Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal).
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have participants answer, “What complaints do you hear most often in conversations with friends? What do you catch yourself complaining about lately?
- Water is essential for life on earth. Thinking about that fact, does this change your view of the complaints of the Israelites in Exodus 17? How do you view their grumbling differently?
- In Exodus 17:4, We hear Moses crying out to God, “What shall I do with the people? They are almost ready to stone me.” Have you been in leadership and felt this way about people? How did you handle that? How is leadership in a church different from secular organizations?
- The Preaching Notes say, “Do you know the amazing thing about the Exodus account? God gave them water. God showed Moses where to find the very thing that they were shouting about. God didn’t grumble back....” What does this tell you about the nature of God? What does this tell you about the relationship between God and humanity?
- Matthew 21:28-32 contains a parable found only in the book of Matthew. Read these verses aloud in your group. How do you think this parable was received by the religious leaders of Jesus’ time? Read it aloud again, encouraging the group to imagine this parable being told in your community today. How would it be received in 2023?
- “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us” (Psalm 78:1-3). So much emphasis is placed on talking about faith. Where do you see faithful listening happening? How can we hear the teachings and parables of our faith afresh and anew?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End with the following prayer, a similar prayer, or the Lord’s Prayer:
Patient and loving God, you hear our grumbling and complaining and love us anyway. Help us to be patient and loving with others. Give us the wisdom to join the overlooked and under-respected who are quietly working in this world for you. May we be found faithful in your vineyard. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
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Rev. Robin C. Wilson is an elder in The United Methodist Church. A pastor, author, and teacher, she currently serves as the director of The Alabama West Florida Healthy Clergy and Congregations Initiative.