Season of Creation 2018 Worship Series, week 4 — HARVEST SUNDAY
September 23, 2018
Small Groups: From Worship To Discipleship
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, discuss: “Who is the most mature Christian you’ve met? What made that person so mature?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Opening Question: What does blessedness look like?
Read Psalm 1
- As a group, discuss Psalm 1’s distinction between the “blessed” person and the “wicked.” [The blessed delight in the law of God. Because the ‘blessed’ find nourishment in God, the production of fruit or abundance is natural; whereas, the wicked are easily swayed and will not have fullness of life.]
- Why do you think the “blessed” (or “happy” in some versions) are compared with a tree? (See note below.)
- Discuss the contrast between how the culture portrays “blessedness” with how Psalm 1 portrays “blessedness.” How does the “blessedness” offered by advertisements and Hollywood ideals cultivate selfish and unending desires? [never enough stuff, always have to have the latest and greatest.] How might certain versions of “blessedness” and the continual need to acquire lead people to view others and resources as nothing more than objects to be consumed?
- (R) How is being a good steward of God’s natural resources part of our discipleship? [See note below on sanctification. Additionally, being grateful for God’s goodness in creation and building compassion are ways to further our discipleship.]
- (Optional) Where does your food originate? Homework: Do some research at your local grocery store of choice (perhaps each participant can choose a different store) to find where the produce is grown. If there is time available, find out the conditions of the workers who harvested the produce.
The Bible assumes people are connected deeply with agriculture and the land. In the Old Testament, being in the Promised Land or away from the land was a sign of God’s favor. Israel is often personified by vineyards and trees in the Old Testament. The first people live in a garden. In the New Testament, Jesus’ parables often reference agriculture. Even Revelation ends in a garden with God as its sustainer. However, most readers of the “Seasons of Creation” resource are urban or suburban folks who are largely unfamiliar with growing and harvesting their own food. If we miss the connection between humanity and the earth, we can easily miss the insights from agriculture or downplay the importance of humanity’s relationship with creation. Further, we may perceive the Bible’s only concern is with “spiritual” matters.
The word “sanctification” can be an intimidating word. It is, however, an important concept for Christians in general and Methodists in particular. From God in Leviticus calling the people of Israel to be “holy as I am holy” or Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew inviting the new community to be “perfect as your heavenly father is perfect,” sanctification is a consistent theme and calling for the people of God. Sanctify comes from the word “to make holy” or “be separated.” Our separation is not meant to convey the sense of being withdrawn as much as it is a calling of uniqueness. We are called to be the unique people of God.
But sanctification isn’t merely about our individual piety (love for God). Being the sanctified people of God means being part of what God is doing in the world. Passages such as John 3:16, Genesis 1, and Revelation 21-22 reveal that God is working for the redemption of the whole world. Part of our sanctification, then, is being a good steward of all that God has entrusted into our care as well as nurturing and advocating for the resources of God’s creation to benefit our neighbors.
Prayer (10 minutes)
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End by praying the following together:
Awaken us. Open our eyes to the abundant creation you have given us. Open our ears to hear the hurts of those around us. Open our souls to be nourished by your presence among us. In your name, we pray, Amen.
Psalm 1 (NRSV)
1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Introduction to Psalm 1
The first Psalm shows clearly the two different paths that people must choose between: the way of the Lord that leads to life, or the way of sin that leads to death. A vivid contrast is made between a fruitful tree rooted near a living stream, or the worthless chaff, the outer part of wheat that doesn’t produce anything good and gets blown away by the wind.
Our verse for today is Psalm 1 verse 6: “the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Let’s think about what this means.
The “way” means the path or road we walk on. It also refers to the way we live our life.
To be “righteous” is to do the right thing, to live according to God’s teachings.
“The righteous” can refer to one or many people, like our congregation or all faithful people.
God watches over those who are going along the good path, God’s way that leads to life. Even when we are not aware of it, God is looking out for us and helping us to stay on track. The “wicked” refers to people who are doing wrong, hurting themselves or others, ignoring God. The path of sin only leads to trouble and death.
Can you think of ways this could help you when you’re tempted to go along the wrong way?
(Suggestions may include, “Spend time with friends who are doing the right thing” or “Avoid a trouble-maker” or “Do something else.” Affirm the responses. Add others as you feel led.)
These would be good ways to stay on God’s path.
Dear God, Thank you for showing us your good way of life. We are so glad that you help us stick with you even when we don’t realize it. Please bless our friends who help us to follow you. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who guides us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.