Season of Creation 2018 Worship Series, week 1 — PLANTING SUNDAY
September 2, 2018
Small Groups: From Worship To Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for Season of Creation. 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 as 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. Often, a good facilitator helps the groups ask the right questions instead of getting to an exact answer. Facilitators should familiarize themselves with the format, questions, possible answers, and background information ahead of time.
Groups should consist of six to eight people. If there are more participants than eight, consider adding more time for the group to meet and/or more groups. Each person that is added to the group will create more relationship dynamics to be managed and might not give each person enough time to share. It is also highly advisable to use a group covenant that will give guidance to expectations of the participants’ roles and manner of speech. Specific items to include should be confidentiality and speaking only for oneself. Each person should be willing to risk sharing his or her perspective, 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. Designate one table for food. If meeting 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, but 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.
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.
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 — Planting Sunday: Good Beginnings
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: Name an example of experiencing awe in nature.
Read: Song of Solomon 2:8-13
- Read Psalm 104 (Due to the length of the passage, have one participant read the odd verses and another participant read the even verses.)
- The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther wrote in the sixteenth century,
- “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars” (The Green Bible, I-103)
- In light of Psalm 104, how does creation reflect the glory of the Creator?
- What does Psalm 104 affirm about God’s care for the world?
- What is the psalmist’s response to the glory of God revealed in creation? [verses 33-34]
- What reasons or rationales have you heard that contribute to Christians being hesitant or against the cause of creation care? [There’s going to be a new heaven and new earth anyway. This world is not our home. Christians don’t worship creation. Climate change is a hoax. The church should only be about saving souls.]
- (R) What might responsible Christian stewardship of the earth look like to you?
- (Optional Exercise: For homework, have each participant take the Ecological Footprint quiz: http://www.footprintcalculator.org. Have participants print or write down their results to discuss at the next meeting.)
The Song of Solomon or Song of Songs can be a challenging book. The fact that it is included in the Bible reveals that God is not far removed from our most intimate desires and longings. The Bible acknowledges our relationships are gifts to be cherished. In this passage, the bride dreams of a being in a springtime garden. The bridegroom is looking on from afar. Dreariness of winter has left, and it is now springtime, when we see signs of rebirth. Much like our most intimate relationships require commitment and intentionality, so does our relationship with God’s creation.
Ecology and Incarnation
The God of Scripture is not content to be a God who merely watches over us and intervenes only when necessary. John of Damascus, writing in the early eighth century, observed Christians’ relationship with God’s creation:
“I do not worship matter. I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter, who worked out my salvation through matter...Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with his grace and power.” (John of Damascus On the Divine Images, 1:16, Green Bible I-101)
Throughout Scripture, God encounters the people of God in concrete, relational, and tangible ways — whether through the use of covenant and covenant rituals (Genesis 15), leading the people out of slavery and into the Promised Land, through prophets, and through the person of Jesus of Nazareth. God is Immanuel, “God with us.” On the one hand, we affirm God’s transcendence and that “God’s ways are higher than our ways”; on the other hand, we affirm God’s willingness to be made flesh and God’s concern and compassion that extends to the most minute details in creation (Job 39, Matthew 6:26).
As we’ll see throughout this study, God not only has called creation “good,” God continues to care for creation. In fact, God’s mission of reconciliation extends to all parts of the cosmos (Revelation 21-22). It is easily overlooked that the entire creation is included in God’s mission of reconciling the world (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
Prayer (10 minutes)
Sending Forth (1 minute) Ask for a volunteer to lead the group in prayer; or read the prayer in unison:
Creator God, in ways I do not fully understand, Christ’s atonement brings salvation to the whole creation, not just to human beings. But along with people, the whole creation still groans for its final deliverance from sin. I accept the fact that I am commissioned to be an instrument in your hands to care for the earth in ways that move it closer to its ultimate redemption...We pray particularly for those who work daily in vocations that care for the earth. Give me grace to keep my part o the world clean, knowing that if everyone did this, we would find ourselves on a much different planet. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (A Pocket Guide to Prayer by Steve Harper, Upper Room Books[MU1] ).
Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (NRSV)
“8 The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. 9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. 10 My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; 11 for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. 13 The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.’”
Introduction to the Song of Solomon
This is a love poem that is part of the Bible. It can be understood as describing God’s love for God’s people, Israel, and Jesus Christ’s love for the church. The title refers to King Solomon, a son of King David who was well-known for his wisdom.
Our verses for today are Song of Solomon, chapter 2, verses 10 and 11: “My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.’”
Let’s think about what this means.
God loves us and calls us beloved. God speaks to us personally.
In this verse, the word “fair” means beautiful or delightful.
God invites us to stand up, get ready to walk, and follow him after a rainy wintertime.
We usually spend more time inside when it is cold outside and there are puddles from rain.
But there comes a time when God says to us, “Now is the time! Go forward with me, and don’t worry about the difficulties of the past.”
Can you think of some ways that this message from God could help you when you get ready to start something new? (Suggestions may include, “I would feel hope,” or “I’m glad that God is with me.” Affirm the responses. Add other suggestions, as you feel led.)
Yes, God’s message encourages us.
Dear God, Thank you for loving us and speaking so kindly to us. Please help us to trust that you will always show us the right time to stand up and follow Jesus. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who walks with us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.