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Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’

Discussion Guide: 14th Sunday Yr A: Take Christ’s yoke and you’ll find rest

 

Year A, 14th Sunday. Being yoked with Christ. « livingtheword

Reflection Questions: • Zechariah makes a prophesy that the Saviour will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Horse and Chariot were symbols of power and war. A donkey was a symbol of humble work and peace. Horse and Donkey. Power and Humility. Violence and Service. Why does the world favour a horse, God a donkey?

• “Meek” is a word mentioned twice in today’s readings. It comes from a Greek word meaning ‘not easily provoked’. Like a person feeling anger and yet staying in full control, able to turn it to justice rather than violence. Meek people lead the way in reconciliation, healing. Who could you identify as ‘Meek’? What practice could you adopt to develop a meek character?

• ‘Flesh’ is St Paul’s expression talking about a life that is lived without God, like an animal following only its senses. A ‘Spirit’ led life is a life open to God and turned outward in love. How do you experience the disciple’s tension of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’? Which life do you feed and nourish?

• Back into Ordinary Time we return to the Year A Gospel of Matthew. In chapters 11-12 Matthew is teaching about Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Matthew has Jesus replace Moses as the great teacher. Jesus is the Wisdom of God. Jesus is greater than the Torah (Law given by Moses) and all the Prophets. ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and to whom the Son wishes to reveal him’ is a knowledge claim by Jesus. What does this statement mean for you?

• Jesus remarks how great learned religious figures (Pharisees and Scribes) cannot accept him, yet ‘little ones’ (the poor, those without learning, workers of the land) accept him. It is not necessarily learning that has proven an obstacle but pride and position. Within those who are ‘comfortable’ and ‘satisfied’ grows an inability to be ‘open’. Are you satisfied? Have you made Jesus comfortable? What challenge of Jesus do you find hardest to be ‘open’ to?

• The Torah (OT Law) handed down by Moses required knowing and being obedient to 613 laws. This was a ‘heavy burden’. People felt oppressed by the rules and those enforcing them (Saducees, Scribes, Pharisees). Jewish people referred to this as the ‘yoke of the law’. Jesus invites a radical change. ‘Come to me’ all who are feeling heavily burdened. I will give you rest. Put on my yoke. Learn from me. The Torah is being replaced by the person of Jesus. A wooden ‘yoke’ put around the bullocks neck was tailor made to avoid painful imbalance. In your disciples journey, how are  you experiencing the ‘yoke’ of Jesus? Are you trying to do and carry more than is required?

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

 

Discussion Guide: 13th Sunday Yr. A: Choose Jesus – and receive your reward

 

Today I choose Jesus Christ. on We Heart It

Reflection Questions:

 The Shunemite woman is not identified but described as a woman of influence. Sheltering a prophet involved considerable risk in the political situation of her time. She chose to offer radical hospitality and make a difference. This story from Elisha’s miracles highlights the truth of the Gospel where Jesus says, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward… ”. What are the parallels you see between the Gospel and the Shunemite woman’s story?

 Her risk ended up being life-giving and fruitful with the birth of child. Offering radical hospitality is a risky business. In parts of the world it can involve considerable risk to profess Christianity and in others it’s seen as irrelevant or held up for derision. What are the pressures around you? What help do you need from God?

 St Paul uses the analogy that choosing Jesus is to be ‘baptized’ not only into new life in and with Christ, but also into death with him. What are some of the things that you may need to let go of or in a sense die to, in order to truly live for Christ in our world today? Do you ever think about your Baptism in those terms? You could intentionally renew those promises as an adult choice next time you pray the Creed?

 There is a prevailing feeling that to choose something means to lose freedom. To choose does mean to let go of the many possibilities for the one and so much works against us making that choice so we can keep our options open. How do you respond to that idea?

 Do you know the saying that ‘to be a jack of all trades is to be master of none?’ What is Jesus asking us to master? How does making a choice for the one thing Jesus offers, involve a sense of dying to other possibilities?

 Love in the Bible differs radically from the notion of “love” today, which is used primarily to convey heartfelt emotion. The love Jesus refers to could be expressed as like the deep attachment family members have for one another. It conveys the meaning of being permanently attached, staying connected with one another no matter what. As disciples we are called into a profound attachment to Christ akin to a revolutionary realignment of every facet of our life. The choice is presented starkly here to help us appreciate the depth of the call and commitment Jesus asks us to choose, but also the depth of the reward that is faithfully assured.

 Think about people who support your faith journey. How do they offer you a ‘cup of water’? Water is essential and sustains life. How are you life-giving for others?

 Do you know someone who struggles to accept Christ or the Church? What is the promise for you and for them in this Gospel? What do Christians need to do for them to receive their reward?

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

Discussion Guide: Pentecost – The Holy Spirit, our living power source

 

The Day Of Pentecost (Acts 2) – New Grace Baptist Church

Reflection Questions:

• Pentecost was a Jewish harvest feast 50 days after Easter when fruit had ripened and wheat was harvested. Along with bringing produce to the temple, it was also an anniversary of the giving of the law (torah)- 10 commandments to Moses on Mt Sinai. There are fulfilment and replacement hints in the text. The Old Testament is being fulfilled in the New Testament. Israel is all together at Mt Sinai. The earthquake and storm and eruption – fire. Moses speaking personally to God and being gifted with ʻlawsʼ to teach and guide. Disciples gathered together in an ‘upper-room’. Tongues of fire communicating Godʼs spirit and power to teach and guide and unify all people. How would you choose to write what Pentecost ʻmeansʼ?

• Pentecost is also understood as the reversal of the Old Testament Tower of Babel story (see Gen.11). Humankindʼs sin and self importance is seen in building a tower to reach and become equal to God. This eventuated in the scattering of people and the confusion caused by different languages. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost unites people to understand each other and the Christian message. Do you see disunity? How could you bring unity?

• Paul wrote to the Community at Corinth because some people who didn’t have the gift of tongues were considered inferior. It was causing division in the community. One gift was not to be stressed over another. Everyone is gifted. Name and claim at least 3 gifts you have. What gift do you feel you would like to develop more and use for God and the community?

 

• The Spirit and ʻgiftsʼ are connected to to the ʻbodyʼ. Which part of the ʻbodyʼ (Church) do you identify more with: eyes – seeing, head – thinking, heart – feeling, hands – serving, mouth – speaking, ears – praying. How do you show this in your daily life? How could you be more involved in serving God with this?

• Jesus passes through ʻfear-locked doorsʼ to bring peace and forgiveness. What ʻlocked doorsʼ are present in your life? Use your imagination in a time of prayer and allow Jesus to meet you on the other side of these locked doors….. what happened?

• The Spirit sends the Disciples / the Church ʻon missionʼ. The Church is ʻplugged inʼ to a living power-source moulding everyone into the image and consciousness of Christ. Because of the Spirit the Church has the calling and capacity to be the extension of Jesusʼ ministry in the world.

• Forgiveness of sins and the healing of wounded hearts, families, communities is what each disciple is ʻsentʼ to do. Consider what feelings and thoughts arise in a person when they are ʻsentʼ with authority to do something? Are you conscious of being sent out by the Father to ʻrepair the worldʼ?

• ‘Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour thy dew; Wash the stains of guilt away. Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray….. Sequence prayer of Pentecost. Which prayer ‘image’ to the Spirit speaks personally to you? Why?

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

 

Discussion Guide Ascension of the Lord – Jesus is present ‘until the end of the age

 

The ascension - Peter Rogers ). Oil 1963 Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, Ascension Day, Catholic Doctrine, Late Middle Ages, Blessed Mother, Christian Art, Religious Art, Mystic, Modern Art, Spirituality

Reflection Questions:

• The writer of the Gospel of Luke is also understood to have written the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts, we learn of the unfolding events after Easter. The Feast of the Ascension is not trying to claim historically after 40 days Jesus ‘ascended’ but simply reflect on his ‘Ascension’ and new presence now in Heaven. Jesus states a promise has been made by the ‘Father’ to send the Holy Spirit. Have you ever asked someone to make a ‘promise’? Why? What does this reveal about Jesus and ‘us’?

• The disciples are almost ‘told off’ by the Angels. ‘Why are you looking up at the sky?’ Instead of looking up, look around and get to work. The text also encourages a waiting for the spirit and its power so that each disciple can ‘witness’. Have you ‘waited in prayer’ calling for the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit? Consider how you could enter deeply into this prayer request leading to the celebration of Pentecost next week? Consider a place and time. The Spirit is often given through  other people’s prayer. Who could you ask?

• The letter to the Ephesians describes what the Spirit can bring about in us constantly in the life of the Church. What part of the prayer attracts your attention… wisdom, revelation, knowledge, enlighten, hope, call, glory, great might….? Why do you feel the attraction? What may this reveal about a possible prayer journey with the Holy Spirit leading to Pentecost?

• Putting things ‘beneath his feet’ is an ancient idea of authority and power. Kings and Queens were often raised to a height so that all who would come to visit would approach at the level of their feet. Consider Jesus having ‘all power and authority’. Nothing is beyond the possibility of his doing. What would you often pray for knowing you can call upon this ‘power’?

• Some disciples fell down and worshipped but others doubted. Matthew includes this acknowledgment of the persistent weakness and failure present always in the Church. Does this weakness of disciples give you comfort or cause you to complain? In your journey of worship and doubt what has helped you remain a disciple? How could you help a ‘doubter’?

• Jesus is not an absentee landlord. The Matthew text does not actually state Jesus has ‘left’. There is still the struggle displacing the grip of Satan and completing the ‘reign of God’. This is why he clothes his disciples with his power to continue in his work. How is Jesus present ‘until the end of the age’? How do you continue ‘his presence’?

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

Discussion Guide: 6th Sunday of Easter – I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.

 

He and She: the Spirit of Truth and the Holy Spirit

Reflection Questions:

• Persecution in Jerusalem saw many Christians go out to other towns and cities. Samaria was the Northern part of Israel, the home of the ‘Samaritans’. Because of history and religious differences – they waited for the Messiah to come to Mt Gerazim instead of Jerusalem – Samaritans and Jews did not associate together. It is a newly appointed Greek speaking Philip (see last weeks readings) who enters into this area. Looking back on your life, has sufferings, trials, persecution helped you expand the horizons of your life? In your workplace or parish do some barriers need to be broken down? Who could be a ‘Philip’ without the baggage of the past to work in this area?

• Philip’s whole life won people over to his message. It was not only his words but ‘the signs’ he was doing. Does your lifestyle help or hinder people to hear and accept the gospel?

• Peter’s letter acknowledges suffering. Keep your conscience clear and show good conduct. How could this apply to your life?

• The Easter-tide readings are still dwelling upon the farewell speech of Jesus to his disciples in the Gospel of John (Jn 14-17). He promises to send to them ‘another advocate’. Advocate comes from a greek legal word meaning someone who will give ‘good advice’ and stand alongside to speak for you. Like a lawyer in a courtroom. In trials and troubles the Holy Spirit will lead into ‘truth’. John will also use the words ‘Paraclete’ (one standing alongside) and comforter as words to explain the role and experience the Holy Spirit will bring. Ponder the words ‘Advocate’ and ‘Paraclete’ and ‘Comforter’. Does this expand your appreciation of the Holy Spirit? • Many consider the Holy Spirit difficult to know and experience. A guide from the scripture texts may be we need to be more courageous in mission – to ‘be taken to court’ – to experience the Holy Spirit at work? Can you identify an experience of the spirit at work in your life? How could this experience be grown and deepened?

• There is a long prayer tradition of repeating and deeply feeling the words of a scripture phrase. Our mind focuses upon the words and our heart feels its truth. John shares some beautiful phrases today. Pray for 5 minutes with a phrase… take one with you for your car journey, lunchtime prayer, personal quiet time….

• ‘I am in the Father and you are in me and I in you’.
• ‘Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father’
• ‘I will love you and reveal myself to you’.

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

Discussion Guide: 5th Sunday of Easter – We are Called to Show the ‘WAY’ to others

 

like living stones - All Souls Parish

Reflection Questions:

• The early Christian community described in Acts endures many challenging experiences. Today marks an incredible ‘break-through’. Greek speaking (Hellenists) Christians complained their widows were not being fed in the daily distribution of food to the poor. Jewish Christians may have been favouring their own kind. The Church was transitioning from a Jewish Christian community to a more Greek speaking and Greek cultured community. Imagine the tensions and arguments! Yet the Apostles creatively responded with wisdom and preserved unity. A new service structure was implemented into the community. Who is getting all the attention in your community? Who is not? What creative response is needed to meet the needs of ‘the poor’?

• The passage of scripture from Peter is regarded as part of an Easter Baptismal Homily. The image is of a Temple built with stones aligned with the ‘cornerstone – Jesus’ which holds the whole ‘house’ together. Who is a ‘living stone’ you look to in your local community for ‘alignment’ with Jesus? How do you ‘measure up’?

• Priesthood, a Holy People set apart, a people bringing the world to God and God to the world, is not to be understood as confined to the ‘Temple’. Peter reminds all the baptised they are no longer limited to bringing animal and grain offerings to the Temple. Their lives are to announce God’s love and care. Feeding the poor, clothing and care of the sick, prayers for the community are all part of the great ‘spiritual sacrifices’ offered to God to bring God to the people and the people to God. Do you glimpse your ‘royal’ and ‘priestly’ job description of Baptism into the family of Christ? Can you glimpse the connection between the Sunday altar and the Monday office desk?

• John 14-17 is Jesus’ departing words to his disciples. His words are filled with the language of intimate love. Have you ever had someone beautifully prepare a guest room for you? Say they want you to be always with them? How did it feel? How does it feel to know Jesus wants this relationship with you?

• Without Jesus and no longer welcome in the Jewish Temple, the Johannine community felt they were lost. ‘How can we know the ‘way’? ‘I AM the way’ is a theological punch. Jesus uses the
‘divine name (I AM) and challenges his followers to live ‘his way – the way of God’. Our life-style, our time-style, our ‘way’, is to be in exact replication of Christ. How does this challenge you?

• “Going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” What ‘works’ are we called to do?

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

Discussion Guide:   4th Sunday of Easter – Jesus, the Good Shepherd

 

THE FINAL CHAPTERS: FOLLOW THE LEADER

Reflection Questions:

• Today is Vocation Sunday. It is also called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ as the readings will often focus upon Jesus identifying with the role of being a ‘Shepherd’ for us, his sheep. Have you ever thought that Jesus does call some sheep to become ‘Shepherds’?

• In the Church and on behalf of the Church, priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ – the head and shepherd – authoritatively proclaiming his word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation – particularly in baptism, penance and the Eucharist, showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock, which they gather into unity and lead to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit. In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no 15). What does this statement teach you about the role of the Priest? Have you ever been ‘thankful’ for the gift and ministry of a priest?

• Jesus identifies himself as a Shepherd but also a ‘gate’. In the middle east, shepherds would gather their sheep together at night sometimes creating a shelter or collection of wooden sticks to build a fence. Sometimes they may have built with blocks a square with a narrow gap for the sheep to enter in and out. One shepherd would take the role of ‘gate’, lying down in the ‘gap’ as an expression of caring for the sheep and not letting them out, and protecting the sheep from danger coming in. What does this image reveal to you about Jesus? Can you identify anyone’s vocation who follows this ‘laying down of their life’? Can you see the similarities between a Mum, Dad, Priest, Sister, Brother?

• God writes his hopes and plans for you into your desires” (says St Ignatius). Persistent thoughts, attractions, ideas that don’t go away are symbolic of the nudges of the Holy Spirit and God’s desire at work in us. In what ways or experiences have you noticed God’s call for your life? Do you get a sense of good pasture and ‘abundant life’ from following God or does fear dominate?

• A Christian disciple is drawn to look upon the love of Christ on the cross, and then, in co-operation with grace, is drawn to ‘be’ Christ on the cross with arms outstretched in love of the world. Those called to the ‘consecrated life’ seek to conform their whole existence to Christ (Vita Consecrata 16). Have you ever considered what it would be like to be a ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ to everyone?

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

Discussion Guide:  Palm Sunday – The Lord’s Passion

Image result for The Lord's passion

Reflection Questions:

• On Palm Sunday we wave ʻpalmsʼ in remembrance of Jesusʼ procession into Jerusalem. We cry ʻHosannaʼ (in Hebrew meaning ʻSave Us Now). What is your expectation of God ʻsaving usʼ? Are you willing to let go of a strong powerful military figure and allow a ʻsuffering servantʼ? On a donkey? What do you think happened in the minds and hearts of the crowd gathered to eventually cry ʻcrucify him!ʼ?

• Palm Sunday is also called ʻPassionʼ Sunday as we listen to the whole story of Jesusʼ personal betrayal by his disciples, his court appearance before religious and political rulers, his rejection by previously welcoming crowds, his cruel whipping and torture by soldiers. Watch, listen, feel the violence. Where does such cruelty originate from in the world? Why does the world seek a ʻvictimʼ?

• ‘He made no answer’. The silence of Jesus as Pontius Pilate questions and interrogates him is striking. Have you ever been tempted to argue your way out of a difficult situation to ‘save yourself.’ Jesus’ silence is a deep act of trust in God. How would you have behaved in this situation?

• It may be a surprise to learn that Jesus and his disciples were regarded as a bunch of revolutionaries from Galilee, hanging out in parks, carrying swords, wanted and hunted by police. How would such a group be considered today? In the Church?

• Jesusʼ sufferings ʻunmasksʼ and reveals the worldʼs violence and cruelty. Jesus responds peacefully in interrogation. Heals a soldier’s ear. Asks the Father to forgive. Welcomes criminals to heaven. Commits his spirit into the hands of the Father. Is Jesus a ʻdoor-matʼ or a ʻsaviourʼ? How?

• Soldiers make a game of teasing Jesus. He is stripped, humiliated, hit, played with as a ‘game’. Consider in the world today soldiers abusing innocent people. Can you feel their pain. Pray for them and soldiers in places of terror and oppression today.

• Simon from Cyrene did not want to lift the heavy wooden cross of Jesus. Have you ever felt you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a heavy job? Has someone in great need crossed your path recently? Do you run away from people suffering?

• The veil of the sanctuary was a large thick curtain that separated the ‘holy of holies’ from the rest of the temple. It was the sacred place where God’s presence was known to dwell sitting on the mercy seat’ (that held the 10 commandments). The gospel of Matthew paints with words the truth that here on the cross is the new ‘mercy seat’ where God dwells. Spend time with a crucifix this week and ponder what you see.

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

Discussion Guide: 4th Sunday of Lent – Arise…from the darkness!

Image result for from darkness to light

 

Reflection Questions:

• Anointing with oil and ‘eyes being opened’ are part of the special journey in Lent for candidates asking for baptism at Easter. For those already baptized, these readings teach us about the deep meaning of our own baptism.

• Samuel was the young boy who sat in the temple and was taught how to listen to God’s voice. He became one of the greatest prophets because ‘he never let a word spoken to him by God fall to the ground’. Today he is told by God to do a very dangerous action – high treason! While King Saul was still alive, Samuel was to go to Bethlehem and anoint another King. Are you open to being shocked by what God plans for you? Samuel was told to fill his horn with oil and go… what do you think God is asking of you?

• Samuel had previously anointed King Saul who was tall and handsome ‘head and shoulder above the rest’. He may have been tempted, or had truly learnt a lesson not to judge a person by their ‘appearance’. God sees beyond appearance into a person’s heart. Identify someone you are judging by ‘appearance’ and practice noticing their ‘heart’.

• St Paul writes about the difference in a person’s life before knowing Jesus. Imagine you are in an unfamiliar house and need to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Not knowing where the light switch is you knock into chairs and hard edged furniture. You walk slowly and carefully. Now, turn the light switch on and you walk differently. Peacefully. Confidently. ‘Arise…from death and darkness, Christ will give you light’. Imagine the experience of  see. This was the experience the early church said happened through Baptism preparation for each adult.

• Around the year 85-90 Jewish Christians were excluded from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The man born blind became a very special story and symbol of life being changed by Jesus. The blind man considers Jesus a ‘man’. Then recognizes him as a ‘prophet’. Finally he believes Jesus to be truly the Son of Man – the promised Messiah (anointed one). He calls him Lord (the name of God) and worships him. As a result the blind man becomes rejected by the Pharisees, his family and the community’. They threw him out…. How has your faith journey grown in understanding of Jesus? Would you be willing to endure rejection or persecution for your belief? What do you think happened to the blind man? Can you identify with any of his Christian experience?

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

Discussion Guide: Thirsting for God?

Image result for the samaritan woman at the well modern

Reflection Questions:

• ‘A goal without a plan is still a dream’. Reflect on your experience of Lent so far. How would you evaluate your Lenten journey and commitment? What has worked well and could be practised more?

• People ‘grumbled’. Moses, heavy with the experience of leading God’s people is frightened he will get stones thrown at him! Wisdom is shared with Moses. Go ahead of the people with some wise people. Get away from the grumbling voices. Do grumbling or criticizing voices pull you down and make you feel sad? How could you walk away from complaining voices this Lent, select some ‘wisdom voices’ (elders), and get on with the job of providing water for people to drink and survive?

• St Paul paints a picture for our imagination. Have you ever had someone love you and show continued kindness even when you were rebelling against them? Imagine if this person was willing to ‘die’ to ‘win you over’? Have you ever considered just how precious and ‘loveable’ you are that God would be willing to die for you? This historical event is located at the cross. Consider visiting a catholic church and spending time with the ‘stations of the cross’.

• Samaritans were considered unclean and unworthy because they were historically Jewish people that had inter-married with non believers in the area of Samaria. Jews would normally avoid close contact and speech with Samaritans and refused to allow them into the temple in Jerusalem. A conversation begins around ‘water’ a symbol of the life giving relationship with God. In the
‘heat of the day’ where do you go to find rest and water? What is your ‘Jacobs well’?

• It is possible that the Samaritan woman has chosen to collect water at the most inconvenient time under the midday sun to avoid the company of other women. Has she had experiences of ejection or  gossip? Life has been hard for her. She wants to ‘never be thirsty or have to keep coming here’. This Lent ask yourself the two deep questions of spiritual direction: What do you want? Where do you hurt? Consider writing in a special journal your answers to these two special questions.

• Some scripture scholars suggest that the 5 husbands the woman has already had, is actually the 5 different ‘gods’ which have influenced the Samaritans by their inter-marriage with ‘outsiders’ and their ‘gods’. Jesus says He is ‘I AM’ which is the Divine Name given by God to Moses. What do you think this means?

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