Have you ever been unclean and made someone or something else unclean by association? We’re not looking for lofty metaphor here. Have you ever been literally unclean (dirty) and tracked your mess into someone else’s clean house or bedroom or nice white shirt? Tell your group a funny story.
Heads up: This week’s discussion guide looks a lot like last week’s (and like the week before’s). You haven’t got them mixed up. And if you don’t much like the way we’re encouraging you to read the text together--no worries; this is the last week in the series. :)
Also, as we’ve been saying, this series works well as an opportunity to let kids join the group discussion.
This week we were in Matthew 8: 1-4. To start small group this week we strongly encourage you to do a meditative reading of the text together (just like you did last week and the week before), encouraging members to use their imaginations and try to enter the story as if they were present.
Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar. Read it once, then read the questions below (#2), then read it a second time.
Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination.
-What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?
-See what’s going on and watch the men and women in the scene.
-What does Jesus look like?
-How do the others react to him?
-What are the people saying to one another?
-What emotions fill their words?
-Is Jesus touching someone?
Explain to the group that they’re welcome to enter into the scene, perhaps as an observer, as as an apostle, as a Pharisee observing (whatever makes sense).
You can construct a movie-like scenario or simply enter the story verbally, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of meditation. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.)
When you’ve given the group time to do this, come back together to discuss what you saw, felt and understood. (If you decided for some reason not to do this activity, still read the passage together and discuss whatever’s interesting to you. What sticks out as powerful, tender, special or confusing?)
After your time in meditative reading, consider some ideas from our message Sunday:
Justin said in his sermon, “Jesus exercises reverse contagion.” What does that mean? If you weren’t at worship Sunday, consider the text we’ve read and make a guess.
Because Jesus makes unclean things clean, we said, “Rather than driving you away from God, your sin should drive you toward him.”
Has this been your experience personally? Do you usually turn toward God when you’re waist deep in sin? Why is it so hard to do?
When you have turned to God in your uncleanness what was the result?
Take a moment in your group to enable confession. Do any of your members need to confess a sin that’s consistently getting the best of them, a sin they need Jesus to cleanse them of? Group is a place where people can confess sins and find healing, help and accountability. Remind your group of the way Jesus responds to us when we’re sick with sin.
This week we’ve talked about clean and unclean. These days we don’t call people clean or unclean but we still have ideas about which people are in and which are out, which people meet social standards and which ones don’t. Which kinds of people do you think might be considered “unclean” today?
If Jesus exercises reverse contagion, so should His body, the church. Are today’s “unclean” typically the kinds of people who feel comfortable in a church building? If not, what can we do to make church a more welcoming place for the unclean? Concentrate on things you can do personally to make church more welcoming. What does it look like as a church to help people become clean?
Pray Psalm 51:1-4, 7, and 10 together with your group in an effort to appeal to Christ, asking for the cleansing only He provides. Have one member read it and the rest close their eyes and open their palms, as if giving God their sin.
Read this poem from Walt McDonald. According to it, what is God like? Is that your understanding of God, too? If so, give an example of a time you’ve seen God “bat on the side of the scrubs.”
“Faith Is A Radical Master”
God bats on the side of the scrubs.
With a clean-up hitter like that, who needs
to worry about stealing home, a double squeeze,
cleat-pounding triples? If nothing else works,
take a walk, lean into the wicked pitch
careening inside at ninety miles an hour.
At bat, just get on base and pray the next nerd
doesn’t pop up. When someone’s already on, the coach
never calls me Mr. October, seldom signals Hit away.
If Johnson with the wicked curve owns the strike zone
or the ump, I’ll bunt. No crack of the bat,
no wildly cheered Bambino everyone loves.
Lay it down the line like the weakest kid in school,
disciple of the sacrifice. Some hour my time will come,
late in the game, and I’m on third, wheezing from the run
from first after a wild pitch, and Crazy Elmore
waving like a windmill by the third-base line.
Hands on my knees, I’ll watch the pitcher
lick two fingers, wipe them on his fancy pin stripes
and try to stare me dead. I’ll be almost dead,
gasping, wondering how I’ll wobble home if someone bunts
or dribbles a slow roller and the coach yells
Go! But there, there in the box is God,
who doesn’t pound home plate like an earthquake
but slowly points the bat like the Babe toward center field,
and all my family in the clouds go wild, all friends
I’ve loved and lost, even the four-eyed scrubs
in the dugout slugging each other and laughing,
tossing their gloves like wild hosannas, and why not–
it’s bottom of the ninth, two outs, a run behind
and a hall-of-fame fast baller on the mound,
but I’m on third and leaning home, and look who’s up.
If poems aren’t your thing, follow this link (http://ecdu.dionc.org/dfc/newsdetail_2/2350072) to read a story called “The Ragman,” another metaphor/parable to explain what God’s like. Ask the same questions you asked for the poem: According to it, what is God like? Is that your understanding of God, too? If so, give an example of a time you’ve seen God “take old rags.”