(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)
The Mission of God
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.
The prophet Isaiah had an awesome vision of a realm different from our everyday earthly sphere, yet interacting with it. He glimpsed a realm filled with God’s glowing, forgiving glory, which cleansed his flawed life by God’s power. That wasn’t just for Isaiah’s private spiritual benefit. God had a mission in mind, and asked, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered, “I’m here; send me.”
The prophet Isaiah wrote of a Messiah whose mission was to bring good news of renewal and release to people hurting materially or spiritually. He said those who let the Messiah heal and restore them would be called “Oaks of Righteousness,” and join God’s mission to make our broken world new. Jesus said Isaiah 61defined his mission as the Messiah (cf. Luke 4:16-21), saying, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it” (Luke 4:21). It’s been said that Christians are to be “little Christs,” so Jesus’ mission is our mission, too.
Religious leaders of Jesus’ day questioned him and tried to trap him into saying something wrong. A Pharisee asked a seemingly impossible question: “Which commandment is the greatest?” Jesus’ answer was succinct, yet powerful: the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. Loving God and loving others is the basis for all other commandments. Scholar Scot McKnight calls Jesus’ response “the Jesus Creed.”
Being with the risen Jesus gave his disciples a graphic, gripping sense of how our everyday world is “filled with God’s glory” (cf. Isaiah 6:3). In the early Christians’ time, many Gnostic cults claimed to possess a secret wisdom. But Jesus’ final “marching orders” to his followers were not to keep his wisdom secret, but to live lives that invite people to be disciples, to baptize them and to teach them. That still defines our mission as Christ’s followers today.
Jesus, even with a relatively small group of followers and facing deadly hostility from his country’s power structure, thought in terms of triumph. He pictured death itself as a fortress defending its power over humanity, speaking of the “gates of the underworld” (Hades: realm of the dead). But even those gates, he said, cannot resist his kingdom’s life-giving power to set people free. He was certain his mission would prevail.
2 Corinthians 5:16-20
The apostle Paul expressed a big idea to the Christians in Corinth. “If anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the NEW CREATION,” he wrote. Paul knew God had not yet remade the world, that Christians await the ultimate act of new creation with hope (cf. Romans 8:18-25). Yet God’s people, he said, can already live the life of that new creation in the Creator’s love and restoring grace. And God has chosen to make us ambassadors of the new creation, entrusting us with the honor of carrying out God’s mission to reconcile and restore all who will accept God.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord God, use us and make us good citizens of your new creation. Give us the courage and faith to be your true disciples, guiding others to you. Protect and strengthen us so that we might overcome every challenge and fill us with your love so that we might reflect it unto you and to all we meet. In every moment of every day, remind us of your power and presence. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
Do you see God at work in the world, or does his work seem to be overshadowed by godlessness? If you see the later, what does this suggest to you about where the world is headed?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read Isaiah 6:1-8. When God asked, ‘Whom shall I send?” Isaiah was immediately on his feet, volunteering for the mission. Are we ready if God asks that question of us? In what ways has God already asked? None of us can do everything. How do we discern which duties we should take on? Is it okay not to try to do everything? Why did Isaiah say, “Mourn for me; I am ruined”? Have you ever felt that way? What is the value in seeing our own flaws? On the other hand, should we be filled with guilt and self-hatred? Why not?
Read Isaiah 61:1-4. What do you believe Isaiah meant by calling some people “oaks of righteousness”? In Luke, Jesus said Isaiah’s prophesy was fulfilled. What did Christ mean? In what ways are we all, as believers, like Christ? As “Oaks of Righteousness,” what is our mission? Can we fulfill that mission alone? Are you confident that there is a place for you within the mission of Christ? As a member of your church, should you be focusing most on our human organization or on God and his mission in the world? Is that distinction always easy to see?
Read Matthew 22:36-40. The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with a seemingly impossible question. How well did Christ answer? How, or in what ways, do we “love God”? How does loving God shape the ways we live our lives? What gets in the way of our feeling and expressing our total love of God? How would we be better off if we were able to totally love God? How can we, even as imperfect people, love ourselves? Why is this needed before we can love others? Is loving ourselves egocentric? How can we “love” others when they, too, are imperfect and flawed? Does our understanding of the English word “love” get in our way of accomplishing Christ’s instruction?
Read Matthew 28:16-20. These verses are called “The Great Commission.” What is “great” about it? Do these instructions to the disciples still apply to us today, even in this much-changed world? Do you see any difference between what Jesus meant when he used the term “disciples” and many who are nominally religious Christians of today? How would you define that difference between “disciple” and “nominal Christian”? How would a nominally religious person sense or see a difference between your faith and their nominal experience? Christ’s Holy Spirit went out with the disciples. Does that also apply to us today?
Read Matthew 16:13-18. In what ways are Christ’s followers taking the good news to, not the cartoon “hell” of flames and red tights, but in Jesus’ words, “the gates of Hades,” the kingdom of death? In what ways do death and evil resist Christ’s good news in America? In the world? Does Christ want our church to be a building, or a community of believers? How do we ensure that building community takes priority over our natural human instinct to build nice buildings? Is there anything wrong with beautiful buildings when true community exists within, and reaches out beyond the walls?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-20. What does the verse mean when it says “from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view”? How does the world judge us? What are God’s standards? What is the old that is gone and in what ways are we “new”? What examples can you think of that make us ambassadors of Christ? How can we be reconciled to God?
From last week: Did you pray every day for the Holy Spirit to gird you with the power and the nature of Christ himself? Did you, during the week, note the times you felt the Spirit affecting your decisions and your life? Share with the group whatever you discovered about the Holy Spirit.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Glen Shoup’s sermon, August 11, 2013:
If you take the two most succinct messages Jesus—the Human Face of God—has given us as to what we are to be about in this world—it becomes increasingly clearer. The whole deal, according to Jesus, comes down to this: Love God (choose the interests and purposes of God over our own selfish interests) with everything, and Love our neighbor (choose their best interest over our selfish interest) the way we love ourselves. Then Go, and make disciples of everybody everywhere, baptizing them in the name of God and teaching them everything that Christ has commanded—teaching them to Love (choosing the other’s best interest over their selfish interest). And remember, “I AM WITH YOU…ALWAYS.”
Loving God, loving neighbor and then teaching, discipling, baptizing all others everywhere into this grace-empowered good news of salvation is the life-altering, pain-redeeming, world-transforming Mission of God. And God has called none other than You to join with Him in this Mission. And none other than God himself promises to empower—and give us the strength—to live into God’s mission in this world….
Paul makes it abundantly clear in 2 Corinthians: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us…” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
As those seeking to follow Jesus Christ, we don’t have a mission. Christ’s mission in the world has us. The Church doesn’t have a mission—God’s mission has a Church. Are you in?
God has sent me here to tell you today that YOUR MISSION (should you choose to accept it) is to join God in God’s mission in the world. The mission of partnering with God in making out of this old world a new world, in seeing God’s Kingdom come. That’s why Jesus said, “When you pray, PRAY LIKE THIS”–“Thy Kingdom come…and Thy Will be done ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” That is God’s mission of world redemption and reconciliation–and I’m here to ask you today. Are you in?
What is the mission of the United Methodist Church?
“Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Methodists in Mission
The United Methodist faith is deeply rooted in the Scripture and in the basic beliefs of all Christians. Out of that theology and the faith have grown some specific actions that mark United Methodists as Christians engaged in ministry to the world. The early members of the groups that eventually became The United Methodist Church:
– took strong stands on issues such as slavery, smuggling, and humane treatment of prisoners;
– established institutions for higher learning;
– started hospitals and shelters for children and the elderly;
– founded Goodwill Industries in 1902;
– became actively involved in efforts for world peace;
– adopted a Social Creed and Social Principles to guide them as they relate to God’s world and God’s people;
– participated with other religious groups in ecumenical efforts to be in mission.
The Ministry of All Christians
All Christians are called by God, through their baptism, to be in ministry in the world. Therefore, the term “minister” is appropriately used to describe any Christian who responds to God’s call to reach out to the world and its people through loving acts of service. The ministers of the church are called to serve in a variety of ways.
This week, pray every day for the discernment to know Christ’s plan for you and your mission in the world. Make a list of what you are currently doing in service to God. Make another list of the gifts, talents and skills that might make you unique in your ability to serve others. Consider any areas in which you might need additional training or study. Think about whether you need to alter or increase the degree to which you serve and the areas you might be best suited for service. Next week, share with the group whatever you discovered.