Sermon Study Guide – St. Thomas’ Church, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

 

(Date: 4 March 2012) “Paying attention to God” Genesis 17:1-7,15-16; Mark 8:31-38

 

  1. Peter hadn’t been paying attention when Jesus had been telling the disciples about what God is like, that’s why he tried to correct Jesus’ understanding of God. Have you ever felt the need to correct God? When? What did God appear to be doing and what did you think He ought to have done? How did that situation turn out for you? What did you learn from it?

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Leader’s Guide:

Jesus told the disciples about what He was planning to do. It was an idea He got from the Father and He knew the Father would be with Him in it. If He trusted the Father entirely with His life and lay it down for us, then the Father would raise Him up and give Him back His life. That would also be a fulfilment of the promises to Abraham about his descendents. (Jesus said God could raise up descendents for Abraham from the stones…from those who were stone dead…like you and me!) When Jesus told about the cross God was with Him in His picture. But when Peter heard about the cross he couldn’t see God in it at all. Jesus must be having a mental break down- he must have gotten it all wrong. So Peter tried to correct Jesus’ picture by telling Him the way it had to go. Failure and loss comes from God not being around, he thought! How do you deal with your own failure and loss? Do you think it is a ‘sign’ that God has deserted you? What do you usually do then? What might you do differently to increase trust in God?

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  1. Abram and Sarai hadn’t really been listening to God either. He had made them promises about leading them, protecting them and providing for them and their future but he hadn’t given them the specifics we humans like to think we need in order to feel safe. Now God speaks. He says He will take care of them but there are some things they will need to do: in particular they will need to walk before God (having God at their back and trusting he is there) and be blameless (do not initiate wrong doing). How has your own lack of trust in God led you into walking without God or doing things that are wrong and blame-worthy? How can you get back to walking before God?

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Leader’s Guide:

Sarai is childless and advanced in years; she has not provided Abram with an heir. A covenant is between two parties, each of whom have benefits and obligations; it is made by both, and can be terminated by either. God’s covenant with Abram is different:

 God makes (vv. 2,6) and establishes it (v. 7);

 most of the obligations are God’s and benefit Abram (making him “the ancestor of a multitude of nations”, v. 4, with “numerous”, v. 2, descendants; giving him Canaan, v. 8);

 how God benefits is not clear;

 Abram has one obligation: to “walk before me [God], and be blameless” (v. 1); (5) God will never break the pact (v. 7);

 it applies to Abraham and his descendants (but not to all humans).

Abram’s change of name in v. 5 is significant: the gift of a new name signifies a new relationship, a new status, a new stage in life. It was believed that such a change altered one’s personality and fate. In v. 8, God promises the land of Canaan, where Abraham is now an “alien”, to Israel for ever; he will be God of Israel. As a sign of this agreement, all males will be circumcised, soon after birth. (Egyptian and Canaanite practice was to circumcise at puberty.) Being circumcised as infants, Abraham’s descendants will bear this mark of identity, showing them to be members of the covenant community, throughout their lives. Sarai shares in God’s blessing, as shown by her change in name (v. 15). She will be blessed with fertility; she too will “give rise to nations” (v. 16) and kings. In v. 17, Abraham laughs in incredulity at the idea of Sarah bearing a son (who will be named Isaac, meaning May God laugh in delight).

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For further reflection:

 

Don’t do Lent without Jesus

We can but it isn’t a good idea to try to do Lent without Jesus! Lent is a time to walkbefore Jesus, with Him at our back, stepping out into this time trusting that He will not desert us. Lent is a time to allow God to show us that He is trustworthy and He will take care of us. Lent is not to impress anyone- least of all Jesus. It is to take up a little cross for a short way (a little cursillo) and walk with Jesus so that He can show us something- how He can raise us from death to new life, no matter how far along the path of life we already are.

 

Thank You Father, that our life’s journey is not over. No matter what anyone in this church feels about the waste and loss of the past years, we thank You that today Your grace and opportunity to embrace life is new again. Thank You that we can start this week in Communion with You and Jesus. Strengthen our hearts today, so that we can step out in trust in You tomorrow and every day this week. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Saviour and Redeemer. Amen.

 

 

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