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, “In what ways do you take time to actively look for and notice the work of God in your life and in the world?”
- Both the Isaiah and Mark passages use dramatic imagery concerning the coming or presence of God: the heavens torn open, quaking mountains (Isaiah 64:1, NRSV), boiling hot water (64:2), total darkness and stars falling from heaven (Mark 13:1-2). Describe how you can (or cannot) relate to this imagery. How do you sense the presence of God in your own life?
- The Isaiah passage is a lament. The people are offering a corporate confession for having sinned and fallen away. They describe their behavior and feelings as “like one unclean” who “fade like a leaf” (64:6). What do you think is the purpose and power in corporate confession in your own worship? Do you take time in your own devotional life to “truly and earnestly repent of your sins”? Does it make a difference?
- Isaiah also uses the image of God as potter and humankind as the clay (64:8). In what ways has your relationship with God formed you into the person you are today? How would you say you are different in Spirit than you were five years ago, ten years ago, and in your youth?
- At the close of the Isaiah passage, he says “Do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people” (64:9). If we took this seriously, in the realm of our divided churches, community, and nation, what would that look like? What might be different? Better? How would you have to change or adapt to truly believe and act as if “we are all [God’s] people”?
- Mark 13 speaks about watchfulness, especially since no one knows the specific time of the return of Christ. Do you believe the Second Coming could occur in your lifetime? If not, what is the import of this command to watchfulness? What do you watch for? For what do you get ready during Advent?
- “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31) What are the most compelling gospel messages that for you will not ever pass away? How do those words from God guide and shape you?
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:
Gracious and forgiving God, meet us in our frailty and forgive us our transgressions. We are grateful for your constancy in the midst of our divisions and conflicts. Speak the word to us that endures, so that we may share it in gratitude. Open our eyes and ears to your presence as we prepare to receive again your precious Son. Amen.
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Diana Hynson is a retired elder, living in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. She has served in local churches, as an editor at The United Methodist Publishing House, and as Director of Learning and Teaching Ministries at (now) Discipleship Ministries. She teaches Sunday school to a lively group of older adults who still enjoy learning.