Reflection Questions for Sunday, November 11, 2018 on Acts 11 by Bishop Paul L. Leeland
- Bishop Leeland preached that compassion is the greatest reason we give. Define “compassion” together. How does it differ from pity? How does it differ from, or dovetail with, love?
- The Bishop said that “What does God want me to do with my life?” is a less valuable question than, “How does God want me to live my life?” There’s no clear answer to the first question in Scripture, but there are clear answers to the second question! What are those answers? (E.g., produce the fruits of the Spirit, imitate Jesus, shine God’s light).
- The Bishop concluded his sermon with the provocative statement: It is not by how much we give that we will be judged, but by the depth of our compassion. Consider writing, in a journal or a letter to yourself or to God, a pledge of Compassion Tithe to complement your monetary tithe. Consider pledging to pray for your heart to be broken by the things that break the heart of God.
Reflection Questions for Sermon, Sunday 11/4/2018 by Rev. Carter Ferguson and Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson at traditional on 2 Chronicles 7:14
- This week was the beginning of our stewardship campaign. Reflect on tithing in your life. Did your parents tithe? What do/did you teach your children about tithing?
- You may have noticed that when the liturgist calls for the offering, he or she often asks for “God’s tithes and our offerings.” How are tithes different from offerings? What makes tithes God’s and offerings ours?
- Pastor Carter preached that Wesley Memorial has done great things, but God is calling us to dream of even greater things in days to come! If Wesley Memorial could do anything– anything!— what would you want it to be? Dream big! Email your group’s dreams to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reflection Questions for Sermon, Sunday 10/21/2018 by Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson on Job 38:1-7
- Job asks for answers, and instead, God asks Job questions! 77 of them, in fact, all about the majesty of God’s creation. In the gospels, Jesus usually answers questions with questions. Does this frustrate you or intrigue you? How might we see this as God inviting us to join the conversation, instead of just telling us what to do/think?
- Pastor Jeff preached that humility is the greatest virtue, because it is the only way we can open our minds, hearts, and hands. List some other virtues. Are any of them truly possible without humility?
- Job learned that what he wanted– answers– was not what he needed– a fresh revelation of God. Which do you ask God for more– logical certainty, or a stronger relationship? Could this apply to our relationshiips with others– instead of needing to be right, or get the answers we want, we should focus on building relationship…?
Reflection Questions for Sermon Sunday, 10/16/2018 by Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson on Job 2:11-13, “No Reason to Rejoice, II”
- Pastor Jeff said that Job suffered well by “continuing the relationship [with God] even if that means shouting at God.” Have you ever been tempted to shout at God? How does the idea of it feel to you (i.e., sacrilegious, cathartic, intimate, frightening…)?
- Pastor Jeff said Job’s friends have two main goals in their minds:
-Straightening Job out
Consider this. Does God need our defense? Why or why not? Is a time of suffering the best time to “straighten someone out”? What ought our goals be when we approach a friend in pain?
- Pastor Jeff quoted Latino author Jorge Luis Borges: “Do not speak unless it improves upon the silence.” Reflect together on a time when silence was profound to you. How does God use silence to speak to us?.
In lieu of a closing prayer, consider sitting together in silence for 90 seconds.
Reflection Questions on Sermon from Sunday, October 7, 2018, “No Reason to Rejoice” from Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson at traditional services and Rev. Erin Beall at contemporary services
- Pastor Erin preached that scholars believe the book of Job began as a story that folks like mothers, rabbis, and elders told around the fire to explain their own suffering. Does this understanding of Job as a “parable” instead of a literal, historical event present a struggle for you and how you read the Bible? Discuss amongst the group how we might deal with diverse readings of Scripture.
- Pastors Erin and Jeff both came to the conclusion that the way to thrive in the midst of suffering is to continue or cultivate a strong relationship with God. Do you find it easier to remember your spiritual practices and connect with God in times of ease or in times of stress? Why?
- Pastor Erin drove home the idea that, at the heart of the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is the deeper question, “Why should I be good/be holy/work at my faith if it won’t get me anything?” Essentially: “What is my faith worth?” Try to answer that question together. What is the purpose of faith? What are some of the fruits of your faith?
Reflection Questions on Worship Services September 30, 2018
Rev. Carter Ferguson preached at 8:30 contemporary on Judges 12:1-7
Rev. Jeff Patterson preached at 8:30 chapel and 9:45 contemporary on John 21:15-19
Anne Carroll and the choir presented a Hymn Festival honoring Samuel Wesley and Isaac Watts at 11:00
- Pastors Jeff and Carter both preached that it is not enough to simply believe, but we must follow. Talk together about the differences between belief and following. Have there been times in your life when you have been a believer but not been actively following? Vice versa?
- Before literacy and the printing press, songs (easily memorized) and art (like stained glass) were two of the primary means of communicating Bible stories and theology. What songs/hymns did you learn as a child that taught you theology or Bible stories? Do your children know these songs? Why or why not?
- At 11:00, we celebrated two of the great hymnwriters of our branch of Christianity. Not all faiths have songs or hymnals– not even all Christian churches sing in worship! Why do you think music is so central to our church services? What would worship be like without music?
Reflection Questions for Sermon Sunday, September 23, 2018 on 1 John 3:16-18, Rev. Erin J. Beall at contemporary services, Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson at traditional services
- Pastor Erin preached that, although most of us will never be asked to literally lay down our lives for someone else, we are all called many times throughout our lives to lay down our security, power, privilege, and notions of perfection. Do you agree or disagree with this? When in your life have you sacrificed some measure of any of these things for the benefit of someone else?
- Pastor Jeff preached that we cannot increase our love and service toward others by our own “force of will,” but by growing ever more in touch with Jesus. How have you seen (in your life or others’ lives) a deepening spirituality lead to a broader reach of love and service?
- First John insists that God is love, and that love is the essence of the Christian life. Consider the Richard Rohr quote: “If your only goal is to love, there is no such thing as failure.” If this is true, how might we reevaluate our ideas of success and failure? As individuals? As families? As a church?
Reflection Questions on Sermon from Sunday, September 16, 2018 by Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson on Isaiah 58:1-9a
- Pastor Jeff read the Scripture from a more modern, “vernacular” translation of the Bible, the New Living Translation (NLT). Which translation do you prefer and why?
- One definition of “righteousness” is “right relationships“– right relationships with God, ourselves, other folks, and creation. If this definition is correct, what kinds of things might we do to become more righteous? How is WMUMC helping you do these things?
- Tikun Olam, “fixing/repairing the world” was Pastor Jeff’s theme. What acts of tikun olam is WMUMC engaged in? How is tikun olam related to the above definition of righteousness? (Hint: might the first step in becoming more righteous be repairing the relationships in your life?)
Reflection Questions on the Sermon Sunday, September 9, 2018 “Make It Practical” by Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson on James 2:1-10, 14-17
- Our God is a very different kind of god than those the pagans worshiped. For example, our God sides with the poor and not the powerful. What are some other ways our God is different from other gods you’ve read about in history? (Hint: Jesus is a big difference!)
- Pastor Jeff preached that we should serve the poor out of love and devotion– not out of duty or to feel good. And yet, if you serve with poor intentions, “God can work with that!” What do you think God makes of our intentions? How has God used you even at times your intentions have been questionable?
- Read the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus tells this story in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Pastor Jeff said the answer is, “Whoever’s in the ditch!” Who is in the ditch near you? Have you ever been in the ditch and found help in an unlikely source?
Reflection Questions for Sunday, August 26, 2018 on Acts 9:1-19 by Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath
- Dr. Heath preached that there are three things that might “throw us to the ground”: God, the devil, or life. Reflect on a time when you’ve been knocked off your horse. How could you tell which force caused it? Regardless of which force caused it, now, looking back, can you see that God used that experience for good (Romans 8:28)?
- In both her sermon and her life of Christian witness, Dr. Heath calls us to be intentional people, who are present and attentive to our spiritual lives, and take responsibility for our own Christian formation. Grade yourself, either silently or with the group, on where you feel your attentiveness to your spiritual formation is right now. If you’ve given yourself an A or a B, share with the group the practices that sustain you. If you’ve given yourself a C, D, or F, what are you going to do to be more mindful and intentional from now on?
- John Wesley preached that we should seek “holiness of heart and life.” As a group, make a list of the things holy people do, or things that might help us on our quest for holiness. Once that’s done, reflect together on Dr. Heath’s assertion that “holiness” is not legalistic rule-following, but rather simply being like Jesus. Now, as a group, make another list– this time, the things Jesus did. Match the two lists up. How might our definition of holiness/holy behavior need to change in order to be more Christlike?
Reflection Questions for Sunday, August 19, 2018 on Galatians 6:1-10 by Rev. Erin Beall at Contemporary, Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson at Traditional
- Paul writes that we should “bear one another’s burdens” in verse 2, but then in verse 5 he says, “All must carry their own loads.” Life in a family, a community, a relationship, or a friendship is full of contradictions like these. How can we know what is appropriate in each situation? How does this map onto your notions of responsibility and dependence? What does Jesus say about such things? (Some places to start: Matthew 16; Luke 8; Matthew 24:46)
- The Scripture outlines some of our responsibilities in and to the family of God. Think about a time when someone took initiative to show concern and compassion toward you or your family. How did that feel? Have you “paid it forward”? When is it difficult to be “responsible” in and to the church?
- We are nearing the end of our Galatians-based God Unbound sermon series. What have you gleaned about the book of Galatians so far? What questions still linger?– Email them to Erin at email@example.com and we’ll address them in our final Adult Forum on Sept 2 at 9:45 in the Aldersgate-Miller Sunday School Classroom!.
Reflection Questions for Sunday, August 12, 2018 on Galatians 5:2-6 by Rev. Jared Stine at Contemporary, Rev. Erin Beall at Traditional
- Pastor Jared referenced that less than 10% of millennials are connected to God through church, because “the church has forgotten that the mission of God is to bless the world,” and is instead focused on internal and surface-level issues. Do you know any millennials (or others) disconnected from Church? Why do they express disinterest in church/Christianity/religion?
- Pastor Erin preached about adherence to the old Law (see Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy)– that it was black and white, something we could use, obey or not, wield to shame others, but since “the Word became flesh” (see John 1:1), the Word of God has a mind of its own! It’s now no longer ours to use, but it is free to move through us and accomplish God’s will through us. What does it mean to you that Jesus is “the Word of God in human form”? What is the difference between a written document that commands obedience, and a living Savior who invites friendship?
- In Galatians 5:6, Paul says that the only thing that “counts” is “faith working through love.” What do you think he means? Share a time when you felt God’s love working through you because of your faith.
Reflection Questions for Sunday, August 5, 2018 on Galatians 4:21 – 5:1 by Rev. Erin Beall at Contemporary, Rev. Jared Stine at Traditional
- Pastor Erin preached that Abraham tried to “help God out” by fulfilling the promise himself (see Genesis 16:1-4). Have you ever gotten tired of waiting on God and tried to solve things yourself? How did that go? What is the right balance between “waiting on God’s good timing” and “God helps those who help themselves”?
- Pastor Erin shared how bad, “legalistic” theology contributed to poor self-image in her own past, and Pastor Jared preached how this same bad theology caused fear and anxiety among the Galatians. How has your theology* evolved since you first became a Christian? How does good theology impact your daily life, and how have you seen bad theology have negative impacts?
- Pastor Jared preached that the freedom we have through Christ is not freedom TO do anything we want, but freedom FROM many things: slavery to sin, the walls that divide us from others, etc. What else does Christ free us from? How is that different from “freedom to”?* The UMC defines Theology as “thinking together about our faith and discipleship. It’s reflecting with others in the Christian community about the good news of God’s love in Christ.” For more, click here.
Reflection Questions for Sermon Sunday, 7/29/2018, by Rev. Jeff Patterson on Galatians 3:27-29
- Pastor Jeff said that we must seek unity despite our disagreements or differences. Reflect on a profound friendship or other relationship you’ve had with someone who is vastly different than you. How do we love others well even while we hold vast differences of opinion, culture, etc?
- In her book God Unbound, Elaine Heath writes of “the radical inclusiveness of Galatians 3:27-29” that “unless the church embraces and lives into Paul’s words in this text, we will lose credibility with our neighbors, and it will be our own fault”(p. 56). Reflect on this together as a group. How can the church retain or regain credibility? In what aspects of our ministry and mission are we most authentic in our witness to the world? In what aspects are we not?
- “They will know we are Christians by our love”– this was a refrain in the sermon as well as in our contemporary worship services this week. How is Wesley Memorial known in High Point by its love? What do most people in the world “know Christianity by”? How are you seeking to change that by the way you live out your faith?
Reflection Questions for Sermons Sunday, 7/22/2018, by Rev. Jeff Patterson on Galatians 2:19-21
- Pastor Jeff said that “life is a sum total of all the decisions (big and small!) we make. Our task as Christians is to discern God’s will and bring honor and glory to God in all of our decisions.” Look back at your life. What are the major decisions you’ve made (spouse, school, job, family) that have made you who you are?
- In Galatians, we read how Paul went on a pilgrimage for three years in the desert to discern his revelation from Christ. Pilgrimages are times of searching, prayer, and discernment – usually at a holy place. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? What was it like? Where have you heard about pilgrimages in art, film, or literature?
- After his revelation, Paul seeks out people who have known Jesus longer than him for their guidance, wisdom, and prayerful spiritual direction. Who are your spiritual mentors? What have they meant to you? How have they helped you discern your life and God’s will? Who could you mentor in your sphere of influence?
Reflection Questions for Sermons Sunday, 7/15/2018, by Revs. Jeff Patterson and Erin Beall (Sermon Series: God Unbound, Session II) on Galatians 1:11-12
- In Pastor Jeff’s sermon, he said that because of human nature, when we “find religion” we like to use it to control. Have you experienced this? In your life or your church?
- Pastor Jeff reminded us about John Wesley on Sunday. Wesley, our Methodist founder, was a Church of England priest for 13 years BEFORE he had a heartwarming understanding of the Gospel. What’s your story? When did the Gospel become heartwarming for you? Does this offer hope to anyone in your group who is experiencing a cooling of the heart right now?
- Pastor Erin said that Jesus’s commandment, the Law of Love (see Matthew 22:36-39), is a law that frees us, not ones that binds us. How is this true in your own life? How is being bound to the Law of Love in itself a form of freedom?
Reflection Questions for 7/8/2018 Sermon “God Unbound, I” on Galatians 1:1-5 and Revelation 21:5 by Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson
- Have you ever thought of God having traditions? Elaine Heath, in her book God Unbound, suggests that God does have a tradition, the oldest thing we know God to have done: creating! God is always at work creating and recreating us (see 2 Cor 5:17 and Rev 21:5). What other traditions might God have?
- Pastor Jeff preached about the current downturn in global Christianity as a process of “pruning.” How do you see this “pruning” at work (or having potential for) focusing, empowering, and equipping us? What is the dead wood that is being pruned off? (Note: It is important to remember that the “dead wood” being “pruned” is not people— it is traditions, beliefs, and ways of doing things that are no longer beneficial to us.)
- Pastor Jeff, St. Paul, and Elaine Heath all share the belief that the tradition we need to cultivate is focus on Christ. This is the “one thing needful” (read Luke 10:38-42 out of your old King James Bible!)– only a deep interior and exterior focus on Jesus. What do you do to cultivate this focus? Would you consider your faith the central aspect of your life, one of the central aspects of your life, or not central at all? Discuss among the group ways to cultivate this focus on Jesus, and the benefits of doing so.
Reflection Questions for Sunday 7/1/2018
Pastor Erin Beall preached on Mark 5:21-43 in the Contemporary Services
Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson preached on 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 in the Traditional Services
- Pastor Erin preached about the spiritual practice of “Narrative Discernment,” a process wherein you relate a current situation (a problem or decision) to a similar situation in the Bible. For example, someone having trouble with a sibling might look for wisdom– or for what not to do!– in the story of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25). If someone in your Journey Group is willing, take a current situation (a decision to be made, perhaps, or a problem at work) and work together to identify a Bible story with similar features, and apply the wisdom found therein.
- Pastor Jeff said that God always answers our prayers– by either giving us what we’ve asked for or by giving us something better (even if we don’t see it that way at the time). How has this been true in your life? Does anyone in your group struggle with this teaching? Why or why not?
- Pastor Jeff preached on 2 Cor 12:9– “my grace is sufficient for you.” He defined grace as God’s empowering presence in our lives. How does God’s presence empower us, and how is that “sufficient” for us? What does this tell us about how we might show grace for others?
Reflection Questions for 6/24/2018
Traditional: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, “An Acceptable Time” by Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson
1) In 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, Paul talks about the timing of God’s salvation. Jeff mentioned that Paul is not necessarily talking about chronological time, but Kairos time, or God’s timing and God moments. Jeff shared how the staff regularly mention God moments, Glory sightings, and God sightings – times of God’s presence at work in our world. We are called to be “spiritual detectives” and notice and share these moments. Think about the last week. Where have you witnessed God at work?
2) Church camp has been a part of Wesley Memorial’s student ministry for over 40 years. If you’ve experienced church camp, or another Christian camp, share what God moments have stuck with you since that time in your life.
Reflection Questions for 6/17/2018
Contemporary: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 by Rev. Sharon Lee
Traditional: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, “At Home” by Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson
- Rev. Sharon Lee preached that our faith in Jesus is like treasure stored in something finite, breakable, and ordinary. She also said that the treasure gains nothing from these ordinary vessels, but the vessels gain much from the treasure within. How does the body benefit from a strong spiritual life within? What does it mean to you to know that your treasure of faith will remain, even as your breakable body fails?
- In the Apostles’ Creed, which we repeat most weeks at our Traditional Services, we say that we “believe in the resurrection of the body.” Many people don’t realize that we’re not talking about Jesus’s body there… we’re talking about ours! We believe that ultimately, our bodies will be resurrected, and perfected– totally healed, totally restored, totally new. Did you know this? How will this make you read the Creed differently from now on? Talk about the hope or anxiety this gives you.
- Pastor Jeff quoted C.S. Lewis as saying that
“The doors to hell are all locked from the inside.” We saw an illustration of this in our 2017 summer book, Good Goats. What does this say about our free will? What might cause someone to remain locked in their own personal hell like this? How can we get out, or help others out?
Reflection Questions for 6/10/2018, Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson’s Sermon “A House Not Made with Hands” on II Corinthians 5:1-5
- Pastor Jeff called ours a “death-denying culture.” In what ways is this true? How do you think generations (and cultures) before ours dealt with death differently? Share with your Journey Group your first experience of death.
- Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. (The study of knowledge! How much deeper could you get??) John Wesley, the founder of our faith, is said to have had an epistemological system (a system of figuring out what he knew, or what he thought) that had four distinct pieces:
– Scripture (the Bible),
– Reason (his own knowledge),
– Experience (first- or second-hand experiences he or others have had),
– Tradition (what the Church has historically said about this; i.e., did Augustine write about this? Is it addressed in the creeds? Etc.)
Importantly, Scripture is considered most important in this list. Methodists now prize this as a great way of discovering what we know, as well as making decisions.
How do you usually make decisions? Do you see value in using the quadrilateral in your personal life? If your group has time, consider practicing using the Quadrilateral on a hot topic or to help someone with a decision in their life.
- In the Scripture, Paul speaks of death “getting swallowed up by life.” Folks who have had near-death experiences often speak of walking toward a light, not toward darkness. Why, then, do we tend to think of death as dark and frightening? What does our Christian faith tell us about death? How can we have a healthier view of death (and therefore, hopefully, a healthier experience of death when the time comes) by remembering that death is being swallowed up by life, not darkness or nothingness?
Reflection questions on 6/3/2018 Sermon
On this Sunday, we were pleased to welcome guest preacher Rev. Preston Davis of High Point University at the Contemporary Services.
Mark 2:23 – 3:6, by the Rev. Preston Davis
“We Have This Treasure” on 2 Corinthians 4:5-12, by the Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson
- At the Scripps National Spelling Bee this weekend, the winning word was the Greek word “koinonia,” meaning Christian or spiritual community. How is this kind of community different from all others you’re involved in (teams, families, coworkers, clubs, etc)? Reverend Davis preached that koinonia relationships help us keep ourselves and one another in rhythm with the song Jesus is singing to the world. How has this been true in your life?
- Reverend Davis showed a video from a “Reverse Offering” held in his congregation. Instead of receiving offerings from the congregants, the chapel passed out various amounts of money and asked the congregants to Pay It Forward. Share some dreams of generosity with your Journey Group: If you were given $100– or $1,000,000!– to give away today, what would you do with it? Why?
- Pastor Jeff preached that we are clay pots containing vast treasure– that is, we are breakable and ultimately disposable (none of our bodies will survive our deaths!), yet God has entrusted us with the treasure of the universe. What is that treasure? What are we called to do with this treasure? If your group has time, read Matthew 25:14-30. What are you doing with the treasure that has been entrusted to you?
Reflection questions on 5/27/2018 Trinity Sunday Sermon “Abba” on Romans 8:12-17, by the Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson
- Trinity Sunday celebrates the fact that our One God is also three. This mystery is the mystery of relationship. Richard Rohr has noted that when we say that God alone existed in the beginning, we are saying, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” What does the fact that God exists as a Relational Being say about us and how we are to be in union with one another? Reflect on Jesus’s passionate calls for unity (John 17). How does the Triune God model unity for us?
- Through Jesus, we are invited to be children of God. Children, not wards, not clients, not patients, not just members! When you pray, do you tend toward abstract/distant names for God (“Lord,” “Heavenly Father,” “Holy One”) or more personal names (“Abba,” “Jesus,” “Beloved”)? What differences might the names we use for God make in our spiritual lives?
- Pastor Jeff preached about the differences between the two Greek words for life: Bios and Zoe. Bios is existence– life, in the sense of existence and being alive. But Zoe is that true life, “life abundant” (John 10:10), resurrection life that Jesus offers. How do you know which life you’re living? Can it change day to day or hour to hour? How can we seek Zoe life, and not just for ourselves but for the people around us and in our world?
Reflection Questions for 5/20/2018 Sermons on “The Apostles at Pentecost” (Acts 2:1-13)
- Let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat: Speaking in tongues. What do you know about this phenomenon? What have been your experiences with it? Why does it cause so many ruffled feathers among different kinds of Christians?
- Pentecost, for the Jews, celebrated the giving of the wheat harvest and the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20). Now, for Christians, Pentecost celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Erin preached that God delights in always having more to give us. In addition to the gifts of Bread, Word, and Spirit, what other gifts has God given, both to the world and to you personally? Is it difficult for you to think about God being this active in the world and in daily life? What do you think about times when gifts (like health or money) seem to be withheld?
- This was the final sermon in our series “God Likes You.” How have you seen evidence of God’s “liking” us throughout these last six weeks? Has anything changed for you, living like you’re “liked”? How might the world be different if everyone viewed themselves– and others– as loveable and likeable?
Reflection Questions for 5/13/2018 Sermons on “The Ethiopian Eunuch” (Acts 8:26-40)
- In the scripture, we witness a ‘divine appointment’ between Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. God was already working in the Ethiopian’s heart. Phillip simply helped a stranger to discern his questions. Have you ever experienced a ‘divine appointment.’ If so, share your experience and your reflections with one another.
- Evangelism comes from a Greek word that means “to tell the good news.” Unfortunately in our culture, because of extreme religious tracts and transactional, inauthentic encounters, Evangelism has a lot of negative connotations. Do you have any negative experiences of Evangelism encounters? Why were they negative or unhelpful to you?
- Despite our negative experiences of Evangelism, how will people come to know Jesus if we don’t talk about our faith? Phillip listed to God’s Spirit and moved out of his comfort zone. Think about your circle of influence – children, friends, neighbors, etc. How would you describe new life in Christ to them in a relational, authentic conversation? What would you say to help someone believe that God not only loves them, but actually likes them?
Reflection Questions for 5/6/2018 Sermons on Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-3)
- In our contemporary services, Pastor Jeff preached on the wide reach of Jesus; he is always opening his arms to the unlikeliest folks! How can our reach be more open as Christians? How is WMUMC living into the United Methodist unofficial motto, “Open hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds”?
- Pastor Erin preached on the labels Mary Magdalene’s society gave her– woman, sinner, unclean, “demonic.” How is the use of labels on individuals and groups of people dehumanizing? How does Jesus’s calling Mary by name give her new life? How can we offer a more humane treatment of people we’re tempted to label?
- .The women in Luke 8:1-3 clearly saw generosity as one of their ministry gifts. There are many gifts– teaching, service, prayer, hospitality. What gifts do you have? How are you putting it to the service of God’s Kingdom in your life and in the life of WMUMC?
Reflection Questions for 4/29/2018 Sermons on Jacob
- Pastor Erin said at the contemporary services that “wrestling” with us doesn’t exactly seem like an expression of God’s “liking” us! How have God shown God’s love/like of us in unexpected ways (in your life and in history)?
- Pastor Jeff spoke to the confirmands about the Church’s desperate need for young people to lead a revival in the faith. He said that revivals historically spring forth from the youth. What makes you hopeful about the newest generations? Spend a moment in silent or corporate prayer for the youth of our Church, our nation, and our world.
- We received 14 new young people into the life of the Church through Confirmation. They made the membership vows, which are as follows:
As members of Christ’s universal Church, will you be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?Will you participate in the ministries of this church with your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?If you are a member of the UMC and/or Wesley Memorial, how have you fulfilled your membership vows? If you are not a member, how do these vows sit with you?
Reflection Questions for 4/22/2018 Sermons on Zacchaeus.
- During Pastor Jeff’s sermon at the 11:00 am service, he mentioned how maybe, while pursuing a life of money, Zacchaeus’ life had gone out of balance. Zacchaeus forgot to build relationships and form a life for himself, and perhaps he is lonely. He had become a human doing, instead of a human being. Can you relate to Zacchaeus? When as your life felt out of balance? Have you ever experienced the “epidemic of loneliness” to which Jeff referred?
- During Pastor Jared’s sermon at the 9:45am service, Jared said how “it’s amazing that in the moment when no one wanted to see Zacchaeus, and Zacchaeus just wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus, Jesus sees and seeks out Zacchaeus.” Jesus sees people differently, even people who “will never change!” Jesus sees us differently, too. How did that fact change Zacchaeus? How does that knowledge change us, and change how we see others?
- God doesn’t just love you, God likes you! Imagine Jesus is coming over to your house. The truth is Jesus wants to come over to your house more than you want Jesus to come to your house! Imagine Jesus seeing your non-granite counter tops, sitting on your couch that’s past its prime, drinking out of your stained coffee cup, or sharing your favorite meal at your dented dining table. What would you feed Jesus, and why? What would you hide from his view? What would you put on the counter or coffee table to show Jesus? When we imagine Jesus in our homes, Jared said, “the ordinary becomes a little more sacred, the mundane becomes a little more special, and we begin to see people like Jesus sees them – loved, made in God’s image, and even likeable.” Share your thoughts about this idea and Jesus in your home.
Reflection Questions for 4/15/2018 Sermon on II Samuel 9:1-13 “God Likes You: Mephibosheth”
- Pastor Jeff said that Mephibosheth was identified by outside things: people looked at him and proverbially judged the book by its cover. When people you don’t know well look at your life in such a shallow way, what do they see? How does this impact your own view of yourself?
- The word hesed, a complex Hebrew word roughly translated as kindness, love, or lovingkindness, is used multiple times in this passage. God had shown David hesed by choosing him, a shepherd boy, to become king. David turned around and showed Mephibosheth hesed. Who in your life has shown you hesed? How are you inspired to pass on this kindness?
- Mephibosheth was the kind of guy who wouldn’t have been welcome in public places because of his handicap and his political status; but David was radically hospitable to him. Who are some people in our culture who are unwelcome in certain places (i.e., the homeless, the mentally ill, the handicapped)? How can we at Wesley Memorial be radically hospitable to these folks?
Reflection Questions for 4/8/2018 Sermon on John 20:19-29 “Doubting Thomas?”
- “Peace be with you” (in the original language: Shalom) is repeated numerous times throughout this passage. Pastor Jeff said that shalom does not simply mean the absence of conflict, but the presence of God’s fullness of life. What is the difference? How would our lives and our relationships be different if we focused not on conflict-resolution but on seeking shalom for one another?
- Pastor Jeff hinted that Doubting Thomas might be more properly called Questioning Thomas. Both here and elsewhere (see John 14), Thomas asks questions– and Jesus does not begrudge him those questions, but rather answers them graciously! What do you think about asking questions about our faith? Does it seem sacrilegious or faithless to you? What are some questions you and your group have about theology and faith? (We want to hear them! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Pastor Jeff said that what makes us the church is not what we say or sing, or even what we believe or do. Rather, what makes us the church is the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, moving among us. Do you agree with this? What do you believe the movement of the Spirit is calling us to do?
Reflection Questions for 4/1/2018 (Easter Sunday) Sermon on Mark 16:1-8
- Pastor Jeff said that we celebrate not that they found an empty tomb, but that they found a risen Jesus. What’s the difference? Why is this an important distinction for our faith?
- Jesus’s resurrection is first made known to a group of women, and then the angel singles out Peter– who had just denied Him!– to receive the Good News (see verse 7). It seems clear that Jesus wanted the so-called “lesser” folks to know the Good News first. Why? Who might be among these perceived “lesser” people today? What does this mean for our evangelism?
- This last one is an activity, and not a question! After 40 Lenten days of not saying “Hallelujah,” we can now say it again! As a group, write a short (one phrase or sentence) prayer of praise containing the word “Hallelujah!” Text or email the prayer to the whole group so everyone has a copy. Try to pray this prayer each day of the 50-day season of Easter, which ends May 20.
Here’s an example:
“Hallelujah, for Christ is risen and my life will never be the same! Amen.”
Reflection Questions for 3/18/2018 (Palm Sunday) Sermon on Mark 11:1-11 (The Triumphal Entry)
- “Hosanna” is Hebrew for “Save now!” The Jews in Jesus’ day needed to be saved from the oppression of the Roman Empire. What do you need to be saved from? What does our culture need to be saved from? What about other people you know, or people in High Point?
- Jesus’s Triumphal Entry was an echo of an earlier triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. All the folks waving palm branches at Jesus would have been remembering the story of Simon, a Jewish general, triumphantly entering Jerusalem after laying siege to the city and expelling its Gentile occupiers. Read the story in 1 Maccabees 13:41-53* (note especially verse 51!). If this is what’s on the mind of the people shouting “Hosanna!”, what do you think they’re expecting of Jesus? How will he disappoint them by the end of the week?
- Holy Week every year is a sort of reenactment of the last week of Jesus’s life. We wave the branches on Palm Sunday like those early believers did; we strip the altar bare on Maundy Thursday to represent the betrayal and humiliation of crucifixion; we read the story of Jesus’ death on Good Friday; and we hold a vigil in darkness on Holy Saturday as we remember Jesus in the tomb. Why is it important that we “reenact” this every year? Why is it important that we remember the hard parts of the story alongside the happier parts like Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost?
*1 Maccabees is a book found in the Apocrypha, a set of books written between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Many of our Bible don’t include these books, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prayerfully read them and take wisdom from them.
Reflection Questions for 3/18/2018 Sermon on John 12:20-33
- This is the last week of Lent before Holy Week. Pastor Erin shared in the contemporary services that Lent has begun to drag for her. How is your fast going? What successes or failures have you had? How has your spiritual life been enriched by this discipline?
- Tradition calls the Friday of Jesus’s crucifixion “Good Friday,” because the cross is where we believe our salvation was achieved. However, some theologians argue that it was through Jesus’s resurrection that we were saved, or through his incarnation (birth, becoming human), or even through simply living a perfectly holy life. What do you think?
- Pastor Jeff said that Christ’s humbling himself to death on a cross “perfectly reveals God’s nature” to us. What can you determine about God’s character by thinking about Jesus’s willing death on the cross? What does it tell you about what it means to be Christlike?
Reflection Questions for 3/11/2018 Sermon on I Corinthians 1:26 – 2:5
- Pastor Jeff said that the “organizing principle” or the “master story” of St. Paul’s life was the story of Jesus’s crucifixion. If we organized our lives in that way, how would they be different? What other “master stories” or “organizing principles” do we or others in our world base their lives on (e.g., the American Dream or being the perfect housewife)?
- In our Contemporary Worship space, our altar Sunday morning consisted of the disassembled beams of the cross laid across sawhorses– as though the cross is currently under construction, being prepared for Holy Week, when Christ will once again hang upon it. How is this symbolic of the Lenten journey? Is God constructing a cross for you to carry (see Matthew 16:24-26)?
- Pastor Jeff described four main characteristics of The Cruciform (cross-shaped, or Christ-like) Life. How are these attainable in our lives today?
- The Cruciform Life is Marked By:
- Seeking the Shalom (welfare, highest good) of others
- Extravagant Hospitality
- A Commitment to Non-Retaliation
Reflection Questions for 3/4/2018 Sermon on John 2:13-17
- Our Scripture text today shows a side of Jesus we might describe as angry. In today’s “Age of Anger” it is easy to become angry in negative ways– wrath, rage, or irrational anger. Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, but do not sin.” How can we be angry in productive ways, or at least in ways that are not sinful?
- In Contemporary Worship, Pastor Erin preached that Jesus was “disruptive.” Share where you’re experiencing disruption right now in your life. Is God doing the disrupting? Or how can your faith grow in light of this interruption or change?
- In Traditional Worship, Pastor Jeff preached about how the money changers and animal sellers at the Temple took advantage of folks. They were treating worshipers as objects, not people– in God’s name and in God’s holy Temple! Jeff referenced the book Leadership and Self-Deception, which describes our tendency to treat people as objects. When have you treated people as objects? When have you been treated as an object? What does Jesus’s righteous anger on behalf of the objectified show us about God’s desire for our life together?
Reflection Questions for 2/25/2018 Sermon on Mark 8:27-38
- Pastor Jared said that Jesus is “a different kind of Messiah.” He was not what the Jews, the disciples, or even we, expected. How else– in the Bible, in the world, and in your life– has God acted in unexpected ways?
- Our Prayer of Confession was this:
Most holy and merciful God, you ask, “Who do you say that I am?”
We confess that we have failed to answer with the truth.
Too often we have said you are merely
A comfort, to ease our pain;
A help, to solve our problems;
A safety net, to save our souls.
But with the disciples we speak the truth now: You are the Messiah.
Forgive us for the ways we have ignored your holy callings:
Not merely to be comforted, but to comfort others.
Not to have an easy life, but to seek you in all things.
Not to wait for Heaven, but to build your Kingdom here and now.
Free us from our false confessions, that we might joyfully proclaim with Peter:
“You are the Messiah.” Amen.
What other things like “help,” “comforter,” or “safety net” would we often prefer to call God? What makes “Messiah” such a different name and why was/is it so important for Peter and for us to name Jesus as such?
- Pastor Jared suggested that “self” (i.e., selfishness, self-interest) is the root of much sin. How could we change our lives and our world if we moved from self-interest to self- sacrifice?
Reflection Questions for 2/18/2018 Sermon on Matthew 4:1-11, “The Devil’s Boot Don’t Creak”
- C.S. Lewis said that sin comes from placing an inordinate amount of love or emphasis on anything other than God. Can even good things become sinful in this way?
- This is the first of the five Sundays of Lent, the church’s annual season of confession, repentance, and renewal. If you have given something up for Lent (as Christians often do), share that with the group. If you haven’t chosen anything to give up, try to think of something– good or bad– in your life that you love or emphasize more than God. How might you “give that up” or try to de-emphasize it in your life during Lent?
- Pastor Jeff said that Jesus came to conquer the world; indeed, to “take back occupied territory.” In what ways is the world, and your life, occupied by things or people other than God? How is Jesus at work in “taking back” your life and our world?
Reflection Questions for 2/11/2018 Sermon on John 10:11-18, “The Listening Sheep”
- There are some people whose voices we can identify without even seeing their faces. Our parents, Oprah, our favorite newscaster. Who else’s voice can you identify easily? What makes their voices so distinguishable to you?
- Sheep know the voice of their shepherd; so too we ought to know the voice of our God. Interestingly, shepherds sometimes are able to distinguish between the calls of different sheep. Think of how a parent can identify her child’s unique cry out of a nursery full of babies. What does it mean to you that God knows your voice?
- This sermon was the conclusion of our series “God Is Still Speaking.” How has this series inspired you to listen for God’s voice in new ways?
Reflection Questions for Sermon, Sunday 10/28/2018 by Rev. Erin J. Beall at Contemporary and Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson at Traditional on Job 42:1-6, 10-17
- Pastor Erin preached that the twin heresies that tempt us most are the Prosperity Gospel and the Myth of Redemptive Suffering. Why are these so attractive? What is so dangerous about them?
- Pastor Jeff said that, as we grow, our vision/understanding of God grows. How has this been true in your life? In your children’s lives?
- After his ordeal, Job becomes more egalitarian and just (see 42:12). How have you grown more compassionate, just, or otherwise outwardly-focused through suffering? Do you find that hard times tend to open your heart or close it?