Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: April 23, 2017
Text: Red Letter Jesus: Do You Love Me?

GROUPS GUIDE

RED LETTER JESUS: DO YOU LOVE ME?

Text: John 21:4-19

Sermon date: April 23, 2017

SCRIPTURE VERSES

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

5 He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered.

6 He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[a ] 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." 17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1.   Compare vv. 4-7 with Luke 5:1-11. How are these stories similar / different, especially with regard to Peter?

2.  John tells us that Jesus' appearance at the Sea of Galilee was the third time he had appeared to his disciples (v. 14). What are the distinctive features of each appearance that John is referring to? What happens in each of them?

3.  How does Peter's action in v. 7 fit with what we might know of his character or personality, especially compared with the other disciples in v. 8?

4.  Spend some time thinking through the conversation between Jesus and Peter in vv. 15-17. In what ways was this a painful or difficult conversation? In what ways was it a comforting conversation?

5.  Read 1 Peter 5:1-4. What kind of lasting impact did Peter's conversation with the resurrected Jesus have on his thinking and ministry?    

6.  Commentators struggle to understand what Jesus was referring to when he asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" Two likely answers are:

Do you love me more than these (other disciples)?

Do you love me more than these (things connected with being a fisherman)?

Which possibility seems most compelling to you and why?

7.  Silently in the background of John 21 is Peter's repeated denial of Jesus. What does this story tell us about how Jesus deals with "lapsed followers" who have denied or rejected him at some point?  


Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: April 10, 2017
Text: Red Letter Jesus: Go and Find a Donkey

 

 

GROUPS GUIDE

RED LETTER JESUS: GO AND FIND A DONKEY

Text: Matthew 21:1-11

Sermon date: April 9, 2017

SCRIPTURE VERSES

21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5 "Say to the daughter of Zion,

'Behold, your king is coming to you,

    humble, and mounted on a donkey,

    on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.'"

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" 11 And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

To begin:

Pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to help and to speak in the moments you have together; ask that we would all have hears to hear what the Spirit might say through the scripture. Pray the words of Psalm 119:17--"Open our eyes that we might see wonderful things in your Law."

Have one or two in the group read the text aloud, encouraging all to read silently and listen prayerfully. After the reading offer a moment of general response asking (1) What details of the story resonate with you or stand out to you? (2) What questions does the story raise in your mind?

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1.  Jesus gives two disciples a word of instruction as they make their approach to Jerusalem. If you had been one of those two disciples, what would your response have been to his instruction? What would your conversation have been like as you followed what Jesus said to do?

2. What is Matthew trying to show his readers by quoting the words of Zechariah 9:9?

3. Use the footnotes in your Bible, a study Bible, or biblegateway.com to look at the phrases the crowds shouted as Jesus made his way to Jerusalem. Talk about related scriptures and what these words might have meant to the people.

4.  Do you see a tension between the words of Zechariah and the shouts of the crowd?

5. In v. 10 there is a question about Jesus' identity. What do you notice about the response given in v. 11? How does this compare with our first "Red Letter" session (see Matt. 16:13-18).    

POSSIBLE LIFE APPLICATION POINTS. . .

1. Jesus gives an unusual but clear instruction in vv. 2-3. What kinds of things make it hard for us to be obedient to what Jesus has plainly said? Compare Prov. 3:5-6.

2. Maybe there's some ordinary thing in your life that "the Lord has need of?" What might that be?

3.  Do we ever get caught up in the enthusiasms of the crowds around us? What would you have thought of a Rabbi riding a donkey? 

4. Do we still place certain "expectations" on Jesus? What were they in this story? what are they in our lives?


 

 

Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: April 2, 2017
Text: Red Letter Jesus: Do You Want To Get Well?

SCRIPTURE VERSES

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids-blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" 7 The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed." 11 But he answered them, "The man who healed me, that man said to me, 'Take up your bed, and walk.' " 12 They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you." 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." [1]

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 5:1-17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


To begin:

Pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to help and to speak in the moments you have together; ask that we would all have hears to hear what the Spirit might say through the scripture. Pray the words of Psalm 119:17 - "Open our eyes that we might see wonderful things in your Law."

Have one or two in the group read the text aloud, encouraging all to read silently and listen prayerfully. After the reading offer a moment of general response asking (1) What details of the story resonate with you or stand out to you? (2) What questions does the story raise in your mind?

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1.  What do you think of Jesus' question in v. 6? What do you think Jesus might have been doing with this question? 

2.  Just as importantly, what do you think of the man's response in v. 7? How would you characterize his answer to Jesus? What might it tell us about him?

3.   See verse 13. Why do you think Jesus "withdrew from the place?" John gives us an answer - but what is the significance of what John tells us?

4.  What is the common thread that seems to tie verse 14 back to verse 6?

5. What do you think Jesus was saying to this man in verse 14? What might be worse than 38 years of "being an invalid?"

POSSIBLE LIFE APPLICATION POINTS. . .

1.  What are the 'pools' that people are sitting by, waiting and hoping that somehow this pool will make them well, make their lives work?

2.  Are there ways in which people become comfortable with their illness? Does the brokenness of life ever become the 'norm' that we accept?

3.  What would a 38 year affliction do to a person's expectations and their sense of hope?

4.  How can we come to "learn" or "know" of the stories of suffering that are around us?

PRAYER

Merciful God, we live our days waiting on something or someone that will make us whole. All the while you invite us to look to you for the wholeness we seek. Forgive our misguided searching. Forgive us for looking to you only as the means of some greater thing in which we have placed our hope. Pour out your grace that we might find help an healing in you alone, we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

 

Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Mark Crumpler
Date: March 26, 2017
Text: Red Letter Jesus: Seeking and Saving the Lost

SCRIPTURE

He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house." And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

                                                                                                      New American Standard Bible

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1.  This event in Jesus' life takes place as he makes his way to Jerusalem. Read Jesus' words in Luke 13:31-35. What will take place upon Jesus' arrival and entry into Jerusalem?

2.  Zaccheus is a curious character-a perennial favorite of children's Bible stories. What do you know about tax collectors in Roman Palestine? Read Luke 18:9-15 for some possible insight. Who might we consider the modern equivalent of a first century Tax Collector and why?

3.  We are told that Zaccheus was a short man and therefore had to climb a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. Does it strike you as ironic that in making Jesus more visible to himself, Zaccheus made himself more visible to Jesus?

4.  Even as Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem in order to be faithful to the Father's plan, he takes the time to visit with Zaccheus. Is this encouraging to you? If so, why?

5.  Re-read verse 5. Jesus addresses Zaccheus with a tone of urgency. Why might that be?

6.  Zaccheus responds to Jesus invitation joyfully. Not everyone is joyful, however. Some grumble--who? Why might this be their reaction? Have you ever found yourself grumbling at God's generosity to someone?

7.  What is Zaccheus' response to Jesus presence? What does he say in verse 8? What's remarkable about Zaccheus' offer?

8.  Read Exodus 22:1, Leviticus 6:5, and Numbers 5:7. How does Zaccheus' offer compare with the requirements of the Mosaic Law?

9.  How does Jesus respond to Zaccheus' offer? Jesus remarks, "he [Zaccheus] also is a son of Abraham" (v. 10). What do you think this means? Read Romans 9:6ff.

10.  Re-read verse 10. What is Jesus' mission according to this verse? 


PRAYER

Gracious Heavenly Father,
We come before you in many ways the same as Zaccheus-small, weak, un-popular, and in need of grace. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus who has reached out to us and has come into our lives and has wrought in us the grace of salvation. Help us, like Zaccheus, to turn from our sin and to do that which is right, all to your honor and glory.
Amen.


Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: March 19, 2017
Text: Red Letter Jesus: I Am He

SCRIPTURE

John 4:7-30, 39-42

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

1.  The Pharisees believed that Jesus had baptized more disciples than John the Baptist. How does Jesus respond? What does this suggest about the Kingdom of God and unhealthy competition?  

2.  John records that Jesus did not baptize any disciples. Why might that be? Does reading 1 Corinthians 3:4-6 help you answer this?

3.  What do you know about the relationship between Jews and Samaritans in biblical times? Note that verse 9b can also be translated, "Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans." What's the significance of Jesus sharing a cup with this woman?    

 4.  In verse 10 Jesus refers to "the gift of God." In the context of this conversation, what might this "gift of God" be referring to?

5.   The woman perceives that Jesus is special: "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet" (v. 19). Is her statement correct?

6.  Notice that Jesus unconditionally accepts the woman and yet Jesus also affirms that true worship requires worship in "spirit and truth" (v. 24)-authentic worship that is based in truth-and that "salvation is from the Jews" (v.22). What's significant Jesus approach to the woman? What two things does he manage to achieve? 

7.  How does Jesus respond to the woman's statement about his identity: "I know that the Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes he will tell us all things" (v. 25)? If you have access to a concordance or a bible dictionary, try to find where else Jesus refers to himself as the Messiah in such ambiguous terms. Why might he have saved this uniquely direct revelation for this woman? 

8.  Clearly the Samaritans and the Jews hated one another and their hatred was based in theological differences as well as other factors, yet Jesus reached out to this woman. Who is someone who you dislike? What could you do to reach out to him or her?  

9.  Consider verse 27. What attitude do the disciples display toward this woman?

10. According to verses 39-42 what is the result of Jesus' tenderness toward this woman?
 

PRAYER

Gracious God,
Thank you that Jesus models for us your desire to unite all people in the truth of your gospel. Help me to welcome all people and to point them to the forgiveness found in Christ alone and to the transformation possible in Jesus' power. Amen.


Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Mark Crumpler
Date: March 12, 2017
Text: Red Letter Jesus: Do You Still Not Understand?

SCRIPTURE VERSES

14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" They said to him, "Twelve." 20 "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" And they said to him, "Seven." 21 And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?" 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Read Mark 8:11-13. Immediately prior to this episode, the Pharisees had demanded a sign from Jesus in an attempt to test him. How does Jesus respond? What does this suggest about Jesus' ministry and about his miracles?

2. The feeding of the four thousand takes places just a few verses prior to this event-probably earlier the same day. Mark connects the two episodes by reminding us that, "they had forgotten to bring bread" (v. 14). The disciples then get into a discussion about the fact that they have but one loaf between them. What does this suggest about their powers of observation and the nature of their faith in Christ?

3. Jesus issues a warning to his disciples: "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod" (15). Reread 8:11-13 and also Luke 23:6-12. What is Jesus referring to? What is the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod?

4. Hearing them disciples discussing their shortage of food, Jesus proceeds to ask them eight questions. What are they? What point is Jesus trying to make?

 4.1.   Question 1:
4.2.   Question 2:
4.3.   Question 3:
4.4.   Question 4:
4.5.   Question 5:
4.6.   Question 6:
4.7.   Question 7:
4.8.   Question 8:

5. In response to Jesus' final question, the disciples respond correctly-"seven" (v. 20). How does Jesus respond to this correct answer? What does this suggest about the disciples' understanding of the identity and ministry of Jesus?

6. Have there been times in your life when despite the fact that Jesus is present, you are unsure of what he is actually doing? Why? How has God used those times to deepen and grow your faith?

PRAYER
 

Father,

So often we see but do not understand. Indeed, we cannot understand and receive your grace unless you first draw us to yourself and give us new life. Turn our hearts back to you. Open our minds and our hearts to understand your purposes both in our lives and in the world. Help us to follow you faithfully, even as our faith matures.
Amen.


Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: March 5, 2017
Text: Red Letter Jesus: Who Do You Say I Am?

SCRIPTURE VERSES

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets."15 Then he asked them, "But who do you say I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

17 Jesus replied, "You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven." 20 Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Jesus first question is, "who do people say the Son of Man is?" What answer is he given? What do each of the four responses (v. 14) have in common? What does this suggest about Jesus' ministry? 

2. Jesus then poses the question, in a more direct way, to his disciples: "But, who do you say I am?" (v. 15). Who answers first? How does he answer Jesus' question (v. 16)? Read John 11:27. How does Martha's response compare with Simon Peter's?

3. Read Matthew 8:27 and 14:33. How has the disciples' understanding of Jesus identity changed and developed?

 4. How does Jesus respond to Peter (v. 17)? What does this tell you about the nature of saving faith?

5. Jesus calls Peter, "the rock" (v. 18) and says that upon "this rock, I will build my church" (v. 19). Protestants typically understand Jesus to be referring to himself when he says, "this rock" rather than Peter (which is commonly held by Roman Catholics). Which view do you favor and why?

6. In verse 20, Jesus instructs his disciples not to reveal his identity as the Christ (the Messiah) to anyone. This is called "the Messianic secret" in New Testament studies. Why do you think that Jesus might have desired this?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we know that it is only by faith that comes as a result of grace that we can profess with Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Help us to make that good profession today and to bear witness to him in all that we do.

Amen 


 

 

 

Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: February 26, 2017
Text: Devoted: Praying Together

 

 

SCRIPTURE VERSES

And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you." 38 And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out." 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.     
                                                                                                   Mark 1:34-39                                                                

Q. What is Prayer?

A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of sin, and thankful acknowledgment of all his mercies.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A. 93

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of sin, and thankful acknowledgment of all his mercies.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A. 93

1. Jesus pattern of prayer is outlined in 1:35. When and where did Jesus pray?

2. When and where do you pray? Do you have a regular habit of prayer like Jesus? If not, take a few minutes to write out when, where, and how you will pray.

3. We are told that Jesus prayed in "desolate places." Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 and Hebrews 12:12, 13. Is there a connection between Jesus praying in the "desolate places" and the Christian life? If there is, what does that suggest about the nature of Christian discipleship in a fallen world?

4.  The disciples search for Jesus and, upon finding him, reproach him for his absence. How does Jesus reply? What does Jesus' response tell you about his purpose and the role of prayer in his life?

5.  Read Luke 19:10. What is Jesus' mission? How does prayer connect with that mission? Reflect on your mission (see Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:16-20). How does prayer connect with our mission?

PRAYER

Lord our God, we come into your presence. Hear our prayers, we entreat you. Let your will be done among us; let your will be done for each one of us individually, and for our time. Let everything go according to your will, even if the way leads through tribulation, fear, and need. For in the end your goal will be reached. In the end you will fulfill your purpose, and your kingdom will come. Your kingdom will come to the honor of your name and for the redemption of all people still suffering on earth. Let your Word bring us blessing. May we go forward joyfully in the patience of Jesus Christ until times change, until a new day dawns and we are allowed to see your glory and your peace. Amen.

 


 

 

Going Deeper With The Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Beth Case
Date: February 19, 2017
Text: Devoted: Growing Together

SCRIPTURE VERSES

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work."

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

1According to Pastor Beth, some who believe the world is becoming a better place, and some who believe it's getting worse. Which you are? Why? Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9. What did Paul think?

2.  Robert Fulghrum famously said, "Everything you need to know you learned in Kindergarten." Paul wrote that Timothy should "continue in the Scripture you've learned..." (v. 14). Pastor Beth challenged us to continue. In light of your current circumstances, what does continuing look like for you?

3. 19th Century preacher Dwight L. Moody said, "The Bible is not for information, but for transformation." How is the Bible being used by God to and you and to shape you into the person God desires you to be? How will you interact with, and incorporate Scripture into daily life?

4.  Do you have a "life verse"? What is it? How did you pick it? If not, consider finding a life verse in 2017-a verse or passage of scripture that has special meaning to you, and that is especially important in bringing meaning and purpose into your life.

5. According to verse 17, one purpose of the Scripture is that it prepares and equips us for the good works that God has for us (compare Ephesians 1:10). What good works are you engaged in and what role has the Bible played in preparing you for them?

PRAYER

Lord our God,
we thank you that in spite of all the evil, we may look toward the good and toward a change for the better. For your love, your Spirit of love, can be with us. In spite of all that has gone wrong, we can change. Through genuine faith we can become worthy in your sight. Everything can turn to the good. The nations can become glad, rejoicing in life because you are working among them to help them change. Amen.
 

{Christoph Friederich Blumhardt}


 

Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Mark Crumpler
Date: February 12, 2017
Text: Devoted: Life Together

SCRIPTURE VERSES

"You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.  On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.

May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus."

QUESTIONS

1.  It's easy for us to have many acquaintances-people we know at the level of information and   impressions. How many honest-to-goodness, know-everything friends do you have? How many of them are connected to this body of believers?

2.  It's easier to talk about community than practice it. In what ways do you intentionally practice Christian community? What makes Christian friendship different from other friendship?

3.  At several places in this letter Paul seems to struggle with a sense of loneliness (read 1:15; 4:9, 20). Have there been times in your life when you struggled with loneliness? Are you struggling now? What is one concrete step you could take to move into community? Is there a person that God is laying on your heart to reach out to and invite into community? What is stopping you? 

4.  Paul prays for his friend Onesiphorous. He was the kind of friend who brought out the best in Paul, and enabled him to handle difficult circumstances. Christ-centered friendships "leave us better than they found us." How are you growing Christ-centered friendships?

5.  Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor--Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

   A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." What does this tell you about friendship? 

6.  Paul is in the midst of difficult times. He writes that Onesiphorous was, "not ashamed of my chains." True friends step into our mess. Think for a moment, who would call you at 2 a.m. to take them to the hospital? Who would you call?

7.  Loneliness is antithetical to the Gospel. In Christ we are brought into relationship with God and with one another. Read Ephesians 2:19ff. (below) and see if you can write it in your own words.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
Thank you that we are no longer foreigners and strangers. Instead we are fellow citizens with God's people and also members of God's household. Thank you for the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and most especially for Christ Jesus who is himself the chief cornerstone, though rejected by many. Thank you that in him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple set apart for you. Continue your good work of building us together to become a dwelling in which you live by your Spirit.
Amen.

 

Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: February 5, 2017
Text: Devoted: Eating Together

SCRIPTURE VERSES

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body, which is foryou. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judge ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another--34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home-so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

1.  In this passage, Paul is addressing a worship problem that the church in Corinth wasexperiencing. What was it? What was happening?

2.  Paul notes, "...there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized" (v. 19). What do you think he means by this? How does division with a congregation reveal the hearts of those involved in the conflict?

3.  Notice that Paul writes that what he received from the Lord, he passed on to the churches concerning the institution of the Lord's Supper (v. 20). In what ways are you "passing on" the faith that you received to those who follow behind you?

4.  Paul includes a caution to those receiving the body and blood of Christ. When we receive communion, we must prepare (v. 28) so that we worthily eat and drink the elements and commune with God. Do you prepare for the Sacrament? What are some things you might consider doing to prepare to meet with Christ in the bread and cup?

5.  What do you think that Paul means by, "...if we judge ourselves truly, we would not be judged" (v. 31)?

6. When God judges and disciplines his people, it is toward a certain outcome. According to verse 32, what is that end?

7.  What is Paul's final instruction concerning the Lord's Supper? What might this suggest about the nature of the Supper? Is it just about communing with God or is it more than that?

PRAYER

PSALM 138

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
  before the gods I sing your praise;

2 I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
    for you have exalted your name and your word
    above everything.

3 On the day I called, you answered me,
    you increased my strength of soul.

4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
   for they have heard the words of your mouth.

5 They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
   for great is the glory of the Lord.

6 For though the Lord
   is high, he regards the lowly;  
   but the haughty he perceives from far away.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
   you stretch out your hand, 
   and your right hand delivers me.

8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.


Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: January 29, 2017
Text: Living Large: Following Jesus Into The Neighborhood

BIG PRAYERS

SCRIPTURE VERSES

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 27 He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28 And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37

He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

                                                                                                                                (Luke 10:25-37)

Footnotes:

1.     Luke 10:25 Gk him
2.    
Luke 10:35 The denarius was the usual day's wage for a laborer

 

BIG IDEA

God commands his people to love our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18). Not only that, we are to love our neighbors as we "love ourselves." While loving our neighbors seems complicated; it's really not. It boils down to treating them as we would wish to be treated. Specifically: (1) opening our eyes to our neighbors' needs, (2) opening our hearts in compassion toward our neighbors, and (3) opening our hands to aid our neighbors, and (4) opening our wallet to share our resources with our neighbors.

QUESTIONS

1.  When Jesus asks the lawyer to answer his own question ("what shall I do to be saved?" v. 25), how does the lawyer respond?  

2.  The lawyer shows insight. Read the following verses: Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:4. Compare them with Jesus' statement in Matthew 22:37-40. How are they alike or different?

3.  Jesus unpacks the lawyer's answer by telling a story. Who is the hero of the story? Why is this surprising?

4.  The story happens along "the Jericho road" (v. 30)-a high crime area in ancient Israel. Does this have any significance to the story? Why or why not?

5.  Two characters pass the injured man. First, a priest; then, a layman. Finally, the Samaritan comes to the man's aid. Who would you have expected to respond? 

6.  Jesus poses the question: "which one of these was a neighbor to this man?" In this instance, what does Jesus mean by neighbor? Is it related to proximity? Is it related to action? What do you think?

7.  The lawyer responds, "...the one who showed him mercy" (v. 37). We often talk about justice. How is justice different from mercy? Is there any significance in which word we use?

8.  In light of these verses, what is God calling you to do?

PRAYER

Gracious God,
Give us the grace to follow you into our neighborhoods. Help us to show your love, care, and concern for all those whom we encounter there. Through our small deeds and actions, may they come to place their faith in Christ and receive life eternal.
Amen.

 

 

 

Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: January 22, 2017
Text: Living Large: Following Jesus In The Home

BIG PRAYERS

SCRIPTURE VERSES

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Colossians 3:12-17

QUESTIONS

1. The apostle Paul tells us that in order to be Christian disciples we need to take action. That action is clothing ourselves with Christ's character. How do we do that? What are some tools or means that God has given us to grow in grace? How are you using these tools in your own life?

2. Martin Luther said, "The family is the smallest church." How does your family shape and develop one another's faith Do you worship together-at home or with the church? What is one thing you could do to invest in growing one another's faith?

3. It's more important, and certainly more realistic, to have grace in family relationships than perfection. How can you intentionally grow as a grace-filled family?

4.  We're told to "let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts." How do we experience the peace of Christ? How do we get it?

5.  The peace of Christ seems to be related to the "word of Christ" dwelling richly in us. How do we get the "word of Christ" into our souls? Which of the list of things given in verse 16 appeal to you especially? Why?

6. Paul sums up by saying, "whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (17). What does it mean to do something "in the name of Christ"? Does acting in such a way change how you think about parts of your life?


PRAYER

Father,
            We acknowledge how difficult it is to live in perfect accordance with our faith in the Lord Jesus, especially at home. Thank you for your promise that your Spirit dwells within us and is working to transform us--moment by moment--into the likeness of Christ. Help us to submit to that work and also to actively pursue godliness. Help us to live out the virtues listed here in order that together we may bring you glory and honor. Amen.

 


 

 

SHORT-TERM MISSION TRIP TO COSTA RICA

January 7-14, 2017

 

Here is a picture of our lunch together with eleven other leaders of the local church. A special time of fellowship.

Here is a picture of our lunch together with eleven other leaders of the local church. A special time of fellowship.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Today is our first full day in Tirrases, Costa Rica, and the second day of our trip. We started off our day with a lively and joyful worship at Concepcion, 30 minutes ride from Tirrases, where we deeply felt the presence of the Holy Spirit!

We helped set up the tent that becomes their church "building" on Sundays and met some of the members and community participants. As the worship ended and the tent was folded again, we went to have lunch with some of the local leaders.

 

We returned to play soccer (futbol) with kids and adults who attended the service (in the pouring rain!).

We were invited to a member's house to learn about the church's future plans for a community project in their neighborhood. A huge dream that God has put in their hearts!

We finished the day with an outdoor dinner prepared with much love and a time of fellowship at Capilla del Camino.  We then departed with our host families for the night.

(From Katia Faroun)

My favorite part of Sunday was the soccer game.  There were 30 people playing or watching a great game in the rain.  No one complained about the rain or mud or the ball going over the hill 20 times. It was just a group of adults, youths, and children from different places, races, and languages that became one through worshiping together in the morning and then having a great time together.

(Leslie Pohl)

Monday, January, 9, 2017

Wonderful time of devotional and Bible study this morning based on Genesis 32:23-33 when we discussed facing fear and seeking God to do so.

Later, with strong winds but blue skies, we departed from Capilla del Camino.  We were surrounded by a group of over 25 children from 6 to 14 years old, excited for the day and ready for the 20 minutes walk that took us to a nearby park.

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So much fun to be participating in games and suggesting games to this group of kids!  Most of them never got tired during the few hours that we played non-stop! With the end of the morning and after we ate a simple lunch the skies darkened and the rain returned; everybody was going home. Unexpectedly one of the children's leaders offered to take all of us on an adventure to visit a dam an hour away.

The generosity of her husband and herself was so evident as they pointed to a large 14 passenger van which was the means of the husband's work. They did not want any payment simply the joy to show us their beautiful part of the country and the opportunity to share a time of fellowship with us.  The rainy weather did not matter any longer as they pointed to us coffee fields, lush hills, the cattle in the field, a craftsman's display of coffee wood's carvings, a suspended bridge (of course all of us had to walk on it even under the rain) and finally the dam.

At the end of the day burned from the sun in the morning, and our muscles aching from the games we played with the children, we could still thank God for his mercy and care through the love, laughs, and kindness we received from our Costa Rican friends.

Pastor Manuela on behalf of the Costa Rica team.


Tuesday, January 10 

We started the day with the encouragement of 1 Cor. 13:1-13 in preparation for the health fair that the local church together with Omega International hosted for the residents of Tirrases. The fair consisted of 4 stations: Welcome and short presentation of the gospel, health screening, eye screening, and individual prayer as needed.

So many people came that instead of the fair going from 10 am to 3pm, it went till 6 pm.  Our eyes were really opened when we heard the prayer requests of the attendees and their many needs (physical and spiritual).

 

After the fair ended we went to Omega International's headquarters and learned about their story and mission: to help the youth of Costa Rica and neighboring countries stay on the path of God by keeping themselves holy and pure, providing teaching and celebrations for quinceañeras and couples that want to be married and have not done so for multiple reasons, as well as supporting single mothers.  We were able to give them two large duffle bags filled with beautiful dresses and suits donated by our congregatons towards these ministries.

 

From Katia Faroun

 

Katia's favorite moment: I loved playing with the kids at the health fair. I was able to show them how to take photos with my camera and they loved teaching each other afterwards. We also played some "futbol"/soccer (but with a two litre bottle. Whatever works!)

 


January 11, 2017
 

After a hard day of work God gave us the gift of a day of enjoyment. A total twenty-three of us from Capilla and Bethlehem visited a beautiful small beach on the coast of Costa Rica.  The country really lives out to its name! We spent the day playing in the warm water, feeding the monkeys in the trees, playing soccer on the shore, and getting to know each other more.  Some of us even used the black sands as a natural, free spa! After the beach we drove to two nearby more touristic beaches and experienced a beautiful sunset.  God was certainly present in not only the fellowship between us all but also seeing his creation in Costa Rica. 

 

From Katia Faroun

 

Carolyn Johnson"s additional thoughts: 

Although today's trip to the beach was "plan B" after the volcano we planned to visit and that was closed down, it was a wonderful day of fun and fellowship. God be praised that we were able to set aside the disappointment we may have felt about not seeing the volcano and just enjoy a relaxing day with our new friends. Thank you God that all went smoothly! 

20170111_172749DAY4PHOTO2CR2017.jpg

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today we started our day with an early morning devotional shared with several of our partners. With this good and encouraging beginning we started our work at church which consisted in getting the church kitchen area a new ceiling. 

 

We did not have the people or materials to get going easily to the task but we did all we could to be helpful.

 

We then got ready in the evening to join the congregation in worship. A lively worship team greeted all who entered the church gates.  Pretty soon praises, liturgical dances, prayers were lifted up to God. Manuela was invited to preach and bring a word from the Lord. Soon after our whole team went forth and gave short but powerful testimonies about the Lord's work in their lives and the impact of Capilla's members on the each one of us. The evening ended with greetings, embraces, conversations, and powerful individual prayer time.

 

Pastor Manuela 

 

Meaghan's favorite moment: Today was an amazing day.  We did so many things, but my favorite part was the church service! 

Everyone was worshipping,  singing and praising God.  Some of the young girls from the liturgical dance ministry took my hand along with that of Korrinne, Katia and Carolyn to be a part of their dance.  It was so powerful to be included in that form of worship!

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Friday, January 13, 2017

 

Great devotional to start the day followed by a ride to go to San Jose Central Market with the idea to see a glimpse of downtown San Jose, get some souvenirs including some good coffee, and return to Tirrases to continue the work.

 

Well pretty soon changes to that plan came about. Juan was not feeling well and one of our partner together with Manuela had to take him to the main hospital's emergency room while the rest of the group remained in the market area.

 

We are thankful to God for good (but very slow) public and free health care that allowed Juan to be released by 5 pm with some recommendations to follow up with his family doctor. By that time the group had gone back to their homes and rested some.

 

With the joy of having our whole group back together we joined a large number of members of the congregation as they celebrated Husai's 13th birthday (one of the host families' daughter).  Here again we sang and praised God, played guitar, had the best time with fun games, and were treated to a lovely meal and birthday cake.  It was probably more than 11 pm when people started to leave. Some of us still had our suitcases to make, and goodbyes to say. It became a very short night...our last night with our dear costarican families.

Thank you Lord for your protection and your care upon each one of us!

Pastor Manuela


 

20170111_172749DAY4PHOTO2CR2017.jpg

Going Deeper With the Sermon

Going Deeper With the Sermon

BIG IDEA

God is at work in the world. In theological language we call God's work, his "mission"--the thing that he is accomplishing in the world. His mission is redeeming a people (Christians) for himself and using them to restore this broken world. God's mission is our mission too. We partner with God in fulfilling his purposes in the world, especially in the 95% of our lives that is spent beyond the walls of the church building.

QUESTIONS

1.  Marnie alluded to John 10:10b, "I [Jesus] came that they [his people] may have life and have it abundantly." What is this abundant life Jesus is referring to? Is he referring to a fun life? A life marked by material abundance? Is this abundance (or fullness) simply spiritual in nature? What do you think?

2.  Consider the words of Jesus when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, "As the Father has sent me, even so am I sending you" (John 20:21). As noted above, God has a mission in the world and the church is the agent of that mission. Do you consider yourself to be "sent"? What do you think it means to be "sent"? You might read Matthew 28:18-20 and Luke 24:44-53 for assistance. 

Each of us is in a unique partnership with God in terms of accomplishing his mission. Reflect on your week-the places you'll go, the people you'll interact with. Ask God to impress upon you some of the ways in which you can be a missionary right where you are.

 

3.  Marnie referred to two ways of envisioning the church. If we think of the church as a cruise ship, we look at it to provide us with entertainment and activities. If we think of it as an aircraft carrier then we consider it a place to be fueled before entering into a mission. Which vision of the church do you favor most of the time? 

4. God cares about 100% of our lives. In truth, we spend about 95% of our lives outside the walls of the church building. What does that tell you about your 95%? 

5.  Each of us is in a unique partnership with God in terms of accomplishing his mission. Reflect on your week-the places you'll go, the people you'll interact with. Ask God to impress upon you some of the ways in which you can be a missionary right where you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: December 18, 2016
Text: Shepherds: Amazement In Fear

BIG PRAYERS

SCRIPTURE VERSES

 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

(Luke 2:8-15)

BIG IDEA

Christmas is for you. Jesus came as savior because what we need most is forgiveness. He came as "Christ" or "Messiah" because he was especially anointed and set apart for this mission. This Christmas, don't miss the very person way in which Jesus came to save, you.

QUESTIONS

1.   Marnie shared the story of a couple who were surprised by a million dollar gift after they thought it was a scam and hung up on the calls. Can you think of a time when you got good news?

2.   There's a lot of mentions of angels in the Christmas story. They function as divine messengers who get humans' attention in matters of extreme urgency? Most of us don't encounter angels with any regularity, so how does God get your attention? List some ways.

 3.   When the shepherds encounter the angels, they are "terrified." Fear happens when we know we are no longer in control. Can you recall a time when you felt fear? How did God meet you in that moment or moments? Whom did God use to support you during that time? What was the end result?

4.   Some common fears we share are failure, the future, and death. At Christmas, God meets us in our fears. Take a moment to lay your fears before God in prayer?

5.   Christmas is an invitation to lay down our fears. Why? Don't fear because God has a plan... and it is unfolding right in front of your eyes. Do you have an assurance that God has a plan and purpose for your life? If not, why do you think that is?

6.   Jesus is "the Christ" -- he comes on a mission, and that mission is to achieve forgiveness for his people. Don't miss that this Christmas.

 

 

Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: December 11, 2016
Text: Joseph: Belief in Betrayal

BIG PRAYERS

JOSEPH: BELIEF IN BETRAYAL

MATTHEW 1: 18-25

SCRIPTURE

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel"

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
    As we draw one step closer to Christmas, we ask that you would reveal to us once more the wonder of the incarnation and refresh within us our sense of awe that you would go to such great lengths to redeem us, rebellious as we are.
    The Apostle Paul reminds us that the central mystery of Christmas is that your Son, our Lord Jesus, set aside heaven and entered into our broken world. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, took on the form of a servant, and humbled himself for our sake, becoming obedient to death--even the death of the cross.
   As we consider the ways that Jesus humbled himself, by your Holy Spirit help us to imitate him. Help us to look not to our own interests, but to those of others. Help us to be united in purpose, and in love. Help us to set aside selfish ambition and conceit, and in humility to regard others as better than ourselves.
   Stir within us a deepening desire to know you and grow as your disciples-rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith, abounding in thanksgiving.
   May that discipleship bear fruit in ministry to one another--encouraging, exhorting, and equipping so that we may become more like Christ. 

   And may our likeness to Christ cause us to share the cares and concerns that marked Jesus' life and ministry. May we proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. May we care for the least, the last, and the lost. May we give of ourselves generously to carry out your mission to the world around us? Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

BIG IDEA

We all have different reactions to Christmas. Some of us find ourselves angry or caustic. The pains we've experienced during the course of the year bubble to the surface at "the most wonderful time of the year," and we become resentful. Others find Christmas confusing. Messages surrounding Christmas compete with one another and, like Charlie Brown, we're not sure that we get what Christmas is really all about. There's another reaction that Christmas can inspire: courage. Like Joseph, we can move through anger and confusion, and into courage. Joseph trusted God and he trusted Mary. As a result, he refused to divorce her and he stepped in and treated Jesus as his own.

REFLECTIONS

1.  Joseph is easily overlooked when we read the Christmas narratives and yet his act of faith is one of the profoundest parts of the story. Some acts of faith are seen and recognized easily, like Mary's. Others, like Joseph, are easily overlooked. Consider this: Joseph's quiet faith made Mary's faith possible. How might have the birth of Christ, and his life, looked differently had Joseph divorced Mary and abandoned Jesus?

2.  Matthew describes Joseph as "a just man" (ESV) or "a righteous man" (NRSV). In other words, he followed the Law of Moses and the teachings of the Rabbis. In failing to divorce Mary he opened himself to the charge of disobedience since the law required a divorce in instance of infidelity. How might we reconcile Joseph's character with his decision to go forward with his marriage to Mary?

3.  Matthew notes that the events of the passage we've read fit into a larger story-the story of God's redemptive plan for his people. The writer quotes Isaiah 7:14, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel." Does this help you to make more sense of the 'why' behind Jesus birth? How?

4.  We're in the third week of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Consider the big idea. Which reaction to Christmas best describes you today? Are you caustic or angry? Are you confused? Perhaps you're feeling inspired to courage. Take a moment to reflect on this or to write a brief paragraph exploring how you are feeling.

5.  The angel instructs Joseph to name Mary's child, "Jesus." Jesus' name explains his mission. Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Joshua," meaning "Yahweh [God] saves." How has Jesus' name and Jesus' mission impacted you? Has Jesus' saving purpose been accomplished in your life?

6. The prophet Isaiah also refers to the coming Messiah as "Immanuel," which means "God is with us." Read Philippians 2, especially verses 1 through 11. Reflect for a moment on the cost that made it possible for God to be with (or among) us. What does God's presence among us make possible? How does it change us?

PRAYER

Gracious God,
Thank you for the gift of your Son. Help us to be like Joseph and choose the way of faith and of obedience regardless of how quiet, subtle, or unnoticed it might be. Remind us that obedience is its own reward. Amen.

Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: December 4, 2016
Text: Mary: Trust in Trouble

BIG PRAYERS

MARY: TRUST IN TROUBLE

Matthew 1:18-25

SCRIPTURE

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings,O favored one,the Lord is with you!"  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, foryou have found favor with God. And behold,you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."      

And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"

And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God."  And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

(English Standard Version)

PRAYER

Gracious God--open your Word to our hearts that we may understand it fully, and open our hearts to your Word that we may receive it gladly. Amen.

IN BRIEF

We learn in these verses that Mary (probably 13 or 14 years old) is betrothed to Joseph, an arrangement that is more formal and binding that our modern engagements.The Scripture clearly attests that Mary became pregnant without having had sexual relations with her betrothed, Joseph. In cases of infidelity (supposed or actual), the law permitted--almost required-a divorce (Dt. 24:1-4).

The Bible teaches that Mary became pregnant "from the Holy Spirit." Jesus was miraculously conceived apart from the participation of a human father. We affirm this regularly when we say, "born of the virgin Mary" in the Apostles' Creed. Some scholars have suggested that "virgin" should be translated "maiden" in their attempt to explain away this miracle.

Explaining away Jesus' miraculous conception creates as many problems as it solves. In this view, Jesus becomes a good man whose morally upright life motivates us to follow his example. At best this presents an attempt to save ourselves, something Scripture rejects.

This is not the Christian message (gospel). Rather, as Christians we affirm that God became a man and bore our sins for us on the cross. And through his resurrection-something called into question by revisionist theories-we are promised that we will be raised with him. No virgin birth; no forgiveness of sin; no resurrection to life eternal.

Luke's account provides us with clear evidence of Mary's strong faith. She models for us what it means to trust God when she says, "may it be to me according to your word."

REFLECTIONS

1.  Mary's life moved from seemingly picture-perfect to disaster. Has there been a time in like this in your life? Reflect on this time-how did you come through it? Did you see God at work in it?
 

2.  Mary is in an awkward situation. Promised ("betrothed") to Joseph, she has become pregnant miraculously. Many people, then and now, would find the truth an implausible explanation. Does this make sense to you? Do you struggle to believe this?
 

3.  Gabriel tells her that she is "graced" or "favored" by God. In Christ, we too are graced and favored, yet with a different calling than to be the mother of the Son of God. What difference does your favored and graced status make in your life?
 

4.  Mary exercises faith--namely, she believes that what God has said to her is true. Can you think of a time that you exercised faith-perhaps not as radically as Mary-and took God at his word?
 

5.  Christmas observes the coming of Christ into the world, into your world. How are you encountering Christ this advent?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father--Inspire us with the example of Mary who trusted you and took you at your word. Help us to trust you too, so that in all we do we may bring you glory and honor. Through Christ we pray, Amen.