Easter Sunday Matthew 18.1-10 20.4.14

14 04 2014

This is another welcome contribution from the Reverend Jan Ashton.

I would warmly welcome other guest contributions by email to stephen.cherry@durham.anglican.org . Also, offers to write sermon starters for a period of, say, a month or six weeks would be great

Gospel Passage Matthew 18.1-10

Need to Know

1. Jesus has certainly ‘been raised’. Why is this important?

2. Earthquake, lightning, snow. Why all these theatricals?

3. Why do the disciples have to go home, back to Galilee, to see Jesus?

Need to Challenge (ourselves)

1. How can we help people ‘come and see’ for themselves?

2. The guards were frozen. But around them there’s the joy, the speed and the sheer exuberance of Matthew’s portrayal of the resurrection. Be aware of ‘guards’ in your congregation. How might we respond to them?

3. We never hear the two Marys’ voices. Yet these are the apostles to the apostles. Look around your congregation. Whose voices are we not hearing? Why?

Need to Comfort

1. She wasn’t THE Mary. She was only ‘the other one’. What’s her status by the end of this story?

2. The two Marys only set off to ‘see the tomb’.  Many people visit graves this weekend. What might we say to demonstrate there may be ‘fear’ but also ‘great joy’?

3. Telling someone not to be afraid doesn’t take away the fear. Was the angel and Jesus doing an exorcism of fear which enable the two Marys ‘to feel the pain but do it anyway’ step by step?

 

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Palm Sunday Matthew 21.1-11 13.4.14

7 04 2014

This is another welcome contribution from the Reverend Jan Ashton.

I would warmly welcome other guest contributions by email to stephen.cherry@durham.anglican.org . Also, offers to write sermon starters for a period of, say, a month or six weeks would be great

Gospel Passage Matthew 21.1-11

Need to Know

1. Is it important to know whether the donkeys are a loan or a gift?

2. Is this Jesus stage-managing his moment of fame? Or is it spontaneous?

3. Why are these quotations from the Old Testament important?

Need to Challenge

1. There is only one question in this passage. Key question though.

2. How does Jesus retain his humility during this celebrity moment?

3. Knowing what we know now, would we have gone to greet Jesus?

Need to Comfort

1. If you can’t afford to lose your coat, there are branches.

2. If you can’t answer the key question, you can be the one to ask it.

3. Sometimes it’s fine to surf in the belief of others.

 

 





Sunday next before Lent 2.3.14 Matthew 17: 1-9

21 02 2014

Dazzled

The story of Jesus transfiguration tends to be seen by Christians in one of two ways – either central and pivotal, a gateway to deep truth, or as somewhat peripheral.  How do you see it: central truth or a bit of a distraction?

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What word would you use if the word ‘transfiguration’ did not exist?
  2. Do you take this passage literally, as a metaphor, or as a misplaced resurrection story?
  3. Why was this to be kept secret?

Heart Questions

  1. How would you have felt, if you had been on the mountain-top with Jesus?
  2. Which moves you most, the shining, overshadowing cloud or the voice?
  3. If you had the choice, would you be in the company or Moses or Elijah?

Hand Questions

  1. If you were taking trek to a mountain top, who would be your chosen companions?
  2. Is there something or someone whom you need to see differently?
  3. The story is in part about affirmation. Who needs an affirming word from you?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Second Sunday before Lent 23.2.14 Matthew 6: 25-end

18 02 2014

Faith or Worry

This passage has been selected to connect with the ‘creation’ theme – but perhaps takes us close to the heart of contemporary spiritual issues.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Why does Jesus so emphasise not worrying?
  2. Is Jesus right when he implies that worrying never makes a positive difference?
  3. ‘Eating, drinking, wearing’ – what is the significance of this list of worries?

Heart Questions

  1. What do you worry about – mostly?
  2. How might your life be different if you were to spend more time looking at the birds of the air?
  3. What is it that pulls you unhelpfully out of “today”?

Hand Questions

  1. What practical advice would you give to someone troubled by worry or chronic anxiety?
  2. Can you identify two or three things that most people of faith would be inclined to worry about?
  3. How can you help others to feel worthy?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Third Sunday before Lent 16.2.14 Matthew 5: 21-37

13 02 2014

But I Say to You

Jesus uses hyperbole to make his fundamental point that God requires of us a deep response of integrity, not just lip-service or grudging obedience, which can be hypocrisy.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. How do you interpret the commandment “you shall not murder”?
  2. Is “looking with desire” equivalent to adultery in your book?
  3. Is Jesus exaggerating in this passage?

Heart Questions

  1. How do you feel about this prohibition on “being angry”?
  2. Is it hard for your ‘yes’ to be yes, and your ‘no’, no?
  3. “Love your enemies” – really?  How does that happen?

Hand Questions

  1. This passage invites its readers to change at the attitudinal level.  Can you identify three specific, practical challenges that the passage issues today?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Fourth Sunday before Lent 9.2.14 Matthew 5: 13-20

3 02 2014

Salt, Light and Law

Jesus uses familiar images to reinforce his message, but then is surprisingly strong about keeping the law.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Light is an obvious image of enlightenment.  But why salt?
  2. How do good works “glorify”?
  3. What does Jesus mean by “righteousness” in verse 20?

Heart Questions

  1. Do you feel more affirmed or challenged by this passage?
  2. How do you feel about the law from which “not one stroke of a letter will pass”?
  3. What’s the emotional impact on you of the talk of “greatest” and “least” in the kingdom of heaven?

Hand Questions

  1. How can you be more like salt?
  2. What could it look like if you put your lamp on a lampstand?
  3. What do you need to do to align your own life more closely to “the law”?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Third Sunday of Epiphany 26.1.14 Matthew 4.12-23

19 01 2014

Capacity Building

Tension rises. John is arrested. Jesus moves house, preaches repentance, gathers a team: this is getting interesting.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

1. Matthew explains why Jesus moves to Galilee.  Can you add to his explanation?

2. If you had to re-translate the word ‘repent’, how would you do it?

3. What do you learn by contrasting the call for the first disciples in this passage with John’s account which was last week’s gospel (John 1.29-42)?

Heart Questions

1. What was in Jesus’ heart when he heard that John was arrested?

2. In what tone of voice, and with what sort of non-verbal behaviour, does Jesus say ‘repent’?

3. How do you feel about being called to be a fisher of people?

Hand Questions

1. Prison is often mentioned in the New Testament.  Should it feature more in your thoughts, concerns, actions, conversation?

2. What might a very small act of repentance on your part look like?

3. How do you understand Jesus’ calling here?  Was he founding a school or building a team?  What are the practical implications of your answer?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.