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

 

(Date: 9 Sept 2012) “Opened and closed!”James 2:1-17 & Mark 7:24-37

 

Rich and poor have this in common:

The Lord is the Maker of them all. Proverbs 22:2

 

Our readings today look at some of the things that open and close us to God’s word and power in our lives. God has a purpose and a plan for each of us but we often choose our own ways and understandings over God’s, and therefore miss out on the fullness and abundance of life God offers us.

 

  1. James warns the Christian community of his time to guard against favouritism among its members. In baptism we have died to any distinction that would separate us from each other. Likewise at the Lord’s Table each one of us receives the free gift of Christ equally and without discrimination. Through word, bath and meal, God opens our minds and hearts to the healing and liberating gospel of Christ. What kind of favouritism are you susceptible to? What groups or kinds of people do we want in our church? Who do we tend to steer clear of? What makes us favour some over others? What does that say about our view of God and the grace of God in our lives? How do we limit God’s power in us by our behaviour?

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Leader’s Guide:

Practicing openness to God. When you come to HC every Sunday, do you receive the sacramental word of God as His word to you? Do you receive the authority of Jesus Christ to give His body and blood for and to you? Do you receive it as His gift to you every time you come to His table, regardless of whether you are having a good day or not? A good day is a day when we are open to the grace of God- even if things are not going according to our plans. Why favour your good feelings over your bad feelings? Feelings do not indicate anything about God’s presence or good will for you. They indicate your “feelings” of closeness or distance from Him but nothing about the reality of His feelings about you. In Christ we are always one with God- members of His Body, filled with His Spirit. We need to take that word of truth about ourselves in Christ and do something with it. Step out in faith that it is so- be open to God’s guidance and transforming grace in and to and through you today.

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  1. In the gospel Jesus seems distant to two people who probably had every reason to give up on God. But they didn’t! They must have been tempted to favour their feelings of alienation from God but they struggled to overcome their feelings and came to God’s representative- Jesus- anyway: the Gentile woman with the little daughter with the unclean spirit, and a deaf and mute man, brought by his friends. These two people must have struggled with feelings of exclusion and resentment towards God and yet they came (or were brought) to Jesus? What kept them open to God, instead of choosing the familiar, safe feelings that might have closed them to Jesus? What favourite feelings do you struggle with that tempt you to stay away from Jesus?

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Leader’s Guide:

Openness is a choice not a feeling. Why did Jesus heal the deaf and mute man by His simple word “ephaphata”- be opened. What did the man do to be opened?He allowed himself to be open to being opened.What did the woman do for her daughter? She allowed herself to remain open to God’s word, even when it began in a gruff and apparently condescending way.Could they have refused? We are told elsewhere that Jesus couldn’t do many mighty works because of the people’s unbelief. Unbelief actually obstructs God’s intended work in and through us. We can always refuse grace. What was the work that the deaf and mute man had to do in order for the Word of Jesus to be done and not just heard? He had to be open to Jesus speaking to him. We are always free to remain closed to being open to God’s grace.

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Are you open to what God wants to do in you today? Are you willing to allow Jesus to do a work in you? Is there something He is saying to you today, that He has the authority to say, which is addressing something in your life? Have you been deaf and mute in some area that He wants to open and release you in (like the man in the gospel)?

 

Heavenly Father, we come to You because we want to hear you speak to us. We believe that you have something to say that we need to hear and live by. Open our hearts and lives to be open to Your Word, however you speak to us, so that we might live more to Your glory and experience the joy of cooperating with Your heart for us, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

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