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 talk about their role model in following Jesus. Have them name the characteristics of their role model’s faith (For example, “They embody Jesus’ teaching and love through their deeds beyond their words; They are people of deep prayer, but they never boast; they are always there for others in need.”)
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes). Read Matthew 23:1-12.
- Using a typical polemic of the time that was widely used to criticize the opponents within and outside a community, Jesus is comparing two groups here. Who are they? (The scribes and Pharisees versus the community of disciples.)
- The scribes and the Pharisees were religious elites of the time who had political power and teaching authority (i.e., those who sit on Moses’s seat). Please note that not all Jews and Jewish leaders are described as those who teach God’s words without practicing them. Can you list the religious elites’ behaviors, seeking public glory that Jesus criticizes in verses 4-7?
- What differences do you notice when you compare these characteristics to those of your faith role model? Where do you think those differences come from?
- Jesus tells his disciples, “Call no one your father on earth.” The term “father” denotes religious, political, and social authority, such as the emperor, who exercised power to maintain a hierarchical world. Against this, Jesus reminds his disciples, “You have one Father-the one in heaven” under whom all disciples are equal as brothers and sisters. It is like a family defined not by birth order, ancestry, or gender but by Jesus’ call, doing God's will. Is your church embodying this vision of Jesus? In what ways?
- The Preaching Notes say that the body of Christ looks like “the church that represents the beloved community, that celebrates the diversity of every kind, that reflects the tapestry of the world in which we live. This is the church that makes it into the kingdom; this is the church that stands before the throne.” What comes to mind as concrete features of such a church? What roles are you playing to create such a community?
- “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. (23:11-12). According to Jesus, this is one of the features of his beloved community. Reflect on ways to embody Jesus’ teaching to help your church be the beloved community. List three actions you will do:
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:
God, who looked across the expanse of the universe and called it good, thank you for creating mountains and valleys in various shapes and sizes, colorful rainbows, dark ocean depths, and deserts of hot and cold. We are grateful you made us in your image, which is completely beyond our limited grasp. Help us fulfill your will and vision in our community. Amen.
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Rev. Boyung Lee, Ph.D., is an elder in full connection with the California-Nevada Annual Conference. She is Professor of Practical Theology at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, where she served as the dean from 2017 to 2022. Rev. Lee has pastored churches in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Korea.