Open: Week 1

Open to New Vision

Week of October 17, 2021

Opening Prayer:
Holy Spirit, we invite you in. Open our hearts and minds to your presence and one another. Be with us as we look back on what God has nudged us toward and how we have responded. We ask to be reminded of the ways this group and this church have impacted us. Ready our hearts to do the same for those who aren't here yet. In Jesus’ life-giving name we pray, amen.

Historical Context:
The most famous example of a hard heart in the Bible is Pharaoh in the Old Testament story of the Exodus. Moses has been called by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The only problem, Pharaoh refuses to let them go. This story wrestles with questions about the nature of evil, and ultimately presents a cautionary tale of the disastrous consequences of a human heart closed off to God.

Read Aloud:
Exodus 5:1-9, 22-23, 6:1 (CEB)

First meeting with Pharaoh
5 Afterward, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, Israel’s God, says: ‘Let my people go so that they can hold a festival for me in the desert.’”

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is this Lord whom I’m supposed to obey by letting Israel go? I don’t know this Lord, and I certainly won’t let Israel go.”

3 Then they said, “The Hebrews’ God has appeared to us. Let us go on a three-day journey into the desert so we can offer sacrifices to the Lord our God. Otherwise, the Lord will give us a deadly disease or violence.”

4 The king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you making the people slack off from their work? Do the hard work yourselves!” 5 Pharaoh continued, “The land’s people are now numerous. Yet you want them to stop their hard work?”

6 On the very same day Pharaoh commanded the people’s slave masters and supervisors, 7 “Don’t supply the people with the straw they need to make bricks like you did before. Let them go out and gather the straw for themselves. 8 But still make sure that they produce the same number of bricks as they made before. Don’t reduce the number! They are weak and lazy, and that’s why they cry, ‘Let’s go and offer sacrifices to our God.’ 9 Make the men’s work so hard that it’s all they can do, and they can’t focus on these empty lies.”

22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “My Lord, why have you abused this people? Why did you send me for this? 23 Ever since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has abused this people. And you’ve done absolutely nothing to rescue your people.”

God reassures Moses
6 The Lord replied to Moses, “Now you will see what I’ll do to Pharaoh. In fact, he’ll be so eager to let them go that he’ll drive them out of his land by force.”

Engaging Scripture:  
  • How do the actions Pharaoh takes in response to the Israelites reveal the state of his heart?

  • In the end of this story the Israelites are freed from slavery in Egypt. God accomplishes God’s purposes despite Pharaoh’s stubbornness. What does this tell you about God’s character?

Application Questions:
The Gathering has grown into the community that it is because we have chosen to stay open to God’s call. Every day of the week, Sunday through Saturday, we meet needs in our city and beyond with vision, hope, and transformation. It’s all possible because we are a congregation that stays curious about what God is doing next. When we soften our hearts, we can respond to God and our mission with excitement and wonder.

  • Think of a time when following God’s direction seemed to make things worse before they got better. How did you continue to trust God in that situation?

  • What images or descriptions come to mind when you think of a hard heart? How do these differ from how you imagine an open heart?

  • What areas of your life feel locked in? Set in stone? If God were to call you to something new how would you feel? Would you be more open in some areas than others?
In your relationships.
With your family.
In your work.
With your resources.

Closing Prayer:
God, you have called us into sacred partnership from the beginning. You are always moving us through restoration. We have sometimes responded in fear or hard-heartedness, forgive us. Stir up our spirits with the excitement of new vision. Keep our heads, hearts, and hands open during this series as we discover what you have in store for our community. We pray this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Taking it Further:
Ever wondered why the Bible says “God hardened Pharaoh's heart”? Check out this article from The Bible Project:
‘When Pharaoh’s Heart Grew Harder’

Read Ezekiel 36:26-30; the prophet shares God’s pledge of physical and spiritual renewal.

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