We are so glad that you've chosen to join us today!
When we meet in person, we share joys and concerns. Take some time to reflect on your past week, and think about who or what you may want to pray for. If you have prayer requests you would like to share, you can add them in the comments below so we can all pray for them. You may also want to refer to the prayer list from last week's worship service. The prayer below is slightly edited from the one that we used for our Maundy Thursday service. Each small paragraph is directed at a different group of people. After each section, pray individually for those who may fit within that group.
Loving, listening God, ever-attentive to the voices of those in need,
we call on your name so that we might live.
Now hear our prayer:
For the church that bears Christ’s name,
that the world may know we are his disciples
by the love that we have for one another.
For leaders of nations and all persons in positions of authority,
that their lives may be marked by Christ-like service and love.
For all who are oppressed and living in captivity,
that they may escape from evil and death
to find the land of freedom you have promised.
For those who are hungry and thirsty this day
and for those who have too much,
that we may learn to share your generous gifts, O God.
For those who are dealing with loss or facing death,
that the presence of Christ may bless and keep them.
For those who are working in the midst of this pandemic,
to care for the sick, to make sure we all have food to eat,
that they feel your presence of peace and safety.
For those who are sick,
For those who are anxious and troubled,
that they would feel your healing hands on their lives.
Answer us in the day of trouble, O God,
so that we may lift up the cup of salvation,
giving thanks for all your goodness to us;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
The lesson below is from our adult Sunday School book. All scripture references have been linked to an online text, and are bold and underlined. Simply click on the link to open the scripture in a new window.
This week's lesson is on Mark 6:1-6.
Introduction: Ordinary and Familiar
“Familiarity breeds contempt,” is a very old saying. Over time, we become so accustomed to the things we experience frequently that we lose respect for them. Though outsiders remain in awe, those of us who have experienced a wonder over and over can cease to realize it is a wonder. Imagine the children of a great chef. Do they realize how good their family meals are? Extraordinary talent risks being rendered ordinary through everyday exposure.
Jesus, though extraordinary, seemed ordinary in many ways. He was born into a poor family from an insignificant village. For most of his life, he received no notice. In what we call his public ministry, he attracted great support as a rabbit and prophet, but also great opposition. In his lifetime, Jesus was known only in his own small part of the world. Worst of all, he died the shameful, tortuous death of a notorious criminal.
Today’s text narrates one of the most dramatic instances in which people respond to Jesus out of their familiarity with his ordinariness. We will wonder how anyone could have ignored how exceptional Jesus was, but we also realize our own tendency to take for granted our Lord who has become so familiar.
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four accounts of Jesus’ life in the New Testament. Its focus on Jesus’ mighty deeds exposes a contrast between the faith of some and the disbelief of others.
Mark begins his Gospel with stories highlighting the joyous excitement of people who are blessed by Jesus’ healing (Mark 1:21-34, 40-45). But soon we see religious leaders who object to Jesus’ words and deeds (Mark 3:1-6). Confronted with danger, the twelve disciples Jesus had appointed (Mark 3:13-19) failed in their faith (Mark 4:35-41).
In the middle of a very mixed set of responses to his ministry, Jesus tells a parable of seed falling on different kinds of soil (Mark 4:1-9). The varying results represent different responses of faith and unbelief to God’s good news (Mark 4:10-20). Jesus’ experience at home leads us to today’s text (Matthew 13:53-58 and Luke 4:16-30 are parallel).
When we gathered together in person, we discussed our lesson text with each other. This might include things that the text reminds us of, questions the text raises, and how the text relates to our lives. The questions below come from our teacher’s book. Sometimes these questions are hard, and often do not have a single right answer. Take some time to think about each question, especially as it relates to the text. If you are working through the lesson with someone else, discuss your answers together. Any thoughts, questions, or answers that you would like to share can be posted in the comments at the bottom of the lesson.
The text leaves us to ask: Do we accept Jesus as he is? Or do we think he ought to be someone else? As we weight the great questions of faith and unbelief, perhaps the most astonishing idea is that God did his saving work in one from a town as ordinary as Nazareth. We expect God’s work to be grand. Yet in Jesus it was humble.
Far from yearning to be humble, we often long to be grand. But wanting to be extraordinary can be especially problematic for Christians. This is how God’s wisdom challenges us to our core. The good news of Jesus teaches us that God’s goodness is usually manifested in the lives of ordinary believers and in the fellowship of ordinary churches. The gracious goodness of God surrounds us constantly. If we expect to experience it only in grandiose ways, we will overlook his “ordinary” work in our lives.
Prosperity, victory, status, security -- these do not happen in a village like Nazareth visited by a carpenter who used to live there, such aspirations and outcomes certainly do not look like willing surrender to one’s enemies and submission to an unjust execution! Yet in Jesus’ humility, God’s wisdom was fully expressed.
God’s wisdom is similarly expressed today. It is expressed in an ordinary church witnessing to the gospel in a community, in a circle of friends who study Scripture and pray together, in the often unnoticed acts of service rendered to others in the name of Jesus, in sacrificial gifts that provide sustenance of body and spirit for those in need.
Often those who do not know the true God hold such matters in contempt. They cannot believe that people of ordinary intelligence, of limited means, and having little of what the world counts as power can be doing what God desires. Their outlook tragically reflects that of the people in Nazareth who did not believe Jesus.
But the door is not yet closed on such people of today. No place, no group, no person is ever beyond the possibility of repentance. And God always welcomes the repentant.
God still embodies his wisdom in people who appear utterly ordinary. When we feel stuck in our own ordinariness and lowliness, we can take heart that God continues to do the work of his kingdom in people like us.
Almighty God, we ask you to open our eyes to see clearly the work you are doing around us, in us, and through us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
This week’s benediction comes from the Contemporary English Version.
Next week’s lesson will be on John 14:1-14.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.