Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany/Transfiguration 2019, Year C — Faith Formation
See All The People Worship Series Week 4: THE ASTOUNDED CROWD
March 3, 2019
Week 4 - Transfiguration Sunday - The Astounded 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, discuss: “Name a time when you were astonished or dumbfounded.”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read: Luke 9:28-43
- When have you been astounded by God? [May be a positive example; for example, “Looking into a clear night sky” or negative “Why didn’t God heal that person?”]
- Have you ever been astonished by the church? [May be positive—“They were there for me in a time of need”—or negative—“People asked me not to come back.”
- Who are Jesus’ harsh words directed toward in verse 41? The crowd or the disciples exclusively? How do you think they felt at hearing Jesus’ words?
- Why do you think Peter desired to stay on the mountain of Transfiguration (v. 33)? Moses, Elijah, and Jesus apparently discussed Jesus’ departure in Jerusalem (v. 31). Yet Peter wanted to stay at this site of revelation and epiphany. Peter desires to stay, even when the mission is clearly to go somewhere else. How can the church have a similar mindset of desiring to stay in its current state instead of seeking to be about the mission of God in the world?
See All The People (Option A)
Read, watch, and then discuss the questions at the end of Option A.
A Lesson from the European Refugee Crisis
In a video experiment conducted on May 17, 2016, Amnesty Poland set out to re-create psychologist Arthur Aron’s experiment from twenty years prior. In this experiment Aron discovered that four minutes of looking into the eyes of another human being without saying a word would bring the two people closer. Amnesty Poland paired refugees with Europeans to test Aron’s conclusion. This video attempted to improve the treatment of refugees by Europeans, connecting them with their common humanity.
Watch the video using this link: https://youtu.be/f7XhrXUoD6U
SUMMARY: Two people are led into a room; their eyes are closed. They are seated in front of each other within arm’s length: one, a refugee fleeing a war-torn country; one, a European in a country struggling to respond to the refugee crisis. They open their eyes, having been instructed not to speak for four minutes, looking directly at the other person for the duration. Some break the rules immediately, saying, “I like your mustache.” “Are you new to Berlin?” “How old are you?” The exercise appears awkward at first for some, but for others it immediately creates smiles. Some cannot handle the intensity and look away. Some begin to cry. At the end of the exercise, all smile; some stand and embrace; some hold hands. Some make plans to visit a local zoo together. Two children, upon finishing the experiment, begin to play a game of tag.
Looking into another’s eyes drives us to a surprisingly deep connection. In just four minutes—without words—friendships begin to form. How is that possible? What is it about a simple encounter such as this? Why does this experiment elicit such a powerful response—with just the simple act of seeing another and being seen by another?
I believe Jesus understood this principle as he sent the disciples out with instructions for vulnerability and consistency—to be fully present in the moment, perhaps even beginning to see people the way Jesus sees people.
At the conclusion of four minutes, in almost every instance, people embrace as if they have known each other for decades. Why? Something happens when we sit with one another without language, looking into each other’s eyes without prejudice. What we see and experience is the purity of another human being—the imago dei (image of God). We might say that in the mystery of such an encounter, healing can occur. We might even say, the kingdom of God draws near or is revealed.
How might we rethink our approach to building relationships and engaging others in light of Jesus’ instructions and by the example of vulnerability seen in this video?
Engaging Your Community pp. 33-34
See All The People (Option B)
Read and discuss the question in bold from Engaging Your Community.
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 the gospel of Jesus Christ and the community Jesus called into existence have anything to say, any meaningful way of relating, in these areas? I believe we do (emphasis added).
(Engaging Your Community, 39-40)
Prayer (10 minutes) – Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes) – End by praying the following together:
“Rock of Ages Past and The One who calls us into your future, help us to find our center and direction in you. Forgive us when we have stood still when you called us to move and for when we moved when you were calling us to be still. Help us, through discernment, through practicing the means of grace, through listening, and through learning to demonstrate the astounding love of God as we see all the people and engage our community. Amen.”
- Intentional Discipleship System: A Guide for Congregations by Junius B. Dotson, Discipleship Ministries, 2017.
- Engaging Your Community: A Guide to Seeing All the People by Junius B. Dotson, Discipleship Ministries, 2019.
Week 4: Transfiguration Sunday – March 3, 2019: The Astounded Crowd
“Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!’ 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ 41 Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed [the boy] to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.”
Our verse for today is from the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 9, verses 42b and 43: “But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.”
Let’s think about what this means.
- Large crowds of people and disciples were gathering around Jesus.
- He talked to them about God and the kingdom of God.
- God’s wonderful power to heal people was going out from Jesus.
- As Jesus looked at the people and spoke to them, his presence was healing the whole crowd.
- People’s bodies and spirits were being healed in amazing ways.
- A man’s only child needed to be rescued. Jesus completely healed the son and returned him.
- The whole crowd of people were astounded! They were amazed and happy at God’s greatness.
Dear God, you are awesome! You give Jesus wonderful power to heal people who are suffering in any way. Thank you for sending Jesus to draw near to us and meet us where we are. His presence in our lives heals us and sustains us with your wisdom and love. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.