(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
All the Small Things
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
In Jesus’ day, as in ours, people used salt for a variety of reasons. It preserved food, helped with healing or triggered chemical reactions (such as melting ice). But salt’s main use was to enhance flavor. Jesus called us, as his followers, to make life “taste” better for others, as he did. As God’s light shines through us, we can make the world a brighter, “tastier” place to be.
Luke 9:1-6, 10:1-9
Luke’s research (cf. Luke 1:3) led him to describe two times when Jesus sent out groups of his followers (Matthew’s gospel only mentioned one sending—cf. Matthew 10). Their task was perhaps a bit surprising: these called and sent followers were to do the same kinds of ministry Jesus himself was doing. They carried with them his spiritual authority and power.
Our world often connects size with power. People often assume either good things or bad about a business or a church based solely on its size. But Jesus said it works the other way: power, whatever it looks like now, in the end produces world-changing results. One woman healed in one synagogue—how could that make a difference? It was a sign of God’s power at work, and like a tiny mustard seed growing into a tree, or a bit of yeast reshaping a whole loaf of bread, that power was changing the whole world.
After talking about the Temple’s destruction and the end of the world (in sometimes puzzling terms), Jesus gave a word picture of the final judgment. His words about the judgment, though probably not exhaustive, clearly conveyed his Kingdom’s priorities. Kingdom people, he said, care for the hungry and thirsty, the poorly-clothed and strangers, the prisoners and the sick—people whom Jesus called “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine.”
Jesus was alive—but his followers were still afraid. As they huddled behind locked doors, Jesus suddenly stood among them. As he did often in his gospel, John chose words that echoed the Genesis creation story. Genesis 2:7 said God “blew life’s breath” into the first human. Here Jesus offered his disciples God’s peace, said he was sending them as God had sent him, and then “breathed” on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Writing some 30-40 years after Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew said the disciples “worshipped him,” a clear sign that they saw Jesus as God. Jesus told them to go and make disciples, and as Matthew wrote that was happening. And Jesus made the crucial promise that “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (verse 20). The Holy Spirit is not some spooky, ghostly vapor. The Holy Spirit is the personal spiritual presence of Jesus with each one of us every day, all the way to the end of the age—a beautiful, reassuring gift!
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, you call us to be instruments of your kingship, but we often feel inadequate to that task. We pray, therefore, for your mighty presence in any service we offer on your behalf, so that our service might be transformed into the miraculous. Be with us and in us. Make us the salt, leaven and light to the world, so the world might know the power of your love and kingship. Amen.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus is king over all of creation. If life were to be discovered on other planets, would that in any way cause you to doubt your faith in Christ’s kingship? Would such knowledge threaten Christianity? Would you be confident that God’s plan for creation would extend to life outside the limits of our world as we know it?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
- Read Matthew 5:13-16. If Christians are the salt of the earth, in what way(s) might some of us lose our “saltiness”? Doesn’t salt enhance the flavor of our food? Do all Christians enhance the life experience of others? How might some Christians sour the life experience of others? In what ways are Christians a “light” to others? In what ways do we sometimes hide our light? What is the effect on the world of hiding our light? What sometimes makes us reluctant to let our light shine?
- Read Luke 9:1-6, 10:1-9. Were the powers and instructions that Jesus gave his followers limited to that time, or might we be given similar powers and instructions today? Do doctors and nurses have the power of Christ as modern medicine heals the sick, or is their ability strictly a matter of science without God’s intervention? Do you have the power to do any healing as an extension of Christ? Who should proclaim the good news of the gospel today? Do you believe that God still performs miracles just as he did in the New Testament times? Why did Jesus tell his disciples to take virtually nothing with them as they went on their missions? Would you follow those strict instructions if he told you to go on a mission?
- Read Luke 13:10-21. In a very real sense, the miracles Jesus performed showed God’s power, and interrupted the accepted way of life in the world. Does our time need a similar demonstration of God’s power? If God asked, would you be willing to “upset the apple cart” of today’s accepted, worldly lifestyle? Is God asking us to do just that? Do you ever feel rather insignificant in the world and a lot like a tiny mustard seed in a powerful world? Is it possible that God might use any of us to change the world? Was the healing of one woman, in itself, earth shattering? Does your Godly purpose have to be, by itself, earth shattering?
- Read Matthew 25:31-46. Do you ever worry whether you are one of the goats or one of the sheep? What does it take to be one of the “sheep”? How do you understand the basis on which the king will determine whether you are “sheep” or “goat”? Is it mostly based on your trust in Christ, your actions for Christ or both? Should we ever stop trying to be better servants? Do you feel “called” to serve others? How do we serve Christ? Who should we serve? Should we criticize the service of others? Should we encourage others to serve? Should we be aware of the spirit in which we serve others?
- Read John 20:19-22. Some Christians believe that the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit must be very visible, while others believe that it can be a rather quiet process. Do you believe that you have been filled by the Holy Spirit? Have you ever felt God’s involvement as you served others in Christ’s name? Do you ever pray for God’s involvement in your life and your activities? Do you feel that God answers those prayers? Who benefits more from your service, those you serve or yourself? Is the world affected by your service? Do you ever feel “sent” by Christ to do his work? In that sense, do we feel much different than those disciples he originally sent?
- Read Matthew 28:16-20. These verses are called “The Great Commission.” Was this commission limited to the eleven disciples? Has Christ commissioned us as well? What has qualified us to be commissioned? Jesus promised to be with us (in the form of his personal, spiritual presence as the Holy Spirit) forever. Do you find this reassuring? Have you felt that presence while you were doing his work? Are you comfortable with the thought that you are, in fact, an extension of Christ himself? What would make you more comfortable with that knowledge?
From last week: Did you consider your life and ask yourself what you do in service to God? Were you surprised at how much or how little you really do? Did you focus your service or commit to do more? Did you pray over this effort? Describe your experience in doing this.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Chrostek’s sermon, September 30, 2012:
In Luke 13, Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven this way: “It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” – Luke 13:18-21
Mustards seeds are teeny. They are hardly perceptible and yet they are stubborn, resilient, and able to spring forth into the biggest of shrubs even in the most dire of climates. Mustard seeds are small yet extremely powerful.
Yeast is similar. Yeast is old, fermented dough that is added to a fresh lump of dough in order to give it life, in order to start the leavening process in it. Yeast is old dough, and yet when mixed in to fresh dough it is able to make it rise.
I love the parable of the yeast, because every time I read it, I like to imagine to scope and size of this lump of dough. In this parable a woman hides just a few pinches of yeast in a giant 50-pound mixture of flour. Can you imagine her delight when all of a sudden, these 50 pounds of flour grow bigger and bigger! And she just gets to watch it happen! What begins so subtly, so imperceptibly without any assumptions or desire to be recognized becomes this great thing you can’t avoid.
These parables assure us that the kingdom of heaven is as big and powerful as everything we might dream. These parables tell us that the kingdom of heaven is absolutely irrepressible, but it also reminds us that it begins as something quite small and imperceptible. Something totally unexpected.
These parables and these stories force us to wonder about whether we believe that what began with just a handful of followers in Galilee could eventually change the whole world? Or more specifically what began with just a handful of people in Kansas City will eventually change the whole world?
Do you believe that’s possible?
What is “The Great Commission”?
(Note: commission, noun, meaning 1. the act of committing or giving in charge. 2. an authoritative order, charge, or direction. 3. authority granted for a particular action or function. 4. a document granting such authority.)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
This section of Scripture is known as the Great Commission. As the last recorded personal directive of the Savior to his disciples, it holds great significance to all followers of Christ. It is the foundation for evangelism and cross-cultural missions work in Christian theology. Because the Lord’s instructions were to go to all nations and that he would be with us until the very end of the age, Christians of all generations have embraced this command. As many have said, it’s not “The Great Suggestion.” No, the Lord has commanded us to put our faith in action.
Other Biblical Accounts of the Great Commission
The full text of the most familiar version of Great Commission is recorded in Matthew 28:16-20. It is also found in the following Gospel texts. Though each version varies, these accounts record a similar encounter of Jesus with his disciples after the resurrection. In each instance Jesus sends his followers out with specific instructions. He uses commands such as go, teach, baptize, forgive and make disciples.
- Mark 16:15-18
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (NIV)
- Luke 24:44-49
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (NIV)
- John 20:19-23
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV)
This week think of Christ’s Great Commission, not only as a call to do something like serve meals or visit a prison, but also as a leadership commission. Consider if there is anything you might be able to do that would multiply your gifts, talents and skills by extending them into others. Plan how to teach others and lead them to service. Consider whether you as a group can become more intentional coaches and encouragers to each other in service. Next week, share with the group whatever you discovered.