Saturday, September 24, 2011

Do What You Do

by anyjazz65 @ Flickr
Do What You Do

There was a family with three kids. Their mother asked them to clean their rooms, because they were having company tomorrow. The first kid said ‘OK’ and went and cleaned her room. The second kid said ‘That’s not fair!’ and stormed off. But when he cooled down, he cleaned his room. The third kid said ‘no problem, mom,’ and went back to her room and listened to mp3s.

1) Who did what the mother wanted?

2) What does this story have to do with church?

Matthew 21:23-32 Jesus’ Authority Challenged (See also Mark 11:27–33; Luke 20:1–8)
Then Jesus went into the temple courtyard and began to teach. The chief priests and the leaders of the people came to him. They asked, “What gives you the right to do these things? Who told you that you could do this?” Jesus answered them, “I, too, have a question for you. If you answer it for me, I’ll tell you why I have the right to do these things. Did John’s right to baptize come from heaven or from humans?” They discussed this among themselves. They said, “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ he will ask us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘from humans,’ we’re afraid of what the crowd might do. All those people think of John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus told them, “Then I won’t tell you why I have the right to do these things.

A Story About Two Sons
“What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go to work in the vineyard today.’ His son replied, ‘I don’t want to!’ But later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the other son and told him the same thing. He replied, ‘I will, sir,’ but he didn’t go. “Which of the two sons did what the father wanted?” “The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. John came to you and showed you the way that God wants you to live, but you didn’t believe him. The tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. But even after you had seen that, you didn’t change your minds and believe him. 

3) What does the two sons story have to do with the leaders’ question: “what gives you the right to do this stuff?”

4) Do you have authority to act?

Philippians 2:6-13 Have the Same Attitude as Christ
Although he was in the form of God and equal with God,
he did not take advantage of this equality. 
Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant,
by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance. 
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
death on a cross. 
This is why God has given him an exceptional honor
– the name honored above all other names –
so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
will kneel and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

My dear friends, you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you but even more now that I’m absent. In the same way continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him. 

5) How does this connect to the gospel for today?

(The last Sunday of the month we leave more time for fellowship and games, so this is meant to be pretty quick.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

As we forgive

soot+chalk at Flickr
As We Forgive
The heart of our relationship with Jesus is accepting the forgiveness he offers. But in the Gospels he spoke much more about us forgiving others. Why? What does it mean? Is it a requirement for grace?

0) What do you think about when we pray in the Our Father “Forgive us our trespasses/debts as we forgive those who trespass against us”?

Matthew 18:15-35
Dealing With Believers When They Do Wrong (15-20) “If a believer does something wrong, go, confront him when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won back that believer. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation may be verified by two or three witnesses. If he ignores these witnesses, tell it to the community of believers. If he also ignores the community, deal with him as you would a heathen or a tax collector. I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you imprison, God will imprison. And whatever you set free, God will set free. “I can guarantee again that if two of you agree on anything here on earth, my Father in heaven will accept it. Where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them.” 

1) So what are the different stages? Why break it up into those stages?

2) What does it mean when Jesus says to deal with them as you would a tax collector? How did Jesus treat tax collectors?

3) What on earth could the guaranteed truth mean here? We have the power to imprison? All we have to do is agree?

4) What does it mean to come together in Jesus’ name? 

Personally Forgiving Others (21-35) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven. That is why the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to do this, a servant who owed him millions of dollars was brought to him. Because he could not pay off the debt, the master ordered him, his wife, his children, and all that he had to be sold to pay off the account. Then the servant fell at his master’s feet and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay everything!’ The master felt sorry for his servant, freed him, and canceled his debt. But when that servant went away, he found a servant who owed him hundreds of dollars. He grabbed the servant he found and began to choke him. ‘Pay what you owe!’ he said. Then that other servant fell at his feet and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you.’ But he refused. Instead, he turned away and had that servant put into prison until he would repay what he owed. The other servants who worked with him saw what had happened and felt very sad. They told their master the whole story. Then his master sent for him and said to him, ‘You evil servant! I canceled your entire debt, because you begged me.  Shouldn’t you have treated the other servant as mercifully as I treated you?’ His master was so angry that he handed him over to the torturers until he would repay everything that he owed. That is what my Father in heaven will do to you if each of you does not sincerely forgive other believers.” 

5) What questions do you have about this parable? Some questions that maybe you did or did not ask.

6) Is a gift given if it is not received? Meaning, if I give you something, and you refuse to open it, did I give you a gift? Have you ever gotten a gift that you did not receive?

7) Why does the servant treat his debtor so harshly? What would that be like for us or in today’s culture?

8) Why does it make the king so angry when he hears about the servant’s actions?

9) Does it mean that the king did not really forgive the servant if he takes it back? Or is the servant being punished for the new problem and not the old debt?

10) Here’s an interpretation: the servant does not really understand or accept what the king did. He thinks it’s easy for the king, or inconsequential, and so it makes no difference in his life. Real understanding of what the king did for him would make it impossible to treat the lower servant so. The king is angry, confronted with proof that his generosity was not accepted for what it was.

Does this make sense with the parable?

Yukata Tsutako, 3/20/2001

September 11th.
 11) Have you forgiven Al Qaeda for the attack of 9/11/01? What does it mean for us to forgive them?

12) What would the political reaction be if a leader called on America to forgive Al Qaeda?

13) What would it mean for a jihadist group to accept our forgiveness?

I usually don't share my answers to these studies, but I think I have to for #13.  I had 2 new or renewed insights studying this scripture. One is that what Jesus told us to do is always for our own good. He told us to forgive others not to assign a burden, but so that we will understand what he has done for us. If we don't understand it, we can't really accept it. The harder it is for us to forgive someone, the more deeply we'll understand just what we did. The second has to do with #13. That, paradoxically, God's forgiveness serves his justice. To us it feels like forgiving someone is letting them off the hook. But if they accept the forgiveness, truly, then it is the best way for them to understand their wrong.  Persecuting them for the wrong helps them justify and ignore it.