Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost 2018 — Faith Formation
LIVE ...In Love Worship Series, week 2
August 12, 2018
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: “Name a person you would want to imitate. Why did you choose that person?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Opening Question: If you could change one bad habit right now, what would it be and why?
Read: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
- Paul gives a laundry list of items mature Christians are to “put away” (v. 25-31). Though not intended to be an exhaustive list, Paul is offering ways for these growing Christians to imitate Christ and live in “true righteousness and holiness” (v. 24). While we do not earn our salvation by good works, we are called to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). At the very least then, this means that in order to grow in Christian maturity, there must be intentionality and change in our habits. (See “Biblical Background” for more clarification.) Where are you feeling God’s call to “put away” certain habits or attitudes?
- What do you think it looks to “be imitators of God” (5:1-2)?
- (R) What might it look like for you to be an “imitator of God” within your closest relationships (spouse, children, friends, co-workers, etc.)?
- How might this group help you live into being an “imitator of God” more fully?
Throughout Christian history, there have been two tendencies that present different pitfalls for Christian maturity. The first is legalism. We might define this tendency as attempting to keep all the rules without the power of the Holy Spirit. The second tendency could be labeled permissiveness. This is the tendency to focus on freedom to follow the Holy Spirit without disciplined discipleship. When Paul advocates that we imitate God (5:1), he invites us into a healthy discipleship that avoids these two tendencies. Earlier in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (3:16-17), we read, “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”
Growing in Christian discipleship requires that we put away tendencies, habits, and attitudes that are contrary to the gospel as well as take on new postures that open us to the power of God’s grace (holy habits, prayer, Scripture reading, etc.). It is through these new postures and habits that we become—what is seemingly impossible— imitators of God for others, thus fulfilling the Greatest Commandment to love God and our neighbors.
Unity (Catholic Spirit?) — The use of the phrase “one body” in relation to the church seems at odds in a society where there are tens of thousands of denominations. “How do we relate with Christians from other denominations?” is a question that comes up from time to time. Often, this is a question of boundaries: Who is in our group (Christian)? Who is not? As Methodists, we draw a boundary that is more inclusive than some other denominations. It is not unusual for Methodist pastors to affiliate with local ecumenical groups. We do not (re)baptize new members who have been baptized in other Christian denominations. Our founder, John Wesley, taught on what he called the “Catholic Spirit.” This was not referring to the Roman Catholic Church, but to the use of “catholic,” meaning “universal.” Even though we come from other denominations, we recognize that there is one faith, one baptism, and one Lord.
Sending Forth (2 minutes) End by praying the Wesley Covenant Prayer together:
“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”
Ephesians 4:25-5:2, NRSV:
25 “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Introduce Paul and Ephesians
The apostle Paul was a teacher and pastor in the time after Jesus returned to heaven. Paul went to different cities and told people that Jesus is the Messiah whom God raised from the dead! Paul started many churches. Church leaders wrote him letters, asking questions about what they should do. Paul prayed and listened closely to what God told him. He wrote letters to guide the church as a community of faith in Jesus. Paul’s letters on how to live as a Christian became part of the Bible in the New Testament. These letters help us to grow as disciples today. Ephesians is a letter to the church in Ephesus, a big port city in Turkey where many people worshiped other gods.
Our verse for today is Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 29. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”
Let’s think about what this means:
We are to say just what helps to build up other people. We are not to use words that tear down.
We are to show kindness through the things we say to people and about people.
Our words should give grace to those who hear us. Grace is forgiveness and mercy.
When we speak with grace, we do not make the other person feel bad or sad.
Can you think of some ways that these qualities could help in this situation? Two children are playing on the playground, but they are pushing and arguing over who goes first on the slide.
What kinds of things could the child who was pushed say or do to build up and give grace?
What kinds of things could the child who did the pushing say or do to build up and give grace?
(Suggestions may include saying, “Let’s not fight,” or “Let’s be friends,” or “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you.” Affirm the responses. Add other suggestions as you feel led.)
These would be good ways to speak on the playground.
Dear God, thank you for speaking your gracious word of life. You have forgiven us more times than we can count. Please help us to share your grace with others. Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit who helps us to be tenderhearted like Jesus. We pray in his name. Amen.