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 email@example.com)
- 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?