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Sermon Preview: Disciples

Have someone ever given you a really big goal, so big you weren’t sure how to get started? What did you do? Were you excited or nervous? Did you think it was even possible?

In this passage Jesus gives the disciples a really big goal in the form of the church’s first mission statement. We’ll see some clues about how Jesus believes we can accomplish the goal.

Matthew 28:16-20            (CEB)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

 

What is a sermon preview?

Sermon previews are released on Thursdays. They offer a glimpse of what we’re talking about on Sunday morning. They are updated on Mondays with study and discussion questions. I post these for two reasons. First, I hope they help you connect the sermon with your week. Second, you can share these with friends so they know what we’re exploring on Sunday.

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Sermon Preview: Witness

Do you have any scars? Do you remember the stories behind them? Even after we’re healed, we still carry reminders of our wounds. After his resurrection, Jesus shows the disciples his scars. Why would he still have scars after his resurrection?

Here’s what we learn from the resurrection: our scars are not erased but they are redeemed.

Luke 24:36-48 (CEB)

While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish. Taking it, he ate it in front of them.

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

We all carry scars, physical and emotional, that stick with us. When we can look on them with perspective, our scars become places where we’ve seen healing. Our scars are those mistakes we’ve grown from or times when we’ve received or shared forgiveness. We can point to them and say, “God was here for me.”

Our scars show where God has been in our lives as they tell the story of God’s grace. Looking back over your life, what’s a scar that points to God’s grace? How can you share that story of where God showed up for you?

 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the ways you have redeemed my story. Thank you for the places you have appeared in my life. I offer you this wound to be redeemed. Help me ask for forgiveness where I have hurt others and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me. Heal this wound so that it too can witness to your grace.

 

Going Deeper:

What does the promise that our scars are not erased but they are redeemed mean for you? What is a wound for which you still seek healing?

 

Scripture Study Questions:

Who are the “they” in v36? (Read Luke 24:13-35)

What details are the same from the story in John 20:19-31? What is unique in Luke’s story?

Why does it matter that Jesus eats a piece of fish?

 

Questions around your table:

What’s the story of one of your scars?

Why did the disciples think Jesus was a ghost?

Where have you seen God’s love this week?

 

What is a sermon preview?

Sermon previews are released on Thursdays. They offer a glimpse of what we’re going to talk about on Sunday morning. They are updated on Mondays with study and discussion questions. I post these for two reasons. First I hope they help you see the sermon connecting with your week. Second, I hope you’ll share these with friends so they know what we’re exploring on Sunday

I love the movie Chef (2014). It tells the story of chef Carl Casper, a workaholic who must re-invent himself after he has a public meltdown over a bad review. Carl is not a likeable character at the start. He’s incredibly flawed. His poor communication skills have led to a strained relationship with his son and likely the reason for his divorce. Those flaws get amplified in the events leading to his meltdown. We don’t like him and I’m not sure we’re supposed to. But we see that his friends like him and his staff respects him, so he can’t be all bad. That’s enough for us to root for his redemption, even as we’re not sure why he deserves it.

 

Ultimately, I think this movie is about communication. How do we communicate what’s important to us? How do we communicate with who is important to us?

 

Carl’s communication at the beginning of the movie is terrible. He ducks his son and backs out of promises to spend time. Even when he’s physically with him, his mind often seems elsewhere. While we don’t know for certain, it feels likely that this same distance led to his divorce. Communication at work is not much better. Carl has a good relationship with his staff, but has clear miscommunication with his boss, which eventually leads Carl getting fired.

 

It’s not until midway through the movie that we finally see a turn. In this fantastically weird scene Carl’s ex-wife’s ex-husband (played wonderfully by Robert Downey Jr) talks circles around Carl and no one, neither Carl nor the audience, ever seems to truly understand where the conversation is going. Perhaps at this point Carl finally starts to realize what poor communication feels like from the other side. His bewilderment, and ours, is almost palpable. From that moment on, his communication improves. Whether it’s from this experience or simply the change in scenery, Carl starts to communicate more clearly and transform into a character we can root for.

 

I love how Chef illustrates technology throughout the movie. We see little animated blue birds flying off into the air whenever tweets are sent and shared. A cute reminder that once the message is out there, it takes on a life of its own. The use of Twitter throughout the movie helps drive home how fraught our communication has become with the growth of technology. Without visual or aural cues, or even space to formulate full thoughts, it’s become increasingly easy to misunderstand people or misrepresent oneself.

 

That’s not to say that Twitter is all bad. Carl’s son Percy uses it within the food truck business to help Carl reinvent himself. Percy’s engagement with the tool is the most mature, ironic as he is the youngest cast member by far. However through Percy we see how technology can be used to foster communication between people. His “one second video” experiment finally helps Carl see in a fresh way the value of their relationship and leads to a new avenue of communication between them.

 

Follow Carl’s journey we’re left at the end to ponder if our own use of technology is helping or hindering our communication. Are we paying attention or missing out on relationships right in front of us? Are we connecting deeper or staying at a surface level? Are we using the tool or is the tool using us?

Abundance of Grace

 

We celebrated communion a couple Sundays back. During the Great Thanksgiving, as I lifted the bread, my daughter immediately started signing for “more” and “eat.” It was all I could do to keep from laughing! She may not have known everything that was happening in worship, but she knew Daddy had food and she wanted some!

She doesn’t know the words of institution. She can’t tell you the theological mystery of the bread and cup being the body and blood. But she knows someone who loves her is offering something worth having.

Sometimes I need reminding. God’s invitation is big enough for everyone. God’s grace is abundant for everyone. There’s more than enough for everyone.

And I don’t have to say all the right words or even know them. I don’t have to understand how everything fits together. All I have to know is that someone who loves me is offering something worth having. I can come to the table and receive.

 

Snow Day Worship

Snow Day Worship at Home

In Jewish tradition one of the most important laws is God’s commandment to observe the Sabbath day. But Jewish tradition makes an exception to the commandment to observe Sabbath if life is at stake or if keeping the Sabbath is unsafe. As Christians we take God’s commandment to observe Sabbath and to worship just as seriously. So, it is disappointing when we cannot gather to worship because of the weather. Today, we invite you to worship at home with your family and loved ones.

Here are some ways that you can prepare your home to be a sacred place of worship today:

  • Turn off your television and put your devices in a place where they will not be a distraction.
  • Light a candle.
  • Place a cross where everyone can see it.
  • Play or sing a favorite hymn or song while everyone is gathering.
  • Take a moment to sit silently before beginning to worship.

 

Opening Prayer

Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.

 

Scripture

After reading the scripture lesson, take a few minutes to discuss what these readings mean to you and how they call you to live differently for Jesus Christ.

Matthew 3:13-17

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you remember your baptism? If so, share something you remember about it. If not, ask someone if they can tell you a story about your baptism.
  2. Think back to a time you were getting ready for a big life event. What did you do to get ready? Who helped you prepare?
  3. What do you feel God calling you to this year? What do you need to do to get ready?

 

Prayer

Take time to pray for each of the following things. If you are gathered with your family or others, take turns on each point so that everyone can offer up a prayer in that category.

  • Give thanks: What are you thankful for today?
  • Pray for our world.
  • Pray for our community: What prayers does your community need today?
  • Pray for those who need healing or help from God: Who do you know who is sick or whose heart is hurting?
  • Pray for your needs and the needs of your family: Where in your life do you need God’s help and guidance?

 

Wesleyan Covenant Prayer

The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer is adapted from John Wesley’s Covenant Renewal Service. As we move into the new year, we remember our covenant with God as made in our baptism. We pray that God will be with us through all things and that we will be ready to for what God calls us to.

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

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 your pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

 

Thanks to Revs. Duncan Martin and Kris Mares for the inspiration!

Advent Calendar: Say Yes

Luke 1:26-38               (Common English Bible)

When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.” 38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

 

A friend of mine loves to share an exercise with this passage. Go read verse 38. How does Mary sound? Is she Mary, meek and mild? Now think about the fact that she’s a teenage girl. How do they talk to authority figures? Is she sarcastic or humble? Excited, frightened, or bored? We often hear Scripture in one particular voice and forget that these are real people with lives and emotions.

Regardless of how Mary responds to Gabriel, the miracle of the story is that she says yes. Her willingness to partner with God changes the world forever. How is God speaking to you this Advent? It may be through quieter means than an angel visit, but God still speaks. In what new thing is God seeking your participation? Are you prepared to say yes?

 

I’m posting a reflection on the daily Scripture reading from the Advent calendar we shared at Hopewell. Here’s what we’re using if you’d like to join us! https://thomasmousin.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/advent-calendar-2016.pdf

Advent Calendar: Feel Energy

Isaiah 40:28-31                        (Common English Bible)

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth.

He doesn’t grow tired or weary.

His understanding is beyond human reach,

29     giving power to the tired and reviving the exhausted.

30 Youths will become tired and weary, young men will certainly stumble;

31     but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength;

they will fly up on wings like eagles;

they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.

I always feel like I’m running out of energy during the holiday season. Between all the shopping, parties, and extra planning, there never seem to be enough hours in my days. And I know I’m not the only one, because it’s so common to hear people talk about how tired or frazzled they are.

On top of all that, this has been a dark Advent. It’s hard to be excited knowing how many people are scared and suffering. In the midst of all that darkness, Isaiah reminds us that God tirelessly works for justice and offers hope. Isaiah promises that God never grows weary. As we look towards the promise of light and joy at Christmas, we find renewed energy to continuing shining our own light in the world.

 

I’m posting a reflection on the daily Scripture reading from the Advent calendar we shared at Hopewell. Here’s what we’re using if you’d like to join us! https://thomasmousin.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/advent-calendar-2016.pdf