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 is an unwanted gift you received that turned out to be a blessing?” What changed your opinion and attitude about the gift?
- Read Exodus 16:2-15 aloud in your group. It might be familiar to you, or you might find some parts of this biblical story surprising. What does this encounter tell you about God? How is this consistent or inconsistent with your understanding of the character or nature of God?
- “The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness” (Exodus 16:2). Skim Exodus 15 to find out the events that precede this moment in the wilderness. How do you see the attitude of the people shift from Exodus 15 to Exodus 16? What does this tell you about God? What does this tell you about human nature? Where do you see people move from gratitude to grumbling today?
- In the Matthew 20 text, the laborers first complained because they had not received more wages than those who worked fewer hours. How do you think they would have felt when they heard the response from the landowner in verse 15, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (NRSV) What lessons might this parable have for Christians today?
- The Planning Worship section says, “God provides, we gather, and we share.” What comes to mind when considering our responsibility to gather and share God’s provisions, just as the people of God worked to gather manna and labor in the vineyard? How might it look for your congregation to take this responsibility on as a part of its mission? What are the provisions that you have gathered that you can joyfully share with others?
- The Preaching Notes say, “Settling in for the long haul, in this faith journey, is to acknowledge that much of what we’ve learned about how the world works doesn’t fit us anymore.” What does that mean to you? How would you explain this to someone outside of a community of faith? How do your life choices and behavior reflect this change in worldview?
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:
Loving God, you have provided for us again and again along our journey of life. Forgive us for taking your provisions for granted or for resenting your generosity toward others. Pour out your mercy upon us and change our hearts to be fully content in you. In the name of Jesus, 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.