GRACE CHURCH NWA

2828 NORTH CROSSOVER ROAD

FAYETTEVILLE, AR  72703

SUNDAY WORSHIP  10:15 AM

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 7th, 2019

The Habit Driven Life

 

John Ray

key text / Matthew 25:31-46 (NET)

 

 

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

There will come a time when everything is revealed. This is good news, bad news and good news again.
 

LENTEN REFLECTION

The text this week talks about being judged on things people weren’t even aware of, “Lord when did we see…”. This can be both terrifying, oddly comforting or both. It’s a bit of a cliche exercise to ask a person to think about what they would like said about them at their funeral, but it can still worthwhile. Think about how your life would be eulogized now? How would you like it to be? Is there a difference?

LENTEN PRACTICE 

Pray this prayer this week. “Lord order my life to so that my habits will be a blessing to you, wherever and whenever I encounter you. Amen”

BIG PICTURE

 

Here at Grace, we join hundreds of churches the world over with a teaching schedule based on the Narrative Lectionary, which is a four-year cycle of readings based on the historical Church liturgical calendar. It includes major episodes of scripture that helps show the connected, overarching story of the Bible. Between New Year’s and Easter each year, the lectionary takes us through one of the gospel accounts, and this year it is the gospel of Matthew. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus and unlike the other gospel accounts, he writes specifically to a Jewish audience.

 

THE BRIDGE

We’ve spent our last couple weeks in Jesus’ fifth and final major block of teaching, which Jesus delivers in the Temple courts of Jerusalem in the final days before his death. Last week, we looked at a parable that Jesus spoke to those who sought to undermine his life and ministry, where he talked about bridesmaids that were prepared for the arrival of the groom and others that weren’t, and those that weren’t were condemned. And we posited that this parable could have possibly been communicated in pointed sarcasm, that the kingdom of Jesus (the groom) is for all people, not just those who have their stuff all tidy and together.

 

This week, we are in the same teaching block, and in scripture just a few verses later. We skip over another parable in the lectionary, where talks about a master who gives money for servants to invest, and what it means to take gifts of God and use them.

Which brings us to our passage this week - it moves away from the parables per se, but continues to use strong metaphoric imagery to convey reality of the kingdom of heaven.

 

MAP IT

As we study from the same section of scripture last week, the geography does not change. Check out John Ray’s commentary from last week here:


After Jesus enters Jerusalem in Matthew 21, His speaking, gathering with His disciples, arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial all take place in a relatively small area. I was talking recently with a friend who’d just made a trip to Israel, and she noted that while visiting the Garden of Gethsemane — the place where Jesus prayed before His arrest — it occurred to her that it would have been super easy for Jesus to “jump a small wall and escape to the hills.”  We need to remember that through all that takes place in these passages, Jesus is choosing to put Himself directly in danger; it’s not that He can’t escape, but that He purposefully doesn’t.

 

DISCUSS

Bottom Line:

Our habits are tattletales.

Our actions are the synthesized product of our intentions, affections and actions.

We will ultimately be judged on our actions. (there is no separation from what we believe and who we are/what we do)

  • This text seems to say that those who do good things to the “least of these” will be saved. But Ephesians 2 says we are saved by grace and not by our works. And James 2 says faith without works is dead. How do we take all three of these scriptures and synthesize the paradoxical nature of them? Is there just one criteria for salvation or more?

  • Have you ever been around someone who said they believed in strong core values like kindness, generousness, unselfishness, but whose actions did not align with those things? What were your thoughts toward this person? What do our habits and actions say about our theology or belief system?

  • Who are the “least of these”? What images or connotations come to mind when you hear this terminology? Do you sometimes feel like a “least of these”, or are those the “others”? Why or why not?

  • Early in our study of Matthew, we looked at Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, and in it he says that the person with unchecked anger in their heart is no different than a murderer, and the person with unchecked lust is the same as an adulterer. Dallas Willard says this is because the status of the heart is no different, regardless if the act was every followed through on. How does that concept relate to this text?

  • What does this passage (Matthew 25:31-46) tell us about the nature and character of Jesus? What about the nature and character of God?

 

BIBLE BASICS

(from Jen Wilkin’s Matthew Part 2:  Establishing God’s Kingdom Here on Earth)

In 24:36-25:45, Jesus gives several examples, metaphors and parables to help the disciples understand the nature of His return and the response of those who believe in Him. In a deeper way, He is also continuing the theme of comparison between those who are true believers and those who are not. Fill in the following notes.  The first one has been done for you.

 

24:36-44

Example Metaphor:  Noah and the flood

Two Groups:  Those focusing on earthly celebrations; the obedient Noah

Main Point of Text:  Be obedient and alert            

 

24: 45-51           

Example Metaphor:

Two Groups:  

Main Point of Text:                                         

   

               

25:1-11

Example Metaphor:

Two Groups:  

Main Point of Text:                     

                   

                   

25:14-29

Example Metaphor:  

Two Groups:  

Main Point of Text:                             

                   

25:31-46

Example Metaphor:

Two Groups:  

Main Point of Text:  

 

 

RESOURCES

  • This passage of scripture can feel like a lesson in doing good things for the sake of salvation, in a sense the opposite of grace, states Elisabeth Johnson in this week’s commentary from Working Preacher. Also see here for the accompanying “Last Judgment” podcast.

  • Jen Wilkin notes in this teaching that this scripture revisits some themes of blessing/curse and separation.   Watch the entire teaching, which covers Matthew 23-25, or go straight to 49:14 in the video for the words that address Matthew 25:31-46.  

  • “One thing that is certain, according to Jesus, is that the Son of Man will come in glory to judge the nations,” writes Elisabeth Johnson in this commentary on the week’s scripture.  

  • Ryan Cumming of the Evangelical Lutheran church offers a strong reconsideration of how we view this passage in light of who the “least of these” are and what good works toward them means.

  • As we approach Holy Week, starting with the upcoming Palm Sunday, read this reflective piece and begin to think and plan for how to best observe the final week of Christ’s life next week.  

  • Does welcoming the stranger sound okay until it comes to economics?  This author shares more about her experience in Fathom magazine.  

  • As always, enhance your week with some good music compiled as a Spotify playlist with corresponding commentary here.

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Next week, we find ourselves one week out from the resurrection of Christ, Easter. And in the life of Jesus, one week prior to resurrection, Jesus enters Jerusalem for his final days. In recent weeks, we’ve been looking at Jesus’ teachings in those final days in Jerusalem. But next week we will take a quick rewind, to the events of Jesus’ life that we commemorate as “Palm Sunday”. Read about it in Matthew 21:1-17.

 

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 14th, 2019

Palm Sunday: Satire, Sacrilege, and Submission

 

John Ray

key text / Matthew 21:1-17 (NET)

 

 

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

Jesus final entry into Jerusalem is a combination of satire, sacrilege and submission.
 

REFLECTION

If ever there was a week to intentionally set aside time to contemplate the height and depth and width and intensity of God’s love for us it’s Holy Week. Will you? What keeps you from the practice of arranging your life around the Church calendar? What would change in your life if you were to be more intentional in your observance of sabbath, of Church holidays and seasons? What kind of witness would it be for your family, friends and society?

PRACTICE 

This week Grace will post graphics accompanying the seven saying of Jesus from the cross. Each day you recieve one, take time to contemplate both the words and the images.  

“Father forgive them...for they know not what they do.”

“Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

“Dear woman, here is your son, and here is your mother.”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“I thirst.”

“It is finished.”

“Father...into your hands I commit my spirit.”

BIG PICTURE

 

Here at Grace, we join hundreds of churches the world over with a teaching schedule called the Narrative Lectionary. It’s a four-year cycle of readings based on the historical Church liturgical calendar. It includes major episodes of scripture that helps show the connected, overarching story of the Bible. Between New Year’s and Easter each year, the lectionary takes us through one of the gospel accounts. This year it is the gospel of Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector by trade and a disciple of Jesus, and unlike the other gospel accounts, he writes specifically to a Jewish audience.

 

THE BRIDGE

This week, like hundreds of thousands of churches on every (inhabited) continent, we will take a look at the text in Matthew that marks “Palm Sunday”, where Jesus enters Jerusalem and people laid down palm branches to pave his arrival.

 

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem marks the beginning of the last week of his life, commonly referred to as “Holy Week.”  He enters to chants and praises, but as we will soon see, his kingdom begins to collide with the social order of his day, here in the epicenter of his culture.

 

It’s important to note that in Matthew’s 28 chapters, the first two are about Jesus’ birth and infancy. Chapter three picks up when Jesus is around age 30, and from chapter three to chapter twenty spans about 3 years of the life and ministry of Jesus. But chapters 21 through 28 will take place over the final week of Jesus’ life and shortly thereafter, maybe 10 days at the most.

 

MAP IT

Israel is a fascinating place. It sits at the intersection of Europe, Africa, and Asia. The Mediterranean Sea, which is almost entirely enclosed by land, marks its western border. The area is remarkably insulated from natural disasters.

 

Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, is by most accounts, a strange place to put a monumental city. One Israeli tour guide says four things make a strong city: access to water, land that can be cultivated, can be readily defended from attack, and can be accessed through main roads for commerce within the region. Of those four, Jerusalem has natural spring water, and that’s about it. And yet, this is the place where God’s presence was manifested, in the temple built by Solomon 1,000 years before Christ.  

 

Jerusalem and it’s temple are the locations of our text this week. Jesus has spent time here previously, but he’s spent a lot of time outside this city as well. It was the cultural epicenter of Israel since King Solomon in Jesus’ day. And that has been the case for all Jewish people since.

 

DISCUSS

The “Triumphal Entry” is a clear mocking of the powers of the world and the false and competing empires of people.

The “cleansing of the temple” is more than just “making it clean” but an act of restoration of purpose.

All of Jesus actions leading up to His arrest and crucifixion are done in obedience and submission, by faith, to the will of the Father.

  • One of the major themes we’ve explored during our time in Matthew is the idea that the kingdom of heaven operates in ways opposite of human nature--primarily, the need for power is relinquished. How do we see that continuation in Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and his actions in the temple?

  • The other major theme we’ve examined is forgiveness, which is almost a sub-theme of the theme previously mentioned. How does the idea of forgiveness fit into our text this week of Jesus entering Jerusalem and clearing the temple of commerce?

  • Jesus actions in the temple courts were to restore the purpose of the temple. What was the purpose of the temple? What are the modern day equivalents of Jerusalem’s temple for us? And what are ways we can “keep them clean”, set aside for the proper purpose?

  • Jesus’ actions in his final week are so offensive to the social and religious order to the point that it culminates in his execution. How do we discern what Christ-like obedience looks like in our lives, even when it’s inflammatory to people of power?

 

RESOURCES

  • This week’s commentary from the Working Preacher Narrative Lectionary series notes some intriguing parts of our text that are unique and noteworthy to Matthew’s historical account. There are some great insights from the “Triumphal Entry” podcast as well.

  • In the introduction to our teaching this week, we pondered the idea of Jesus’ not so aptly named “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem. Check out this quick instagram commentary on Jesus’ juxtaposition to the conquerors of world history from Brian Zahnd.

  • Barbara Curtis of crosswalk.com has listed 15 great ideas for how to celebrate Holy Week with your family. Or friends. Neighbors. Or even maybe as part of personal devotion time.

  • On her blog, Kate Bowler comments about Jesus entering Jerusalem as another “divine reversal”, a way that Jesus operates exactly the way an insecure human heart wouldn’t.

  • The word “subversive” has been used at Grace on a few occasions. It’s not a common word, but it’s this idea that there is a force that is powerfully moving to change the current rule and way of life. Check out Missio Alliance’s blog post titled the Most Subversive Week of Jesus’ Life.

  • This week, we have two great blog posts! The first is Abwe Abedi’s letter to our representatives in Washington, DC about his experience with refugee resettlement and the need to continue. The second is from Amy Buff, drawing inspiration from Martin Luther King to communicate the heart of service and justice as central to the teachings of Jesus.

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Next week is Easter. Unsurprisingly, we will be looking at Matthew’s account of the most important event in human history. Maybe it’s old news to you. Or maybe not. But give Matthew 28:1-10 a read, and see what notice that you may have not been aware of previously.

 

 

 

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 21st, 2019

Easter! He is Risen! Final Answer

 

John Ray

key text / Matthew 28:1-10 (NET)

 

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate answer.
 

REFLECTION

What are the questions that are holding you back? The ones that paralyze you, keep you from moving forward or making a necessary decision? Are there questions that keep you from fully committing to the life of faith, the life of following Jesus? What are they?

PRACTICE 

In response to the questions above, try moving the focus away from what you don’t know and bringing it to what you do know, specifically what you know about Jesus. Concentrate on the love shown at the cross, remember the promises made to us who love and follow Him, practice walking in the faith that moves in spite of the questions.

BIG PICTURE

 

Here at Grace, we join hundreds of churches the world over with a teaching schedule called the Narrative Lectionary. It’s a four-year cycle of readings based on the historical Church liturgical calendar. It includes major episodes of scripture that helps show the connected, overarching story of the Bible. Between New Year’s and Easter each year, the lectionary takes us through one of the gospel accounts. This year it is the gospel of Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector by trade and a disciple of Jesus, and unlike the other gospel accounts, he writes specifically to a Jewish audience.

 

THE BRIDGE

Last week we looked at Jesus “triumphal entry”, as Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time before his death. We established that it was a mockery of sorts of the triumphal entry a successful war general would conduct, and that the people there may have been more caught up in the moment of celebration than the man the celebration was about.

 

In the ensuing days after his entry in Jerusalem, Jesus openly rebuked the social order. And because the nation of Israel had been picked to be God’s representatives to the world, the social order was also the religious order. And so Jesus was an instigator in his final week. Some people like to instigate for its own sake. But not Jesus. He came to bring the kingdom of his father in heaven. And he found that many of the people that were living in opposition to the values of this kingdom were doing so in the name of that same kingdom. And he confronted it. We’ve looked at some of these texts in recent weeks.

 

But telling powerful and influential folks they’re wrong doesn’t give them the ego stroke they’re accustomed to. So they tend to do what they have to do to eliminate the threat to the identity they’ve created as important people. And for the masses not in power, they often go along to maintain the social order that they think works for them too. Or maybe they just take satisfaction in seeing someone at a place in life more compromised than they are. And Jesus made a lot of people angry, people that behave a lot like we do sometimes, jostling for power, control, comfort. And those people not too unlike us had him brutally executed.

 

And this was for the most purposeful purpose in the history of mankind. Jesus picked a fight he knew he would lose, and knew he would win. Because when he died, his death became the payment for all the people who would ever live in un-reality, in opposition to the values of God’s Kingdom for any and all time. But death wouldn’t be the finality of the story. And that’s what brings us to this week’s text.

MAP IT

If you visit Jerusalem today, you will find two places pilgrims visit that scholars believe could be sites for the resurrection of Christ. One is at the Church of Holy Sepulchre, inside what is called the Old City of Jerusalem. This is where tradition (Catholic and Orthodox churches) ascribe to the crucifixion and resurrection.

 

Just north of the walls of the Old City is another site, referred to as the “Garden Tomb”, that many years after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built, was theorized as a possible location for the resurrection.


Read about the Church here, focusing on the introduction and history of the construction of the church. Read here to learn about the Garden Tomb, skimming the information you find most interesting.

 

DISCUSS

The Resurrection answers who God is.

The Resurrection answers how God feels about us, God’s attitude towards us.

The Resurrection answers who we are and what we are to be about.

 

  1. We often mistakenly believe the character of Jesus and the character of God are different. What does the resurrection of Jesus teach us about the nature and character of God?

  2. As AW Tozer has notoriously said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us”. When you think about the resurrection, what do you think about God and how he relates to you? Have you ever had thoughts about God that you find out weren’t true in light of the resurrection? What were they?

  3. John 3:16 may be the most well known verse in scripture. But the following verse 3:17 is equally as important. In light of the resurrection, what do we learn about Jesus in John 3:17?

  4. In light of John 3:17 and the New Testament imperative to be “imitators of Christ”, what do we learn about what our purpose is and what we as followers of Christ are to be about?

 

RESOURCES

  • Working Preacher’s Narrative Lectionary commentary this week helps us look at the details of the resurrection that are unique to Matthew’s account, with some added context in the “Easter “podcast as well.

  • As much of the world watched Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral be engulfed in flames this week, local minister Clint Schnekloth helps us meditate on it in the context of Holy Week here.

  • “How do we hold the promise of suffering, of chronic illness and fallen brain chemicals in tandem with the dramatic hope of resurrection?”  Hannah Wardell reflects on living in suffering and hope for resurrection in this blogpost from Fathom Magazine.    

  • As we meditate on what Easter means, in this piece Derek Vreeland of Missio Alliance helps us start to re-frame how we look at salvation and the Christian life.

  • David Fitch in this article helps us understand the reality of living after Easter where we celebrate victory in Christ but in a world still marred by brokenness before Christ’s return.

  • Give a listen to the weekly spotify playlist with commentary here from Amy Buff

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Jesus was beaten brutally, and came out of the grave and walked and talked. And Matthew gives us only a few words from Jesus after his resurrection. Some people believe these are the most important words he spoke. They’re liable to be at least as important as anything he said previously. The passage is referred to as the “Great Commission”. Read about in Matthew 28:16-20

Grace Church Learning Guide / Week of April 28th, 2019

Don't Screw This Up

 

Ryan Grace

key text / Matthew 28:16-20 (NET)

 

For a PDF of the Learning Guide, click here.

 

 

THE SET-UP

As Jesus meets his disciples for the last time on earth, he invites them in to carry on his work as his parting instructions despite some of them still having doubt.

REFLECTION

Our text this week is certainly one of the more well known passages in the New Testament, it’s the last words of Jesus in the first gospel! As we transition from this gospel of Matthew into the life of the early church in the book of Acts, spend some time this week thinking on these words of Jesus from Matthew 28, and what you’d expect the lives of the disciples and the first Christian community to look like in every facet in light of these words of Jesus after he leaves them.

PRACTICE 

Make disciples, baptize, teach, remember. These are the verbs Jesus assigns us from our text this week. Choose one to focus on this week, and make intent to do or begin to move toward doing one of these things.

BIG PICTURE

 

Here at Grace, we join hundreds of churches the world over with a teaching schedule called the Narrative Lectionary. It’s a four-year cycle of readings based on the historical Church liturgical calendar. It includes major episodes of scripture that helps show the connected, overarching story of the Bible. Between New Year’s and Easter each year, the lectionary takes us through one of the gospel accounts. This year it is the gospel of Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector by trade and a disciple of Jesus, and unlike the other gospel accounts, he writes specifically to a Jewish audience.

 

THE BRIDGE

Last week was Easter, when we acknowledged, meditated on, and celebrated the most significant event in all of history: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Matthew tells us that after his resurrection, the Roman guards who were keeping watch over the tomb got together with the Jewish leaders and conspired to lie about what happened. The Jewish leaders paid the soldiers to say Jesus’ disciples came and stole his body from the tomb while the guards were sleeping. Many people believe this to this day.

 

And while there are other accounts of Jesus’ life after resurrection, Matthew simply gives us a few final words Jesus spoke to his disciples. It’s often been titled “the Great Commission,” and it is our text this week.

MAP IT

The text simply says that these words were delivered in Galilee on “the mountain which Jesus designated.” Galilee, as we’ve studied in recent weeks, was a region in the north of Israel, and includes the majority of the activity of Jesus life and ministry, including Nazareth, Cana, and Capernaum.


It is interesting that Jesus specifically chose to be on a mountain to deliver these vital words. See here for a study on the significance of mountains in scripture, skipping down to the “Message” header.

 

DISCUSS

  1. What do you think the disciples thought when they heard these final words from Jesus after his resurrection? Why? How is it similar or different to what you think about when you read it?

  2. What excites you about being a part of this continuation of the work of God that Jesus talks about in this text? Is there a part of this text that feels more like obligation than adventure? What parts? Why?

  3. How do you define “discipleship” or “making disciples”? What is your reaction to the definition of discipleship as “the allowing Christ to be the mediator between us and reality”?

  4. With this week’s passage being the last words of Jesus in the book of Matthew, what instances previously in Matthew do you see Jesus teaching this same theme?

 

BIBLE BASICS

  • Look all the way back to Matthew 1:21-23. Compare it to 28:20b. How does the last sentence of Matthew’s gospel point to its beginning? What does Matthew want us to conclude?        

  • What did the prophet Isaiah have to say somewhere around 739 BC about God being with us?  Look up Isaiah 7:14.   

  • When it comes to “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded,” reread a bit of Matthew 22:34-40.  Ponder what specific implications each command might have for you today, or in the coming week.  For example, If Jesus said I should love the Lord my God with all my heart, what changes should take place in my heart today?

 

RESOURCES

  • But wait….before we get too cozy in recognizing what we’ve been taught about “The Great Commission,” let’s read the perspective of Dr. Anthony Bradley, as he takes apart our historical understanding of evangelism and its impact on non-white audiences.  

  • As we meditate this week about making disciples and discipleship, see this slideshow for quote excerpts from 20th century German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.

  • See here for the weekly spotify Playlist and commentary from Amy Buff

  • Teresa Cornett wrote a blog post on the mission every follower of Christ has been given, as outlined in Matthew 28.

LOOKING AHEAD

That’s a wrap for Matthew, and with it our Narrative Lectionary teaching schedule takes a break for the summer. As Matthew helps us see Jesus’ final words, we are going to stay in the story by working through the book of Acts this summer.


We will be contemplating and comparing the life of the first Christians and the first church in relation to our lives and practices. Luke the doctor is our author, and he kicks us off in the final days of Jesus’ life before ascending to heaven. Read about it in Acts 1:1-11.