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

 

(Date: 15 July 2012)  “In the hands of providence”          Ephesians1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29

 

Writing near the end of his life, General Joshua Chamberlain wrote: “I have laid plans in my day and good ones, I thought. But they never succeeded. Something else better did, and I could see it as plain as day, that God had done it, and for my good. So I am right, to be sure of that, come what may. Not for any merit of mine but for divine and loving mercy all is bright with me in this world and beyond”.

 

 

  1. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­In today’s gospel we read about the death of John the Baptist at the hands of the treacherous Herodias, and the weak-willed Herod. Where was God’s providence in these events? Do you think John’s disciples could have said “Because of divine and loving mercy, all is bright with us (and John) in this world and beyond?

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Leader’s Guide:

 

Some questions to consider on your own (maybe with a notepad and pen) or with a group:

What do you do when God’s message leaves you puzzled? Would you consider John’s ministry a success or a tragedy? How do you measure spiritual success? What would this story say to someone facing persecution, then and now? Do you feel like you deserve a first place ribbon for your spiritual life or a consolation prize? Is God’s providence any different in first century Palestine than in twenty-first century St. John’s? How?

 

 

  1. Read over the epistle reading again. Paul wrote this uplifting, encouraging letter from prison (probably) in Rome. We are not sure but he may never have gotten out of prison before he was executed, like John, by beheading. Yet he was so hopeful in everything. What reasons does he give in this letter to the Christians in Ephesus, for remaining hopeful, come what may? What do you think Paul would say to Chamberlain’s statement above? Imagine a conversation between these two disciples about providence and hardships in life.

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Leader’s Guide:

 

When you “count your blessings”, what do you put on the top of the list? In this passage, what “mystery” has God revealed as part of his ultimate plan and purpose (v.9)? What is it going to take “to bring all things in heaven and earth together”? Which of these blessings which Paul enumerates is most meaningful to you? How do you feel in relation to God and his providential guidance of your life right now: Close? Challenged? Distant? Chosen? Rejected? Other? How does this affect your love for others?

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End in having each member of the group pray for or give thanks to God for something they have learned through your study together, or if you are alone then write down what you have learned and turn it back to God as a prayer of thanksgiving.

 

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