Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany 2019, Year C — Faith Formation
See All The People Worship Series Week 3: THE QUESTIONING CROWD
February 24, 2019
Week 3 - The Questioning Crowd
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, answer the question, “Who has been the hardest person for you to extend love to?”
Read: Luke 6:27-38
- Jesus’ commandment to “love our enemies” is… (pick as many as apply)
- A fanciful notion
- A good idea
- Inviting harm
- A practice I need to get better at
- Something I work hard at
- Comes naturally to me
- How do verses 28-36 help us to understand what Jesus means with his command to “love your enemies”?
- How does Jesus’ commandment to “love your enemies” make the Christian community unique? How does your church demonstrate God’s love to your community? Are there new ways you feel God is calling your church to demonstrate God’s love to the community?
- Are there people that come to mind with whom you should seek forgiveness? (v. 37)
- (R) In a partisan culture, what does it look like to love your enemies (especially when it is easier to dismiss the views of those you disagree with rather than to listen and learn)?
See All The People – Learning and Discussion
Jesus’ commandment against judging others is not an injunction against discernment or well-meaning critique (Luke 6:43-44). Rather, before we look at others, we must first recognize the abundance we’ve been given (v. 38 envisions a “measure” or amount that when weighed out in a sack or jar runs over abundantly). We should be more concerned with our own journey toward holiness (vv. 41-42). Just as we’ve been forgiven extravagantly (v. 37), so that attitude of extravagance should be mirrored by God’s people in their engagement with their community. One of the ways we express this attitude of extravagance is by listening and learning from those in our community. Thus, we read in Engaging Your Community:
Start with Listening and Learning
It seems that Paul, in every city that he entered, began by looking carefully at the people and the religious practices. I believe Paul’s amazing success throughout his ministry came in part due to his ability to listen and learn and then to develop strategies; ways of communicating that met people where they were in order to introduce them to the good news of the gospel in practical and meaningful ways. As Paul addresses the Athenians, he mentions practices they value and connects them to his understandings of the unknown God they have yet to experience. Paul speaks of a God they seem to be seeking based on all that Paul has observed. Paul reveals to them, using the words of their own poets, a description of a God who is the very foundation of our being. Deep listening and learning is the place to start if we seek to speak meaningfully, connecting with the values, hopes, and dreams of others.
Listening to the Unchurched and Dechurched
Although there is no substitute for firsthand accounts and experiences when it comes to listening to and learning from people in our communities, some generalizations may help us as we try to see and connect with those who are outside our churches. In Churchless, George Barna and David Kinnaman drew data from a series of eighteen nationwide surveys conducted with adults between 2008 and 2014. What I appreciate about Barna and Kinnaman’s research is that it comes from the perspectives of those who have either never been to church or who left the church for various reasons. These are the perspectives we must be listening to if we truly seek to see and connect with people outside of our churches. Here are a few highlights that I find helpful for our missional engagement:
- Despite technology that connects, those outside the church say they are becoming increasingly lonely and are looking for relational connections.
- They have a growing concern about the future.
- Their stress in life is increasing.
- One in four has never experienced church.
- One in three consider themselves to be “spiritual.”
- Fifty-seven percent say faith is important to them.
- Fifty-six percent are single.
- Forty-six percent say family is a high priority.
- One in four self-identify as “skeptic,” “agnostic,” or “atheist.”
- Only fifteen percent see the lifestyles of Christians as being noticeably more positive than the norm.
When asked about their values, the following are important to them:
- Doing good / good works
- Peace / unity (even in disagreement)
- Wholeness / health / healing
- Community / belonging
- Wisdom—practical advice that works in life
- Mentoring / help with growth as individuals
(Engaging Your Community, 38-40)
Does any of this information surprise you? Does anything still have you questioning? Is there anything you’d like to learn more about? What are some ways your church can be more intentional about listening and learning about the needs and hopes of those in the surrounding community?
Optional Homework: For groups in settings where internet access is not reliable, give participants the YouTube link to watch the video prior to the beginning of the next class. (https://youtu.be/f7XhrXUoD6U)
Prayer (10 minutes) – Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes) – End by praying the following or similar prayer:
“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you alone are the source of peace and abundance. Forgive when we have not been as generous as you call us to be. Just as you modeled humility and a self-giving posture of life, empower us to be people who offer extravagant love to all we encounter. Amen.”
Week 3: Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany – February 24, 2019: The Questioning Crowd
“[Jesus said:] ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for [God] is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’”
Our verses for today are from the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 6, verses 35b and 36: “[God] is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Let’s think about what this means.
- God shows kindness to people who are ungrateful; they don’t thank God for what they have.
- God still loves people even though they choose to act wickedly or do wrong things.
- Our heavenly Father wants us to be merciful the way God is. To be merciful is to forgive.
- To show mercy is to choose not to punish someone even though they deserve it.
- Instead of punishing us for the things we do wrong, God is kind and forgives us.
- Jesus says that when we show kindness and mercy, we are behaving like children of God.
Dear God, thank you for being kind to us. You forgive us and show us how it feels to receive mercy. Sometimes we forget to be thankful. Send your Holy Spirit to help us remember your kindness to us. May we live more faithfully as your children who share your kindness with others. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.