Second Sunday in Lent 2019, Year C — Faith Formation

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See All The People: Discipleship Begins with Relationship 3-session video teaching series

With All Your Heart Worship Series: Imitating
March 17, 2019

Week 2 - Imitating

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17-4:1

Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)

Gathering and Opening (10 minutes) – In pairs, discuss a time when a promise made to you was broken or a time you were surprised that a promise was kept.

Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)

Read: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 and Philippians 3:17-4:1.

  • Whih metaphor best describes where you are on your faith journey?
  • Still exploring whether the journey is for me
  • Packing up and learning about the journey
  • Started on the journey but unsure about the trek
  • Climbing up the path but still unsure about my footing
  • Looking to shed some unneeded things I packed to climb higher
  • At a joyous overlook
  • Other
  • Why is Abram still doubting in Genesis 15? [15:2-3, many years have passed since God’s promise of many descendants and his only heir is not his offspring.]
  • How is doubt and questioning part of our faith journey? How can doubt and questioning lead to a more mature faith? When might doubting and questioning lead us away from God?
  • What does the ritual in Genesis 15:17-18 reveal about God? [See background information below.]
  • (R) In Philippians 3:20, Paul emphasizes that our identity is grounded in being “citizens of heaven.” Paul’s point is made clearer by the titles placed on Jesus, “Savior, Lord, Christ.” While having almost exclusively religious connotations today, those words had political overtones in Jesus’ day, as they applied first and foremost to the Roman Caesar. What does it look like to live as a citizen of heaven today?
  • (R) How can we offer words and actions (being imitators of God’s nature of love) to the community around the church that will help them experience a sense of being blessed by God? 

Background information – Covenant Making in the Ancient Near East

It is easy to miss what is happening in Genesis 15:17 and its magnitude. Covenants were made by dividing animals in half on each side of a ditch. The blood of the animals would pool in the ditch. Participants in the covenant would walk through the ditch, symbolizing that if they failed to keep their promises, the other party of the covenant would be free to do to them what had been done to the animals. In this story, God takes the sole responsibility to walk through the bloody ditch, symbolized by a “smoking fire pot and flaming torch.” God, in no uncertain terms to Abram, demonstrates how serious God is in fulfilling covenant promises. Once again, we see God taking the initiative in making a covenant.

John Wesley on Salvation – Discussion

Justifying Grace. The word “justification” is probably more familiar to us than the word “prevenient.” We might think of justified margins as a layout option for a document, or we might conceive of being justified in a belief or in regard to an action. When Abram trusted God’s promises, even though there was little sign that it would come to fruition other than God’s promise, God justified Abram or counted him as righteous.

Read the following excerpt from John Wesley’s sermon, “Justification by Faith,” and discuss the question that follows.

[Faith] is an evidence or conviction ‘of things not seen.’ These things cannot be discovered by our physical sense, as belonging to the past, future, or intuitional realms. Justifying faith involves a divine evidence or conviction that ‘in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.’ Faith also includes a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved me, and gave himself for me. Whenever sinners believe in this way – whether in early childhood, in their mature years, or when they are old and gray – God justifies those unrighteous one.

(“Justification By Faith,” Sermon Five in John Wesley on Christian Beliefs: The Stand Sermons in Modern English. Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2003, 104).

How are we imitating Abraham and the Apostle Paul (and even Jesus) when we trust in God’s promises?

What does it mean to you that you’ve been justified before God?

Prayer (10 minutes) – Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.

Sending Forth (2 minutes) – End by praying the following or a similar prayer:

Covenant keeping God. You are faithful even when we are faithless. Help us to run to you and not from you with our fears, questions, and doubts. And when we do, give us the grace to hear your words of affirmation and promise, that we might respond in gratitude, obedience, and praise. Amen.