Weekly Reflection: July 24, 2011

Faith as a Mustard SeedLectionary (Year A) Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Theme: Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

Messages:

Matthew 13:31–33, 44–52

Overview:

How many of us have examined something from various angles to try to gain better understanding? Similarly, Jesus’ multiple-use of parables about the Kingdom of God served as a common method of providing spiritual clarity.

Repetition continues to be a cherished instructional method of oral culture peoples. Word pictures, metaphors, concrete images help us remember that the Kingdom of God – even in small doses – is potent (mustard seed). The Kingdom of God can greatly influence others (yeast).  The Kingdom of God is precious (fine pearls) and expects righteousness from its inhabitants (angels separate the evil from the righteous).

Congregations need to hear the parables of the Kingdom of God repeated often until their rich meaning saturates us. How familiar is your congregation with the parables? Can they paraphrase them? One scholar notes that in many households there has been no Christian memory for three generations. New Christians are less likely to hear the old, old story at home, so we need to share it often in worship.

With this in mind, do not view the parables with a “ho hum here we go again” attitude. Sharing the parables, again and again, is one way to ensure that people learn and retain multi-layered understandings of the Kingdom of God.

Packed with Potential. Does the lowly mustard seed inspire you to see your own potential? It should. Mustard seeds are like grains of salt. You must pay careful attention to something so small or else it may easily slip through your fingers and lose it forever. That same seed placed in good soil and given proper care however, will grow into a tree large enough to host weary birds.

Encourage your congregation to see its potential through this parable. Size, economics, and age do not provide ultimate limits on what followers of Christ can accomplish with God. Invite people to take a second look at the God-given potential already resident within and encourage them to unleash that potential for God and neighbor.

Romans 8:26-39

Overview:
This week’s passage offers two major teachings: (1) Spirit-assisted intercession and (2) God’s invincible love.

  • The Spirit of God intercedes within believers with sighs too deep for words.
  • God works in all situations, no matter how difficult, to bring about good for those who love God, for those who are called to God’s purpose.
  • The destiny of believers is to be Christ-shaped as members of God’s family.
  • God, who did not withhold his own son, is fully trustworthy for all things.
  • God does not condemn believers. The resurrected Jesus Christ intercedes for us.
  • No persecution, hardship, or physical danger can separate believers from God’s invincible love.

How Shall We Pray?
Paul reminds us that we do not know how to pray — particularly when we are overwhelmed beyond words.

Why is it that we do not know how to pray? Commentators offer various reasons:

  1. We do not know the future.
  2. We are weak; that is, we are not fully redeemed and are unable to see clearly. Compare to 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
  3. We do not know how to call God’s future into our present.

The church remains puzzled about how to pray, thus the need for the Spirit’s assistance. The Spirit of God aids the redeemed by teaching humble trust of God. Paul challenges us to enter into deeper wrestling with the pain of the world.

The Spirit teaches through the vehicles of prayer, lament, and deep groaning. The groaning is threefold. We are to groan with creation over its present state of decay. We are to groan with God over the present state of fallen humanity. We are to groan with the church as it longs for God’s ultimate redemption.

The groans further represent the struggle that often exists internally between the redeemed and God. We also groan over our personal weakness.

Imagine — God is Praying Through Us!

Prayer is God’s vehicle for spiritual maturity, yet prayer as a spiritual discipline remains grossly under-used. Why? We have access to the greatest prayer teacher, the Holy Spirit.

Interestingly, the best prayer instruction generally occurs in the midst of severe hardship and suffering that can leave us floundering and overwhelmed. It is then that the Spirit prays in and through us with groans that are too deep for words. Take the opportunity to encourage Christians to depend on the Holy Spirit to aid them in prayer — especially when words fail.

(For more sermon helps on Romans see “Book of Romans Sermon Starters: http://www.gbod.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=nhLRJ2PMKsG&b=4956515&ct=10848391&notoc=1)

Quote(s):

“People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing. A leader’s job is to help people have vision of their potential.” – John Porter

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” –Wilma Rudolph

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” –Helen Keller

“Focus on your potential instead of your limitations.” –Alan Loy McGinnis

“Prayer is the real work, Evangelism is just the mopping up.” –Anonymous

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.” –Corrie ten Boom

Music:

  • Into My Heart
  • To God Be the Glory
  • Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
  • The Kingdom of God is Like a Mustard Seed

Prayers:

“The Kingdom of Heaven is Like…”

(Based on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52)

Leader: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…

People: But it seems so small

Leader: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…

People: Why not give us something more substantial

Leader: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…

People: Who would pay attention to that?

Leader: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…

People: Can’t it be like something else?

Leader: Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…”

People: Jesus said that?

Leader: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…

People: Lord, help us to see the Kingdom of Heaven instead of our limitations.

All: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, full of potential, a miracle waiting to happen. We declare that our faith in God contains the potential to transform lives… mine and others.

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