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, “What images come to your mind when you hear ‘the sun’?”
- Why was Jacob running away? [His brother, Esau, wanted to kill him because Jacob took the birthright and the blessing (which traditionally was meant for the firstborn), and Jacob was heading to Haran to find his mother’s brother to find his bride.] What do you think Jacob felt as he left everything behind, went to the unknown place, and had a dream about God, who assured him that God was with him? Have you had an experience where you were lost, yet you felt God’s blessing/presence/assurance?
[My story – I grew up in Japan, and I came to the U.S. to attend college. I did not know anyone; I did not speak English, and I did not know God. I was lonely and struggled to survive college life, yet God provided people to care for and love me; most of all, they showed me what Christ was like. That led me to believe in Jesus. Now when I face new challenges or unknown situations, I am comforted—due to my earlier experiences of God—to know that God will always be with me. Praise God! You can read more here.]
- In the parable in Matthew 13, who is traditionally seen as the one who sows the good seed? [The Son of Man; see Matthew 13:37.] What is traditionally thought of as the field? [The world; see Matthew 13:38.] Who are identified as the good seeds? [The children of the kingdom; see Matthew 13:38.] Who are the weeds? [The children of the evil one; see Matthew 13:38.] Where do you see yourself in the story? Those of you who are gardeners or take care of lawns, have you ever had difficulty discerning what you wanted to grow from what you didn’t want to grow? When you read a phrase like, “the enemy planting bad seeds,” how do you picture that dynamic? Some traditions consider the enemy as Satan or a force acting for evil. Some traditions consider the enemy more ambiguously as “sin” or unethical behaviors that plant bad seeds in the world.
- “We Christians don’t have a perfect record throughout history on that one. We were sure that women weren’t as valued in God’s kingdom as men. We were sure that white skin was a better guarantee of entrance into heaven than black or brown or yellow or red. We were convinced that what Jesus wanted was to make everyone like citizens of the USA, or the West, or the developed world, and that cultural expressions of faith had to be uniform no matter where you lived. Now we are embarrassed to have held these views. We couldn’t always tell what was a weed and what was wheat. And the parable also tells us that even when we do know, pulling out the weed can do more damage than leaving it alone.” (From the Preaching Note)
- What is your reaction to this reading? How do you perceive the coexistence of good and evil: the reality that good and evil exist together in the world? What do you believe this parable calls people to do concerning caring for the world and one another?
- “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 13:43) How does the promise of shining like the sun reflect God's love and favor? How might we share the light of Christ and shine like the sun in a world filled with darkness and evil? What might you need to do this week, so you are the children of the kingdom who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of God?
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 God, we come before You with hearts open to receiving wisdom and truth.
Like Jacob, we may find ourselves in unfamiliar places, facing uncertainty and doubt. In those moments, we ask for Your assurance and strength. Help us to trust in Your faithfulness and promises, knowing that You are with us wherever we go.
As we reflect on the parable of the wheat and weeds, grant us discernment, Lord, to recognize and resist the deceptive influences of the evil ones. Help us shine as beacons of Your light, spreading love, compassion, and righteousness in a world longing for Your truth. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
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Does your church have an international discipleship path?
We at Discipleship Ministries invite each congregation and worshiping community to develop an intentional discipleship plan in their local context. There are resources and mentors that you can access on our website to help you develop and implement your plan. Please call upon us to help you if you have not already begun such a journey (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/discipleship-system-example).
Rev. Motoe Yamada Foor, Director of Adult Discipleship, served in local churches for twenty years. She is passionate about moving churches toward a more missional and spiritual focus so that they can make more disciples of Jesus Christ. She has a wealth of experience at a variety of organizational levels of The United Methodist Church as well as in ecumenical organizations such as the World Council of Churches (WCC). She also enjoys serving as a coach to help people grow as disciples.