Week 2: The Fear of Home
Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering and Opening (10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have each participant finish the sentence: “When I hear the word judgment, I envision…”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read: Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6
- “Which words come to mind when you think of judgment? Why?”
- What is your image of repentance?
- Person at the altar praying
- Person weeping tears of regret
- Person celebrating victory
- Person offering large donation to a charity
- Person bringing coffee and donuts to his or her coworkers
- Compare and contrast the words refine and judge. Which word seems more spiritual? Which seems more comforting? And why? How might they both be words of hope?
- Why does Luke locate John’s preaching “in the wilderness”? What echoes of Israel’s story does this conjure up and what might it mean for how they see themselves currently? [They see themselves as those still in exile. Much like the Israelites had a generation to die off before they could enter the Promised Land, this, too, is a time of refinement—with expectation of entering a new era of peace.]
- How does John’s ministry prepare the way for Jesus? [John calls them to repentance, which will put them in the posture of receptivity to follow Christ.]
- What does it look like to “prepare the way of the Lord”? How do we make the Lord’s path straight?
- (R) How does John’s message of “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” invite refinement of our goals, dreams, and desires?
- (R) Why would the refining of the social, economic, and political order have been received as a message of hope to those who felt as though they were still in political and spiritual exile?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End by praying the following or a similar prayer:
Compassionate God, as the calendar gets more crowded, help us to focus ever more on watching and waiting for the refinement you seek to do in us and through us. Help us to be a blessing to our family and friends as we strive to be people who embody forgiveness and repentance. Amen.