Following Jesus: Some Assembly Required – Week 4


Week of April 3

John Wesley founded Methodism and led a spiritual renewal movement in his world that swept across continents. He believed that a person’s growing spiritual life depends on weekly small growth groups (like ours in the Gathering). Wesley had his group hold accountability checks with each other weekly about their spiritual practices in the past week.  As we think this week about serving, let’s look at these related questions from Wesley’s long-ago list: 
1.     Do I consciously or unconsciously try to create an impression that I’m better than I really am? For example, do I quickly volunteer for more impressive tasks, and assume other people can better handle the unpleasant and low-status chores at work, social service organizations, or home?
2.     How do I spend my spare time?  Pastor Matt talked about our tendency to use our time selfishly and to avoid giving it in service – is that true of me?
3.     Do I thank God that I am not as other people? Do I fill my time with activities and friends that keep me in circles of privilege? Can I name any disadvantaged individuals with whom I’m on a first name basis, and who could confidently ask me for a favor?
4.     Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, criticize, resent, or look down on?  Do this week’s scriptures remind me that I’m avoiding exactly the kinds of people that Jesus moved toward?

Opening Prayer: 
Loving God, you gather us here so our friendship can help us grow spiritually.  Help us hear together the “yes” and the invitation to find you in meaningful actions of helping others.  We pray in the inviting, encouraging name of Jesus. Amen

Historical Context: 
The scriptures we considered in this sermon come from three of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Most scholars find good evidence that  Mark was written first of the four gospels in our Bible, and John’s gospel was penned last, several decades later, as the wider Church continued to reflect. The recorded stories of Jesus’ many healings and teachings show that Jesus’ core value of humble service was vividly apparent to his first followers, and continued to remain clear across time and cultures.  Direct humble service was at the center of his life and teaching.

Scripture Readings:
Mark 10:46-52
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, a blind beggar was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say “Jesus, son of David, have Mercy on me! And the crowd scolded him and told him to be silent. But he shouted even louder, “son of David, have mercy on me.”  Jesus stopped and said, "Call him forward." They called the blind man, "Be encouraged! Get up! He's calling you." Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus. Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said, "Teacher, I want to see." Jesus said, "Go, your faith has healed you." At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way.

Engaging Scripture:  
  1. Those traveling with Jesus scolded the blind man for shouting out for help, Why do you think they did that?  
  2. How do you suppose Jesus’s companions felt when Jesus stopped and spent time with the man they had just tried to shush?
  3. Society in Jesus’ time was much more classist than our society today –Social classes were strongly enforced, separating rich from poor, free from enslaved, men from women, and abled from disabled. What are some of the challenges that you think they faced in being of service? 
  4. What social stigmas must you overcome to be of service?

Additional Scripture
2 Cor 12:9b-10 

"My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness." So I'll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ's power can rest on me.
Therefore, I'm all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I'm weak, then I'm strong.  

John 13.3-5
Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples' feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing.  

Matthew 20.26
But that's not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.

Matthew 10.39
Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.
Application Questions:
1. What stands out to you as you hear these scriptures being read? How do they challenge you?

2. Do you feel differently about doing a humble serving job (such as clearing dishes from the table after a meal) if you have an “honored” status – such as being an honored guest in someone’s home, than you feel if you feel ordered or asked to do it by another family member? Is it more painful to do grubby jobs when you are taken for granted and your work seems unappreciated?  What might Jesus suggest about that feeling?

3. When have you had someone do something for you that you did NOT need or want? What could they have done that would have been truly helpful?  When have you asked someone  specifically what they needed from you?  Is asking what people need from you hard or easy?

4. What types of disadvantaged people touch your heart the most right now? What are some things you can do to serve them?

5. Which of the points about service from this sermon could you benefit the most from applying? (Begin by Listening; Start Small; Be Humble; Start from Weaknesses; or Turn Outward) What would a close friend say you could use the most improvement in?

Closing Prayer:  
Loving God you create us with hearts, minds, souls and hands to love You. Please help us this week to see where we can do acts of kindness or service for people who really need a lift. Help us grow in the habit of kindness, so we naturally do it without great effort.  We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Taking it Further:
TED Talk Are You a Giver or a Taker? by Adam Grant, organizational psychologist, 14 minutes, Some surprising perspectives on the costs and benefits of being a giver, a taker, or a matcher, in career and business. Where in this talk do you see Jesus’s giving “style”?

Movie –The Upside, (2019) with Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman.  Based on a true story, it’s about a recently paroled ex-convict, who gets stuck with a job he really tried hard not to get, as caregiver for a wealthy quadriplegic. Full of humor and connection – good for elementary kids and up. The French original, The Intouchables, (2012) got even better critical reviews. What does this movie convey about how service creates deep bonds of genuine relationship?

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