Dwellings Worship Series, week 1 —HOPE
November 4, 2018
Small Groups: From Worship To Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Season after Pentecost: Dwellings. The subtitle, “From Worship to Discipleship,” is intentional. By deliberately connecting the themes and Scripture from corporate worship to the small-group experience, participants will be more fully formed into disciples of Jesus Christ.
The role of the group leader is not to be the “answer” person or the person with the most biblical knowledge. Instead of providing the “right answer,” a good facilitator helps the group members ask the right questions. Facilitators should familiarize themselves with the format, questions, possible answers, and background information ahead of time.
Group size should consist of six to eight people. If there are more than eight participants, consider adding more time for the group to meet and/or more groups. Each person added to the group will create more relationship dynamics to be managed; each person might not have enough time to share. It is highly advisable to use a group covenant to provide expectations of participants’ roles and manner of speech. Specific items to include should be confidentiality and speaking only for oneself. Participants must be willing to risk sharing their perspectives, no matter how popular or unpopular.
Another group dynamic to consider is space. If your group meets in a church building, be sure the chairs are soft and the group is set up in a circle. Use one table for food only. If participants meet in a home, make sure there are plenty of seating areas and be sure to limit distractions, such as pets. If your group is meeting in a coffee shop or restaurant, be sure the space will be comfortable and quiet enough for conversation.
Introduction to the Format
There is a pattern for each week (though notice a slight modification to week 5). The times are suggestions and are loosely based on an hour timeframe. The times should be modified as needed. Each session will consist of the following elements:
Fellowship (Snacks or a Meal; 10 minutes with snacks; longer obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes) — Each session will begin with an opening exercise to foster dialogue and help the participants settle in to the theme for the week.
Opening Exercise —The assigned Scripture passage should be read twice. Prior to the first reading, the question for participants to ponder is, “Where do we see God dwelling in this passage?” Allow just a few moments for participants to answer before moving on to the second reading. Prior to this reading, the participants should be asked to consider, “Where are we called to dwell according to this passage?” Often, the answer to the first question might be more literal (i.e., heaven or throne); whereas, the answers to the second question might be more metaphorical (i.e., in grace or love).
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes) —This guide does not include a multitude of questions. The intent is for greater time to be spent on certain questions. During the dialogue sections, you will see guidance and possible answers to the given questions with brackets [ ]. These are only possible answers and are not meant to be exhaustive of other answers. Questions that begin with (R) are meant to be more reflective. This means more time should be spent on these questions relative to others and will often result in participants needing more time to process. It is a helpful practice to allow participants plenty of time to internally process these questions. Don’t be afraid of silence.
Each session will end with an Accountable Action for the upcoming week. This is meant to bridge the sessions and to help incorporate the learnings from the session into daily life. Thus, after week one, time should be given for participants to report on their accountable action.
Prayer (10 minutes)—Allow each participant who would like to do so to lift up a person or situation he or she would like the group to be in prayer over. Following each request, the leader will pray, “Lord, in your mercy…”; and the participants will respond, “Hear our prayers.” If the situation is warranted and the participant is willing, surround the participant as a group to lay hands on him/her and allow those who are willing to pray for this person and/or situation.
Sending Forth (1 minute)—Ask for a volunteer to send the group out with the printed blessing or read the prayer in unison.
Week 1 — Hope
Fellowship—Snacks or a Meal. (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes) — In pairs, discuss: “What are you hoping to gain by being part of this group?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Opening question: Describe an experience of knowing you were “home.”
Read: Revelation 21:1-6a
Where do we see God dwelling in this passage?
Read: Revelation 21:1-6a
- Where are we called to dwell according to this passage?
- Have each participant complete the following sentence: “When I read the book of Revelation, I am…”
- I avoid it!
- Name an experience, circumstance, or situation that has caused you to tear up in the last three to six months. How do the promises in verses four and five give you hope?
- This passage ends with the affirmation “I am the Alpha and the Omega (see note below), the beginning and the end.” This connects the God of creation (Alpha) with God’s appearance to Moses in the burning bush (I am) with the revelation of God’s final victory (Omega). John looks forward to a day when God dwells more fully with the people of God and the work of redemption comes to completion. How does this vision give you hope in difficult times?
- (R) How can we more continually dwell in hope? What practices do we need to put in place to more fully dwell in the hope that God has for us?
- (R) People live out stories. Whether it is the stories they tell themselves or the stories of others, our stories help us to interpret the events and situations around us. Saints are those who are so fully caught up in the story of God that they seem to dwell as much with God as with this world. Name those you have encountered that you would label as saints.
- How have the saints you’ve named inspired you? Saints are signs of hope and point others to Christ. How might you be a sign of hope to others this coming week?
Accountable Action — This coming week, write down or remember one place in your church’s neighborhood where there is a need for redemption and one place where God is already working for redemption.
Alpha and Omega. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Others, including the Greeks, referred to their highest god as “first.” To affirm that God is the beginning and the end (Isaiah 44:6) highlights God’s control and power over all circumstances and situations. God is the living God who dwells fully present at all times working for redemption. Thus, the word “new” in verse one referring to heaven and earth is not new in the sense of being brand new, but new as “renewed” or as in “I bought a new to me car.” John sees a renewed heaven and earth coming down from God.
Eschatology. While there is a popularized idea about certain Christians being raptured up into a heaven that is far away from this planet, that has not been the view of most Christians throughout history. As we see in this passage from Revelation, the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, descends with cubic dimensions (21:15), calling to mind the shape of the Holy of Holies from the Jewish Temple. John envisions a garden-like city with God dwelling at the center. God is the sustainer and the most glorious inhabitant.
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (1 minute). Ask for a volunteer to lead the group or read the following prayer in unison:
Faithful God, over all circumstances and creation, without whom hope would be but a mere fantasy, thank you for continuing your work of redemption. Grant us the assurance that is founded upon the bedrock of hope in your never-failing love. As we remember the saints who were a light to us, help us to be a light to others by dwelling in hope that comes from you. Amen.
1 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6a Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.’”
Introduction to Revelation
Revelation is the last book of the Bible. God revealed a message through a vision to a Christian man named John, who wrote down what he saw and heard. Revelation uses many symbols, strange sights that mean more than what they seem. The message warns Christians to live according to Jesus’ teachings at a time when it had become challenging to follow his way. The message also provides a vision of what the end of time will be like when the faithful people of all time return to praise God in the new heaven and new earth. While what John sees and hears can be hard to interpret, we know that Christ meets us at the end of the Christian story. The words of the “Hallelujah” chorus in Handel’s Messiah will come true: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15).
Our verse for today is Revelation, chapter 21, verse 4: “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
Let’s think about what this means.
God shares a vision of pure happiness with us in the Book of Revelation.
God will gently dry all our tears. We won’t even feel like crying any more.
The Lord will put an end to death and dying. Everyone who loves God will return to life!
We won’t be sad about things that happened before. The past will be done and gone.
God will begin a whole new time of our life in heaven. We will join in singing praise to God!
How might this promise from God help you when you feel sad enough to cry?
(Suggestions may include, “I picture God wiping away my tears when I feel sad.” Affirm the responses. Add other suggestions as you feel led.)
Dear God: Thank you for giving us hope. You comfort us when we are sad. Please help us to trust you for healing. Send your Spirit to help us look forward to the time when you will put an end to death forever. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.