’s mission, and our mission as Good News people?

It should be an interesting and comforting study – hope to see you there!

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!

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!

The Kingdom at the End of the Rope

You know what the phrase “I’m at the end of my rope” means, right? It is a descriptive way of emphasizing that one is out of options, there’s nothing left to try. That’s a place most of us spend our lives trying to avoid. We work hard to make life predictable and secure.

The problem is, things go stupid. Sometimes so stupid it is beyond our grasp to fix things.

Try as we do, there is nothing that we can find in this world that will make us immune to the troubles of this broken world.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 5:21-43, and we’ll read about two different characters who are at the end of their ropes. It will be another Markian sandwich – something Mark is prone to do. We’ll find a story within a story.

As you read the text, try to list off all the ways in which the two characters who interact with Jesus are different from each other. For instance, one is a man, the other a woman. Keep in mind the purity code of the Mosaic Law as it concerned this woman. Remember how important the Synagogue was to Israelites in the 1st century.

Once you’ve got a good picture in your mind about how different these two are, start looking at what is the same about them? What is it that brings them to the same place?

What can that tell us about those times when we are at the end of our rope?

What is it that stops Jesus to ask who touched him? What do you think Jesus meant when he told the woman that her faith had made her well again? What does Jesus say to Jairus when the news comes about his daughter?

What does God seem to be looking for from us in our times of trouble? What does trusting God in difficult times look like to you?

Looking forward to digging into this on Sunday – hope to see you there!

Do You or I or Anyone Know?

“Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley grow. Do you, or I, or anyone know, how oats, peas, beans and barley grows?”

This Sunday we’ll be having our Surf-N-Grill Sunday – which means we will have a shorter than normal service, and then head down to St Andrews State Park for a beach day. The weather looks pretty good for that!

If you haven’t been baptized and would like to, you can still sign up online: Baptism Sign Up

We’ll also be continuing our study in Mark, reading 4:26-34 which contains two parables about seeds. I drew a coloring page for the kids to work on during our teaching – and it may give you something to talk about afterwards.

As you read the first parable in v 26-29, we should take our cues from the previous parable about what the seed stands for: the news of God’s kingdom advancing in this world. In this story, what does the emphasis seem to be on? What impact does human agency have in the growing of the crops? How would you correlate scattering seeds and gathering a harvest with our activity as the church? What lessons do you believe Jesus is intending to teach us with this imagery?

The second parable about the small mustard seed seems pretty straightforward. What would you say constitutes those seemingly insignificant ways in which God’s Kingdom grows in this world?

I’m looking forward to a family day at Eastgate! Hope to see you there!

The Heart of God vs the Hardened Heart

There’s a scene from the first Incredibles movie that reminds me of the text we’ll be reading this Sunday. Mr. Incredible is a superhero forced into retirement who had taken on a job as an insurance salesman. He keeps looking after his customers best interests, which gets him called into his boss’s office. Rather than describe the scene to you – let me just put it here for you to watch:

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 3:1-6 in our study of this gospel.
Do you see the parallels between a puny and petty boss trying to exert authority over a superhero?

As you read this passage, think about the contrasts. Who is Jesus looking at? Who are the religious leaders looking at? Following that, contemplate this question: what is the main concern of the religious leaders and what is the main concern of Jesus?

Answering those questions will unlock the lessons of this text.

What is it about the religious leaders that made Jesus both angry and sad? How does Jesus’ reaction to this help us to identify the priorities God intends for us to live by?

In a fast changing world we, as followers of Christ, often struggle to know how we interface our Christian values with this morally fluid society. Sometimes we’ve fallen into the same snare that the Pharisees did. In what ways has the church been blinded by a commitment to what might be considered necessary rules that we miss God’s overarching value of compassion? How can we keep that from happening while still holding to a conviction?

Those are the topics we’ll consider – it should be a thought provoking text to explore!

Priorities

There is a strange tension between the letter and the spirit of a law.

The “letter of the law” refers to how a law is spelled out in the penal code, vehicle code etc. The “spirit of the law” is the reasoning behind why the law was enacted; the original intent for its institution. It is possible to violate the “letter of the law” but not the “spirit of the law”. In such cases, law enforcement and prosecutors hopefully use discretion and don’t usually enforce violations of the “letter of the law” as long as the “spirit” wasn’t violated.

A sign may be posted in the park which says “no vehicles allowed”. That’s the letter of the law. The intent, however, is to prohibit large, motorized vehicles from entering. If a person in a wheelchair wants to enter the park, it may technically violate the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

Something along those lines is happening in our text for this Sunday as we continue our study in Mark. We’ll be finishing chapter 2, reading v 23-28.

Why do you think the Pharisees accused the disciples of “harvesting” on the Sabbath? Apply the letter versus the spirit of the law principle here. Do you think it was God’s original intent to keep people hungry on the day of rest?

The story Jesus references in his rebuke is found in 1 Sam 21. It’s an interesting story because it’s filled with all sorts of ethically disconcerting stuff, the least of which was the showbread (to me anyway). What do you believe Jesus’ point to the Pharisees is? What seems to be God’s priority when it comes to his intent behind any commandment?

How can we keep God’s priority in view as we attend to our own life of faith and the values that stem from that?

It will be a thought provoking study, hope to see you there!