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Archive for the ‘Christmastide’ Category

Discussion Guide:      January 1st Yr. A : Mary the Holy Mother of God

 

Amazon.com: Virgin Mary and Angels Playing Jesus POSTER A3 Print Madonna and Child picture Bouguereau Blessed Mother image Holy Mary painting Catholic Christian Religious Wall Art Decor for Home : Handmade Products

Reflection Questions:    • This Feast day is the Oldest Marian Feast in our liturgical calendar. The Solemnity of Mary Holy Mother of God is celebrated a week after Christmas Day. It is a ‘Christological’ Feast in which the focus is on Jesus Christ and his identity. We recognise the special role that Mary had in accepting the call to be ‘Mother of God’. This title of Mary – Theotokos – Mother of God points to Jesus’ Divine identity as truly God.

• The Blessing referred to in the Book of Numbers is still practiced by the Jewish ancestors of the Priestly line of Aaron today and in our Catholic prayer as we pray ‘Lord Hear Us’. Calling upon the Name of God brought his presence. And God himself taught Moses how to bring this blessing upon God’s family. LORD is an English translation of the Greek KYRIOS, which is a translation of the Hebrew YAHWEH – which is the Divine Name of God given to Moses on the Mountain of Sinai meaning ‘I AM THE ONE WHO IS’ (Ex 3:14). Can you see the Old Testament – Gospel link in the readings: God’s face and looking upon you and Jesus born among us. Think of close friends and pray this blessing upon them for the New Year ahead.

• Paul’s letter to the Galations is written by Paul upset at the travellers who would journey behind him and tell his communities that his message about Jesus was wrong. In the community of Galatia new converts who were not Jewish were being told they must obey all the Jewish requirements of the Law regarding food, cleanliness, circumcision, ritual practices. Paul uses a dramatic image to dismiss their arguments. Jews are slaves to a ‘law’. Christians are adopted as ‘sons’ and are now ‘heirs’ to the inheritance of freedom and unconditional acceptance by God. Do you understand and experience your relationship with God as a slave and legal observance, or as a son /daughter and a ‘family member’? What is the difference?

• The Lukan reading continues on from Christmas Day. God is very surprisingly born in an unclean place (stable) and seen first by unclean people (shepherds, who were often not able to meet ritual cleanliness requirements due to the care of their animals). Which places and people do you consider today to be ‘unclean’ and ‘unfit’ for God? How might Luke’s theme of God’s hospitality and inclusion to all challenge you this year? Who do you exclude?

• Mary is the model for all disciples. Her life was open to God’s call and plan. Her whole-hearted Yes called her to walk forward within a plan she did not fully understand. She reflected on each days events ‘in her heart’. She lived a pregnancy with the Word and let it come to birth. As the New Year begins what challenges may you say Yes to? How could you create a regular pattern of ‘prayer and reflection’ to ensure plans and resolutions move from pregnancy to physical birth?

• What is one action that you will do to ‘livetheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide:    Download Reflection for Midnight Mass: Christmas – The Greatest Story of Love ever Revealed

 

Does the Manger Mean Anything When You're Hurting? – For Katahdin

Reflection Questions:

• Watch a different version of ‘The Christmas Story’                                                                                                                 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBaTUwhq0-4&feature=share&list=PLC9CBA7E985567228       What part of the Christmas story strikes you the most?

• The first reading is a prophecy of Isaiah of war ended, a great leader arising from the family line of King David to bring judgment and justice. Reflect on the images. Walking in darkness then seeing a great light. Going out to pick fruits and produce of the earth and to know your family will be fed with plenty of food. Relief that war has ended and your community and family can now live in safety. Slave tasks of carrying heavy loads has ended. All the evidence and bloodshed of war being removed and burned. How has Jesus’ birth done this? What is the link between Jesus’ birth and death? Instead of military might to change the world, what does Jesus offer?

• Paul’s letter to Titus reminds us that while we celebrate the birth of Jesus we are still consciously living in preparation for his second coming. Christians are called not to retreat from the world but be a ‘sign’ in the world. Would someone watching your life notice that you are being ‘trained’, rejecting godless ways and worldly desires? Living modestly? Courageous in seeking justice? Devout and prayer-full? Eager and ready to do good?

• Caesar Augustus was the most powerful person in the world at the time of Jesus’ birth. He was the leader of the Roman Empire. The only superpower of the day. He was given the public title ‘Saviour of the World’ as he had managed to bring peace after 100 years of unrest. Enrolling people involved taking a census. This often meant knowing how many people and how much tax could be charged – to pay for armies and military power! Consequently a census sometimes caused a revolt by citizens. In contrast Luke shares: today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Christ the Lord, lying in a manger. What do you think Luke is trying to suggest about salvation?

• God’s explosion into human history in the birth of Jesus is not in royal and beautiful surroundings. Christians have romanticised his birth considering it a beautiful event. But the reality was uncomfortable straw. In the midst of animals. Not accepted by his own people in the town of Bethlehem. On the outside of town. On the margins among people on the margins (Shepherds were considered dirty and dishonest!). How does this stretch your attitudes and perceptions of Christmas. Who does God ‘favour’?

• What will you do to be ‘livingtheword’?

Discussion Guide:    28th Sunday Yr. C – Living the Hospitality and Mercy of God

 

My Paisley World — faithful-in-christ: Luke 17:11-19 (NLT) As Jesus...

Reflection Questions:  • Our readings today have 2 characters who suffer from Leprosy. Lepers were excluded from living in the community. People didnʼt want to catch the disease. It was also commonly believed that leprosy was a sign of being punished by God and that the leper was both morally and ritually unclean. The forced isolated shunned life living outside the community (Lev 13,46) caused incredible loneliness and constant rejection. How do we shun, isolate and cause chronic loneliness and rejection for people today? What are some modern forms of social ʻleprosyʼ?

• Naaman was a general in the Syrian Army, both a foreigner and an enemy, and he had leprosy so was excluded and to be feared. Israel and Syria were not friendly. Possibly from a previous conquest Naaman had even taken a Jewish slave girl for his household. Everyone would have been against him! Consider the courage he had in going to a holy man in Israel;ʻElishaʼ. How welcoming are we toward strangers, or those we fear?

• What obstacles has Naaman had to overcome for healing? He tries to offer wealth as payment but Elisha refuses. How freely do we share the Lord’s goodness? He asks for soil from Israel to take home to build an Altar to the Lord. His full acceptance of God is symbolized in that action. What is your symbol of thanksgiving and acceptance of God and what could you ʻbuildʼ to offer worship to God for healing and forgiveness?

• Scholars suggest that St Paulʼs letter to Timothy was written while he was in prison. St Paul was ʻin chainsʼ, treated as a criminal for his preaching the gospel of inclusion by God in Christ to the gentiles. He invites young Timothy to also be willing to persevere and suffer for this mission. What would you be willing to endure ʻchainsʼ for? What do you understand Paul means by; “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him.” What effort do you put into changing the patterns of exclusion in your community and society?

• Gospel stories are like ʻice-bergsʼ. 90% of the story is beneath the surface. Underneath the story of the lepers are further stories of exclusion, hurt, isolation. The Samaritan is like Naaman in the first reading; a hated foreigner. Past events meant Samaritans no longer acknowledge Jerusalem and the Temple as the place of true worship. Healing from leprosy required a ʻcertificate of healthʼ by the Priest before a ʻleperʼ could be accepted back in community. The 9 lepers are obviously so keen to see the priest that they lost sight of who did the healing – Jesus. Only the foreigner stopped and showed gratitude. When do you take your life and health for granted? Have you had some ʻhighʼ moments and forgotten to ʻgive thanksʼ to God. Write, share or pray a ʻthank-youʼ list to God about things in life you forget to say ʻthanksʼ to God for.

• God wishes to include and bring to faith the most unlikely of characters. Naaman and the Samaritan leper show God’s desire to include, not exclude. What does this teach us about God? Does it adjust your ʻimage of Godʼ? Which unlikely character in your community might God be inviting you toʻbring to faithʼ? What misconceptions do you and they need to let go of so that Godʼs welcome and inclusion can be realized?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide:    21st Sunday Yr. C: I do not know you – ‘but we ate and drank in your company’?

 

Are you In or Out? - Faithlife Sermons

 

Reflection Questions:

• The final chapters of the Book of Isaiah are filled with apocalyptic images of how the ʻend of timesʼ will be. Every nation, language (Tarshish = Spain, Put and Lud = North Africa, Tubal and Javan = AsiaMinor) will be gathered to Jerusalem. But this will first require God to ʻset a sign among themʼ. God requires missionaries to witness to Godʼs ways and take responsibility for being ʻliving signsʼ of Godʼs love. What does being a ʻsignʼ mean for you? Do you feel responsible for being Godʼs representative among your peers? What would be your biggest challenge? Fear? Who is a good rolemodel (sign) of faith for you and how could you imitate them?

• The Letter to the Hebrews was to Jewish Christians. Many were struggling with persecution and trials from Jewish Religious Leaders for their belief in Jesus. They were frustrated that Jesus had not ʻreturnedʼ quickly as they had hoped. They are downcast with drooping hands and weak knees! They are invited to see struggles and trials as ʻdisciplineʼ which comes from the word ʻdiscipleʼ which comes from the word to learn and be educated. What is one struggle you are having currently. What is it teaching you?

• Jesus is on his way to his final days in Jerusalem and he challenges all who have a conversation with him about getting ready for the ʻend of timeʼ. This sparks a question – ʻwill only a few people be savedʼ? Jewish people assumed they were the ʻfewʼ and sinners, unclean people, unbelievers were the ʻmanyʼ who would not be saved. How would you respond to a friend if they asked ʻwill only a few be saved and go to heavenʼ? Where did you get your image of God to back up your belief and answer?

• Jesus does not answer the question but gives an image – a crowd is trying to get into a house but all must go through a narrow ʻdoorʼ. There will come a time when the door will be closed and people left outside. If this scene was really going to happen how could you be prepared? What does it mean to be ʻinside the houseʼ?

• Jewish people understood they had a special status of ʻchosenʼ by God. They presumed this also meant they had a special entry permit ʻthrough the doorʼ. ʻWe ate and drank with you, you taught us!ʼ They are absolutely surprised with the possibility that other people, ʻsinnersʼ, could get into heaven before them. ʻBut I have listened to the Gospel stories on Sunday and have shared in the Eucharistʼ could be a modern Catholic response. It is not enough to ʻbe thereʼ on Sunday, we are called to ʻdo somethingʼ on Monday… to be a ʻsignʼ of Godʼs forgiveness, welcome, shaping the world into becoming one family. What would you consider the Church needs to ʻdo more ofʼ? How could you be involved?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

 

Discussion Guide:    20th Sunday Yr. C: ‘Costly Discipleship’ – do You want Fire?

 

Baptism with Fire:- How to know if you're baptized with fire

Reflection Questions:

• Jeremiah did not have an enjoyable experience as a prophet. He lived in a time when he saw the ‘gap’ between God’s way and the way the King and Religious Leaders were leading the people. For many years he spoke challenging words of change but without success. In the end he reached the conclusion that it would be ok if the ‘Court’ and ‘Temple’ were demolished so that God would have an opportunity to ‘start again’! People became upset and today Jeremiah ends up ‘in the mud’ of a large empty water tank. Have you recently heard an invitation or idea that deeply challenged you to change? What was your response? Why do prophets often experience rejection?

• Imagine the experience of Jeremiah standing ‘in the mud’. Waiting. Crying. Faithful. Confused. And then Ebedmelech from the court arrives. Can you apply this image to your life journey now? Who could be ‘Ebed-melech’ reaching out to help you? What do we learn about God from this experience?

• The Letter to the Hebrews teaches Jewish people the meaning of Jesus life and sacrifice. Jesus followers are called to live in close imitation to him. Is there anything you are doing in your life that Jesus would not do? How could you ‘run the race….’?

• Jesus continues to teach his disciples about the deep changes required to become a ‘follower’. Fire ‘purifies’ objects, melts away any impurities. Cleanses and reduces metals back to an original state. To set the earth on fire seems to be a more painful experience than ‘giving the earth a wash’. A fire is more severe and deep. Have you ever asked Jesus for this ‘baptism’ of fire – the Spirit – to come upon you? Do you desire this baptism? Bring this desire into a time of prayer.

• Jesus is often portrayed as someone bringing peace and reconciliation. But the cost of transforming the world is great. Archbishop Oscar Romero said: the world is established in disorder which makes the mere proclamation of the good news a subversive act’. What do you think this quote means?

• Jewish people considered the relationship of care and respect between parents and children to be the greatest value to uphold. Nothing else should topple this value. Jesus inserts a seed of fire into the social structure of his time. Disciples will eventually be confronted with a choice: will you choose the relationship with Jesus to be the most important relationship of your life no matter what? This experience has often been called ‘costly discipleship’. Do you have a costly discipleship story? Could you inspire someone by sharing it or write it in a journal to claim it more deeply as a life lesson for yourself?

• In early christianity, Jewish people who became christian were ‘kicked out’ of the family home and not allowed to worship in the temple. They began to experience a new family of care and community, living together, sharing everything in common feeding the hungry. They truly began to live a ‘different life’. The first christians in Antioch were called the people of ‘the way’. Does your ‘way’ reflect the life of Jesus?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide:    16th Sunday Yr. C: The Challenge to keep the Balance as a Disciple

 

Pin on Ministry - VBS, AWANA, Sunday School

Reflection Questions:

• ʻThe New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is only fully revealed in the New Testamentʼ. Here forms a special link between the First Reading and the Gospel Reading each Sunday. The common theme in the readings is Hospitality.

• Abraham has just won a significant battle, is a wealthy leader and herdsman. Yet he runs from his tent in the heat of the day, gets the equivalent of 20 pounds of flour, kills a steer, which would be an extraordinary feast for a small village, and then he ʻwaited on themʼ. Abraham shows middle eastern hospitality in providing safe passage for travelers. Strangers become guests. How do you show hospitality in your life, family, friends, work colleagues, strangers…..?

• Sarah and Abraham are surprised in receiving news that they will have a child. What surprises have you enjoyed and received recently in showing hospitality?

• Paul rejoices in sufferings and sees them as part of the work of Christ. Any suffering that is part of growth and extending the work of the Church is Christʼs work continuing and making up or completing what was unfinished in Christ. Enduring difficulties became a privilege and an honor for Paul. What sufferings do you find hard to carry? Can you see a different way of looking at them as gradually transforming the world and the Church starting with your own ʻfleshʼ?

• Paul goes where no-one else would go -to the gentiles – to warn, teach and present them to Christ. Is there someone you know who has drifted away from God and the Church. How might you ʻwarnʼ them, ʻteachʼ them, ʻpresentʼ them to God?

• Martha and Mary have Jesus – and his hungry disciples – arrive at their home. Cultural expectations of women would have weighed heavily on both Martha and Mary to serve hospitality and food. Mary chose to do what was not socially acceptable, and sit at the masters feet, the traditional expression of being a ‘disciple’ – and one normally reserved for ‘males’. Consider what obstacles Mary overcame to ‘sit and listen’. What obstacles do you need to overcome to listen in prayer?

• Martha’s serving is another crucial aspect of discipleship. So Jesus is challenging the status quo here also. He recognizes both Martha and Mary as disciples, challenging Martha to step outside her cultural role and understand who Jesus is calling her to be as his follower. Martha tries to reinforce the norms by getting Mary to help. Mary courageously resists her sister. What is going on? If Welcome and Serving feel overly burdensome or a ʻcomplainingʼ spirit is developing in your life, work, relationships, ministry, take time to figure out where the ʻworryʼ is coming from and talk to God about it?

• This passage comes straight after the parable of the Good Samaritan and offer a great picture of balanced Christian discipleship. Hearing and Doing are not opposites but inter-twined. What is Jesus saying about the choice that Mary made to sit and listen to him and our need to carefully discern the roles we adopt and review them from time to time?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide:    15th Sunday Yr. C: Loving Beyond Barriers

 

Luke 10:37 | Jesus quotes, Gospel of luke, Luke

Reflection Questions   • Moses is giving his final words of farewell in the book of Deuteronomy today. The ʻLawʼ which Moses gave to Israel from God is not simply written in decrees but is written into our very nature…. ʻvery near to youʼ. Jewish people kept this ʻshemaʼ close to them by posting it on their doorways and wrapping it around their foreheads in times of prayer. How could you keep Godʼs ways and guidelines close to you? Is there any practice or habit you could adopt to express a love for Godʼs teachings?

• We hear from St Paulʼs letter to the Colossians in the next 3 Sundays. Paul is writing a letter to correct errors of a heresy. Gnosticism taught that God was only spirit and did not mix with the material world of ʻmatterʼ. Jesus therefore was thought of as an ʻintermediaryʼ between God and Man, like an Angel. God couldnʼt become ʻfleshʼ because this would involve God getting ʻdirtyʼ and mixing with humanity! Paul responds Jesus Christ is truly the image and exact representative of the invisible God, the fulness of God dwelt in him. God has truly come among us and reconciled us. What was the obstacle of Gnosticism? Is this obstacle in your own thinking?

• The Parable of the Good Samaritan is intended to ʻshake usʼ toward loving as God loves. Parables are meant to ʻshockʼ us out of the status quo. Stay with the parable until something ʻshocksʼ you.

• Jesus responds to an expert in the law of Moses. Jesus includes in the ʻshemaʼ an addition to ʻlove your neighbour as yourselfʼ (Lev 19,18). Jewish people practically limited this ʻadditionʼ to extending care only toward fellow Jewish citizens. Why do cultures limit and enforce cultural and social divisions of who is ʻincludedʼ and ʻexcludedʼ? In your social and religious circle, who do you ʻinclude / excludeʼ? Why?

• The ʻlawʼ stated that Priests and Levites were to be kept ʻcleanʼ for religious service. Getting close to a dead body or touching ʻbloodʼ would make them ʻuncleanʼ. They ʻseeʼ someone in great need – but decide to ʻpass byʼ. Jesus critiques this socially and religiously ʻacceptable behaviourʼ. Religious sacrifices and duties are no substitute for lack of compassion and injustice. In your week who have you ʻseenʼ, ʻpassed byʼ?

• A Samaritan was the cultural equivalent of a terrorist or drug dealer. It was the greatest shock for Jewish listeners to have a Samaritan as a hero surpassing a religiously observant Priest and Levite. The Samaritan put his money where his mouth was. His love for God showed itself in deep compassion not simply pious thoughts or words. Oil and Wine were gifts offered at the altar, used now to soften and disinfect wounds. 2 days wages and a promise of more if needed reveal not just first aid but ongoing care. What inspires you in the Samaritanʼs actions? What would it look like for you to ʻgo and do likewiseʼ?

• Jesus challenges the lawyer – and us – to a new approach to life. The question is not ʻwho is my neighbourʼ but will I be a ʻneighbourʼ ?

• What is one action that you will do to ʻlivethewordʼ this week?

Discussion Guide:    Ascension Sunday Yr. C – Be My Witnesses

 

What Does Acts 1:8 Mean?

Reflection Questions:    • 40 days have passed since Easter. What is a significant memory, learning, faith experience you have had since Holy Week? Has the Easter mystery become clearer in any way? Have you learnt something new about what Christ has done for our salvation?

• Restoring the ʻKingdom to Israelʼ is still a theme and question of the Apostles. They may still be holding onto a military hope of salvation with a clear and convincing victory of God by power. What is your understanding of the idea of ʻkingdom of God? What does it look like? How is it achieved?

• The Feast of the Ascension celebrates Jesusʼ place now in Heaven, promising the Holy Spirit (1st Reading), acting as the Heavenly Priest (2nd Reading) and sending his disciples to witness to all nations (Gospel). The Angels challenge the disciples (and Us): ʻwhy are you standing there looking at the sky?ʼ Where is the focus of your energy and attention as a disciple: looking upward to heaven, or looking sideways to mission?

• Ascension Sunday has 2 options for the second reading. The letter to the Hebrews teaches how Jesus replaces all the sacrifices, offerings and prayers of the Temple Priests. A picture is created of the High Priest acting on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16) with blood (symbol of life) to rub on the mercy seat (Godʼs resting place) in the holy of holies – the sanctuary / tabernacle). Jesusʼ sacrifice of himself is the one eternal sacrifice to fulfill and replace all sacrifice offerings for the forgiveness of sin. This great act is complete. Jesus now gives us confidence that our relationship with God is made ʻcleanʼ. Jesus acts now and intercedes for us as our ʻheavenly priestʼ. What strikes you from this image in the Hebrews reading?

• Jesus sends his disciples as ʻwitnessesʼ to all the world. This is our job description. The early Christian community so heavily persecuted linked witness with martyrdom. In what ways do you consider yourself a ʻwitnessʼ to Jesus? If people were to watch your life what would they ‘see’?

• The Holy Spirit is ʻthe promise of the Father upon youʼ giving disciples a ʻpower from on highʼ. What is your image and experience of the Holy Spirit? Have you ever earnestly prayed for the Spirit? Awaiting Pentecost this coming week, create a simple phrase that you could pray frequently (eg. ʻpromise of the Father, come.ʼ ʻpower from on high, fill me.ʼ)

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide:    5th Sunday Easter Yr. C – New Heaven and New Earth

 

See the source image

 

Reflection Questions:      • Paul and Barnabas travelled great distances, endured resistance and persecution and spent years away from their ʻhome baseʼ of Antioch. On finishing their ʻjourneyʼ they returned back through the various towns – even those that persecuted them! What does this teach you about Paul and Barnabas? What would ʻtheirʼ missionary journey look like in ʻyourʼ world, office or workplace?

• Paul and Barnabas broke centuries old prejudices of considering God only loved ʻthe Jewsʼ. His ʻchosenʼ. Going to the Gentiles was an enormous change. To put this into context, if a Jew married a Gentile in Jesusʼ time the Jewish family would conduct a public funeral to say to everyone that you were now ʻdeadʼ to the family. Gentiles were considered ʻintrinsically uncleanʼ. Strict Jews believed they were ʻdefiledʼ by being with Gentiles. Which group of people today are considered ʻoutcastsʼ, ʻsinnersʼ, beyond Godʼs love? Could you be a missionary to them? What might need to change in you? In the Church?

• The Book of Revelation gives us the final seventh vision. Although Jerusalem had been destroyed and Christians were being severely persecuted a vision is seen of what will come true. Can you look at the Church today – in its current struggles – and see the bride (church) adorned for her husband (Christ) and Godʼs presence everdwelling in the Church in the Eucharist and the Word?

• In Johnʼs gospel the moment of Jesus dying on the cross is not simply a place of suffering. The word Glory is used 5 times in todays gospel. It is Jesus being ʻlifted upʼ like a winning coach on the shoulders of the winning sports team. It is a moment of victory. Glorious! When you look at the cross, do you see only suffering? Can you see why it is also ʻgloriousʼ?

• Jesus gives a commandment to his disciples which is ʻnewʼ. While the Old Testament encouraged Jews to ʻloveʼ their neighbour, it was interpreted within the boundaries of your ʻinner circleʼ of family. Jesus tells his disciples the love his followers are to show is to be qualitatively different. A self-sacrificing love to all like his own ʻoutsidersʼ not simply ʻinsidersʼ. Would people see in your lifestyle and ʻloveʼstyle something different? Can you identify a lived action where you lived and showed Christ recently?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?

Discussion Guide:    4th Sunday Easter Yr. C – Jesus, Our Good Shepherd

 

The Living... — faithful-in-christ: John 10:27-30 (NKJV) My...

 

Reflection Questions:

• In the 50 days after Easter the Church listens continuously to the Acts of the Apostles (the ʻgospelʼ of the Church as it is sometimes called). Paulʼs first missionary journey lasted some 13 years! He encountered violent abuse and persecution. But he could not stop sharing the message of Godʼs love, forgiveness and the truth revealed in Jesus. Do you know a missionary in the Church and the challenges they face? What do you think the ʻmissionʼ is in your own country, parish?

• Shaking dust off oneʼs feet was a ritual action Jews performed when returning from Gentile (non- believing) lands. When Paul and Barnabas did this action to the Jews and went to the Gentiles it would have been interpreted as a great insult. Sometimes it requires great courage to move ʻoutsideʼ traditional boundaries. Have you experienced a missionary ʻzealʼ to go further than what is normal and acceptable to live and bring Christ to others? What happened?

• The Book of Revelation ‘unveils’ the future and provides a heavenly image of those who have endured great persecution and sacrificed their life for peace, justice, freedom. Their white robes symbolise these inner virtues. It is a picture of all the faithful – saints in Heaven. Have you recognised the freedom (and religious freedom) of your country and your life has been won at great ʻcostʼ by those who have gone before you. What do you think this great multitude would say to you ʻtodayʼ? What religious truths would you be willing to enter ‘great distress’ to defend?

• The context of John 10 is the great Jewish ʻFeast of Dedicationʼ. It was a celebration of military victory of Judas Maccabeaus who led an army (164BCE ) against the occupying Greeks who had desecrated the Jewish Temple by putting the Greek god Zeus on the altar making it ʻuncleanʼ. (See Dan 8:13)They killed and chased out their oppressors, destroyed false idols, built a new altar and rededicated the Temple. In Jn 10 they ask Jesus if he is the promised Messiah – and will he raise up arms and inspire an Army to overcome the occupying Roman forces!? He responds: he is the Good Shepherd. Salvation and healing of the world will come through listening to his voice not the taking up of arms. A soldier or shepherd. What are the similarities and differences of these two ʻimagesʼ?

• A striking image in contemporary Jerusalem and nearby Bethlehem is young and old ‘shepherds’ daily walking their small flock of 15 sheep to grass or water. Tender and watchful care is given to the sheep. So familiar are the sheep with their shepherd they know their particular voice. In what ways do you listen to ‘God’? Have you experienced a desire to love and care so deeply for God’s family that you are willing to lay down your life and become a ‘shepherd’?

• What is one action that you will do to be ‘livingtheword’ this week?