Do you think the world is basically good or evil? Which is “winning” today? Why?
What is the purpose of religion?
What beliefs do you regard as essential to Christian faith? Which of these beliefs do you find hardest to understand or to accept?
What behaviors do you regard as essential to a Christian life?
Do people really want justice? Why or why not? Judaism and Christianity teach that religion and morality are inseparable, a connection not made by all religious systems. Is belief in God and a desire for justice related? What happens when they are unconnected?
What is “spirituality?” Is it different from religion? What are the benefits and perils of a personal spiritual quest?
What do you think we are looking for when we yearn for relationship? Does being “ made in the image of God” (Genesis 1: 26) include being hard-wired for relationships? What does your answer imply about the purpose of religion?
Have encounters with beauty made you feel more alive? Closer to God? In what ways might our desire for beauty be an expression of our longing for God?
Are knowing about God and knowing God different things? If so, which is easier? Many people today consider truth to be a relative based on a person’s experience and perception. Is it possible to have absolute truth about anything? How are knowledge and faith related?
What is the difference between simple and simplistic Christianity?
Imagine that you have been asked to explain Christianity briefly to someone who knows almost nothing about it. For example, the conversation could start: “I understand that you are a Christian… I really don’t understand Christianity, and would like to know more about it. What does it mean to be a Christian?” How would you respond? In other words, what is your own account of “simple Christianity” ?
O God, we come to our faith with our own particular mixture of opinion, doubt, awareness, certainty and ignorance. We come to You humbly, not sure of what we ought to learn, but also expectantly, trusting that You will teach us what we need to know.
Why is Pentecost described as the birthday of the church? What would the church be like if the Holy Spirit did not exist?
How do you think the disciples felt in the days between the Ascension and Pentecost as they waited for the coming of the Spirit? How do you think you would have felt if you were in their situation?
With the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Disciples were transformed from withdrawn and scared men and women into brave and proclaiming witnesses. What does this tell us about the power of the Holy Spirit? What is the implication for your own situation and prayers? How have you seen people changed by the power of the Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is associated with “rushing wind” and “fire” We don’t often see God working in these kinds of ways, but even when we don’t, the Spirit is definitely at work. How have you seen the Spirit of God move powerfully in your life and community?
Look up Genesis 11: 1-9 - What are the correlations between the text and Acts 2? What was the motivation for each event? Can unity be achieved without God’s Spirit? Is there a difference between “human centered” and ‘God centered” unity?
If you were to talk to a non-Christian about the Holy Spirit, how would you explain the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? Is your perspective grounded in personal experience, scripture or something else?
What gifts has God given you? and how are they benefiting your life, our church, and the world as you use them to proclaim the Kingdom?
As we celebrate Pentecost, take some time to reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life. How do you see the Holy Spirit at work in and through you? Have you ever thought about what it actually means to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
How can our Church be more open to the Holy Spirit working in our lives? Is there anything holding us back from catching the wind of the Spirit?
Genesis 11: 1-9
Isaiah 44: 1-5
John 3: 5-8
Romans 8: 1-17
Come Spirit like rain, refresh, renew, revitalize.
Come Spirit like fire, embolden, enlighten, enable.
Come Spirit like a mighty wind, move, challenge, en-kindle.
Come Spirit like a wave, move, tear down lift up.
Come Spirit, come breathe, draw us close, make song, bring intimacy.
Come Spirit, come love, make one, make justice, make peace.
Come Spirit, come Kingdom, come love.
Describe your daily conversations with God. What types of things do you regularly pray for?
Jesus teaches His Disciples how to pray in Matthew 6: 9-13 using something Pastor Heidi talked about, the Lord’s Prayer, Did you grow up knowing the Lord’s Prayer? Was it something you simply recited out of memory or did it have meaning for you? Is the Lord’s Prayer part of your prayer life today?
Jesus prays The Lord’s Prayer - “ Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…..” Why do we tend to put our priorities over God’s when we pray? What are some ways you can make your priorities more in line with God’s?
We also ask God for our “daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer. Do you ever ask God to supply your daily needs? Why do you think God is interested in supplying our daily needs? What things might you ask God to supply for you? Are there daily needs you don’t ask God to supply for you? Why?
Describe how God’s forgiveness has changed how you live.
Devoting ourselves to prayer means taking intentional time out of our day to refocus our minds and hearts on God. How can you devote yourself to prayer? If you have a difficult time doing that, how might you begin to make a change in that area of your life?
What do you think would happen in your life and your Church if we devoted ourselves to prayer?
Describe a time when you asked God for something and God answered your prayer. Describe a time when even though you asked God for something, you didn’t get an answer.. Why do you think that was?
Why do some Christians treat prayer like a vending machine or think God is like a Bellhop, being available for us to get what we want when we want it? Why is such a God appealing to some people? How appealing is it to seek God’s will? Which requires more faith, to get what you want or to serve God?
If you could have whatever you wanted, and God gave it to you, what impact would that have on your life and or faith?
1 Chronicles 16:7-36
Luke 11: 5-13; 18: 1-8
Jeremiah 29: 10-14
James 5: 13-16
God, help us to learn persistence in prayer - and to be serious about what we ask of You. Forgive us for wimpy, wispy prayers that we forget soon after praying them.
Teach us instead to be intentional when we pray, to ask, to seek and to knock continually. Amen
Try praying The Lords Prayer everyday this week. Be intentional. Do not just recite the prayer - but pray it with real meaning.
Did you have a “family” meal in your house growing up? What was it and why was it a special meal? What stories or memories of that meal influence your family’s life today? Is that family meal something you continue to share with the next generation?
Think about a great meal you have had recently. What made the meal so memorable? Who did you share it with?
Sometimes what keeps us from “eating together” is that we think it takes too much work. What needs to change in your life so that you can be “devoted” to hospitality and eating together?
How can you slow down your meals so you can catch up with one another, enjoy the food that has been made, and have good conversations with family and friends? How can you share meals and be filled with “great joy and generosity?”
How can you celebrate God’s presence and blessing when you eat together with your family or when friends join you for a meal?
Does it make sense that you get a taste of the Kingdom of God when you eat with your family or with friends and when you come to the Lord’s Table at church? How can eating a meal help you anticipate whet is to come when we get to heaven?
Here are some potluck rules for eating together:
We all eat from the same table, all comers are welcome - Is everyone welcome at your table?
Potluck is a buffet. you don’t get to order what you eat. How can a laid back approach to entertaining help you welcome more people at your table?
All distinctions between guest and host are gone. We are both neither, we need more than we give, and receive more than we can give. How can you become a better host and guest?
Find new ways to practice eating together
Invite someone to eat lunch after church
Have a group over for potluck dinner
Invite your neighbors for a BBQ
Take someone you don’t know very well to coffee with you
Nehemiah 8: 1-12
Isaiah 25: 6-9
Matthew 25: 31-46
Luke 14: 15-23
1 Timothy 4: 4-5
Prayer - Jewish Table Blessing
Blessed are You LORD our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth - who creates various kinds of sustenance - who creates the fruit of the vine - who creates the fruit of the tree - who creates the fruit of the Earth - and by whose word all things came to be. Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten. Whose goodness is our lives. Praised be God and praised be God’s name!
What are some of the upsides of being part of a church community? What are some of the risks?
As you read Acts 2, what do you think the connection is between the first 41 verses of the chapter and these last six verses? How did what happened in the first part contribute to what happened in this last part of the chapter?
Why did the church grow so fast in the days after Pentecost? What made the post-Pentecost church so appealing to others?
Read the following passages: John 13:35, Ephesians 4: 1-6, Philippians 4: 2, Galatians 6:10 - As you think of our church, do you experience the unity described in these passages? Why or why not? What is missing from you or from your church?
The word “devoted” is used in verse 42 and means “to give your constant attention to, an ongoing activity” What activities did the early Christians “devote themselves to” in these verses?
Why did Luke write down these specific activities?
How devoted are you to each of these things? What needs to change in your life to help you continually devote yourself to those things?
Fellowship or “koinonia” as Pastor Heidi talked about, includes entering into other people’s pain, suffering, and hardship to help shoulder their burdens. Koinonia is also about sharing others joy and celebration as well. How is that understanding of koinonia different than our normal use and expectation of the word fellowship?
How has Jesus made it possible for us to experience “koinonia” community with God? Each other?
Putting together the idea of devotion and koinonia, what does it mean to be devoted to fellowship? What ideas do you have that would help deepen our devotion to the fellowship of believers here at Hope Community Covenant?
What impact would a growing sense of community and koinonia here at Hope have both on us as a church and more broadly on Strathmore?
Is God stirring anything in your heart about how to enter more fully into community life here at Hope in a way you haven’t done before?
God of community, we pray for our own congregation. May we be a source of hope for our neighborhood.
Help us to discern needs and work to fulfill them. Strengthen and unify our congregation and show us how we can be the disciples you envision us to be. Return the sick to health and well-being and relieve the suffering of those who have lost loved ones, are unable to find meaningful employment and fear the challenges of old age.
Guide us, Great Shepard, into your paths of right relationships.
In Jesus Name we pray, Amen
What does it mean to start over? Think of a time when you had to start over. A job, a relationship, your life with Jesus? What are some positive aspects of starting over? What was the downside?
Who does Mary see when she comes to the Garden? What are some possible reasons that Mary does not recognize Jesus when she first sees him? What does Jesus say to Mary that helps her recognize him? What is significant about the word that Jesus speaks to Mary?
How does the truth of the resurrection overcome the Disciple’s fear and Mary’s grief? How do these truths help you use the truth of the resurrection to minister to those who are fearful or grieving?
Why are the Disciples behind locked doors? (vs. 19) Who are they afraid of? How has their fear kept them from doing what they know Jesus would want them to do? Have you ever experienced fear that keeps you from accomplishing God’s will in your life?
Jesus breathes his divine breath on the Disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit. (vs. 21-23) The Spirit of God was present from the beginning (Genesis 1) and was given to specific people for specific tasks. Here is was given to the Disciples, but what was their task? How do you think this relates to the giving of the Spirit in Acts 2? Is there a difference?
What is your response to the resurrection today? What difference does it make that Jesus has risen from the dead? How does it affect your life?
We talked this morning about how the resurrection is tied to starting over. Where do you need to start over this week?
Heal a broken relationship
Change your life’s direction
See a new way to live
Do you feel that Jesus resurrection power strengthens you to do these acts of starting over? How?
Isaiah 43: 16-19
Lamentations 3: 22-24
2 Corinthians 5: 16-21
Living Lord, our Savior Jesus, we praise You - for You are raised by the power of God and in You there is newness of life, and by your grace, we are in it! Alleluia! Amen
Where have you encountered God in the world?
Describe the situation, the physical attributes of your sacred place, and explain the emotions, if any, the experience evoked in you?
Do you think God is more present in some places than in other places? If so, What do you think accounts for the difference?
Can you think of a time in your life when you, like Jacob, have “woken up to God” (4)? Where were you? How have you marked or remembered those times and places?
Why is it easy to put God in a box, to confine God to a particular Space in our lives? Barbara Brown Taylor in her book “An Altar in the World” asks “ Do we build God a house in lieu of having God stay at ours"?” is it easier to make God manageable when we say that we only encounter God in Church?
How were the cheering crowds eyes closed to the reality of Jesus’ Identity as the Messiah? What did they miss because they were not awake to God?
Following the events of Palm Sunday, Jesus speaks to the crowds in the Temple. What are some repeated words or phrases Jesus uses in John 12: 20-36? What are the importance of those words?
Why is it important for John to include the Greeks who come to see Jesus? (vs: 20-23) How were the Greeks eyes open to Jesus? What did they want from Him?
What does it mean that Jesus needs to be “lifted up” (vs: 32-33) - Numbers 21:4-9, John 3: 14-16)
The New Testament apostles explain what Jesus’ death accomplished. Read 2 Corinthians 5: 20-21, Galatians 2:20 and write down how those passages impact you.
What helps you to, or hinders you, from being awake to God’s presence in your life? What can you do to be more awake to God?
Gracious God, as we stand at the gates of the city, give us grace to recognize the King we proclaim - and courage to be a part of Your Kingdom. Even when it goes against our ways and the ways of the world, even when it leads us where we do not want to go.
Empower us to free ourselves from the tempting alternatives of power and wealth and status. Embolden us to live lives of thanksgiving and praise.
Peace in Heaven - and glory in the highest Heaven!