#BigRead12, Week 1: Preparation

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Check for a reminder of the menu structure

Nibbles:

  • This may be the first week for some groups. In preparation, look for ‘icebreakers’ to get to know each other better.
  • Discuss your expectations for the course and how might mix the face-to-face and online elements of the course.
  • You may enjoy: http://youtu.be/wSIs1MHdFQY

Main:

Are you ready to meet your maker? God has come into our midst. It’s time to prepare.

Video

Bible Reading (Tom Wright Translation)

The Preaching of John the Baptist

1 This is where the good news starts – the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son.

2 Isaiah the prophet put it like this (‘Look! I am sending my messenger ahead of me; he will clear the way for you!’):

3 ‘A shout goes up in the desert: Make way for the Lord! Clear a straight path for him!’

4 John the Baptizer appeared in the desert. He was announcing a baptism of repentance, to forgive sins. 5 The whole of Judaea, and everyone who lived in Jerusalem, went out to him; they confessed their sins and were baptized by him in the river Jordan. 6 John wore camel-hair clothes, with a leather belt round his waist. He used to eat locusts and wild honey.

7 ‘Someone a lot stronger than me is coming close behind,’ John used to tell them. ‘I don’t deserve to squat down and undo his sandals. 8 I’ve plunged you in the water; he’s going to plunge you in the holy spirit.’

Jesus’ Baptism

9 This is how it happened. Around that time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the river Jordan. 10 That very moment, as he was getting out of the water, he saw the heavens open, and the spirit coming down like a dove onto him. 11 Then there came a voice, out of the heavens: ‘You are my son! You are the one I love! You make me very glad.’

12 All at once the spirit pushed him out into the desert. 13 He was in the desert forty days, and the satan tested him there. He was with the wild beasts, and angels waited on him.page72image25704page72image25976page73image3784

The Calling of the Disciples

14 After John’s arrest, Jesus came into Galilee, announcing God’s good news.

15 ‘The time is fulfilled!’ he said; ‘God’s kingdom is arriving! Turn back, and believe the good news!’

16 As he went along beside the sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew. They were fishermen, and were casting nets into the sea.

17 ‘Follow me!’ said Jesus to them. ‘I’ll have you fishing for people!’

18 Straight away they left their nets and followed him. 19 He went on a bit, and saw James, Zebedee’s son, and John his brother. They were in the boat mending their nets, 20 and he called them then and there. They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went off after him.

Other Translations: Mark 1: 1-20

Reflection: John Pantry (Premier Radio): Finding The Missing Peace

In the history of the world who was the greatest person who ever lived? Many would select Mary as the girl chosen to bear the Son of God – she must have been extraordinary. Of the men then surely Moses who led the nation of Israel out of Egyptian slavery or the great miracle working prophet Elijah, or maybe the multi-skilled David – warrior, poet and King, he must be on God’s short list? Perhaps so but it is John the Baptist who takes the crown, who says so – well none other than Jesus Himself.

“Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” ( Matthew 11:11 ) Jesus goes on to describe him as a prophet like Elijah, a herald announcing the greatest news that the world would ever hear – a Saviour has come.

The story of the remarkable circumstances of John’s birth is recorded in detail in Luke’s Gospel and his appearance in the world is one that touches the hearts of every barren wife and every childless husband. God not only graciously answered the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth for a son but responded to the cries of the oppressed and lost people of Israel. John was to called to prepare the way for the coming of a Saviour. However, unlike the morning stars that heralded creation or the heavenly choir that announced Jesus birth to the shepherds, John’s life was not obviously melodic or beautiful in the world’s eyes.

Of his early years we know nothing but then he emerges as this strange, desert dwelling, monk-like figure wearing animal skins and surviving on a bush-tucker diet of locusts and wild honey, burning with the message that the Jews had been waiting to hear. Calling people to repentance in preparation, he announced that a Saviour was coming. He must increase and I must decrease said John and so it was that as his work ended, Jesus ministry burst into bloom.

John lived simply and died brutally and his lifestyle was the very opposite of many of us in the West today. Our lives are full of busy-ness and things. The older we get, often the busier we get and the more things we accumulate. Advertisers encourage us to consume and treat ourselves – “because you’re worth it”.  That part is true, each one of us is of incalculable worth to God, we are precious and loved. But our response to the knowledge of that love should not be to comfort ourselves with things or act as if our value comes from our achievements and our status but rather put our trust, belief and hope in the One who created us, loves us and died to save us.

The greatest man who ever lived showed us that there are far more important things than treasured possessions, tailored clothes and fine food. As we prepare for Lent we should ask ourselves: have we got our priorities today completely out of order? Are we clear as to why each of us is here in the world? Should we be taking more time to discover the part we should play in God’s perfect jigsaw puzzle?

Is there a missing piece or even peace where our lives and gifts should be?

#BigRead12: Week 1: Preparation: Finding the Missing Peace. John Pantry by bigbible

Questions:

  1. Am I giving others a heavier burden because I’m not fulfilling the role God has called me to?
  2. Should I be taking time to discover what my gifts are and how they fit into the picture of my local church?
  3. If I’m keeping close to God, are the desires of my heart what He wants for me?
  4. Is it ever too late to step into the role to which God has called me?
  5. Is the discontent that so many people feel about their lives,  the result of not playing the part that we were destined for?

Pudding:

Hot: ‘Come as you are’ versus ‘Make an effort’

Leaders can direct conversations in a number of directions, but focus around whether, when ‘meeting Jesus’ we are encouraged to ‘Come as you are’, or whether we should be making an effort.

The debates could go in a number of directions, including tying into the idea of having a dress code ‘for church’, or deeper theological debates such as pre-destination debates or heart preparation.

PRE-COURSE ACTION: It would be great to get suggestions in the comments box below as to starting points for the conversation, potential Bible verses, etc.

Cold: Reflect: How do you make a way for God?

Thinking about spaces to worship in (liturgical spaces), what expectations do they place upon us? You could try creating your own labyrinth. Instructions can be found online, e.g. Labyrinth Builders.

After Dinner Chocs:

  1. Do something new this week, e.g. try a new food, take a new route to work, chat to someone at work you don’t really know, try a new author.
  2. Find a local labyrinth, and walk it, taking time to contemplate what is ahead in Lent.
  3. If you have a bit of budget, you might want to look at material such as the SHAPE course, or Marcus Buckingham Strengths Finder (not specifically Christian) to help identify your strengths and giftings, to play your part in God’s community.

The Book

The related material in Lent for Everyone: Mark can be found on Ash Wednesday, pp. 1-4, which finishes with:TodayWake us up, gracious Lord, by the message of your coming, and help us, in our hearts and our lives, to be ready.

About bigbible

The #BigBible Project. Educating in the digital spaces, creating 'bigger Bible conversations' between #digidisciple(s). Look out for #bigread14.