The Community Guide below is based on Sunday’s teaching for our Matthew series. As your whole Community gathers (online or socially distanced), use the Community Guide below to give shape to your night together.
Begin by Practicing the Lord’s Supper Together (5 minutes)
Begin your night by partaking of the bread and the cup together. Have each person bring their own Communion elements. To facilitate your time, you can either ask a member of your Community to come ready with a short prayer, liturgy, or scripture reading, or assign someone to read the scripture we’ve provided below and spend a moment in silence before continuing.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Emotional Health Check-in (20-30 Minutes)
We want to continue to create space for checking in on each other, but doing so in a shorter amount of time. Take a few minutes to do an emotional health check-in with your Community, creating space for each person to answer the question below:
- In three words, how would you describe your week?
If the need arises, spend a few minutes praying for one another, asking God to meet needs and help each person carry what feels heavy right now.
Read this Overview (5 Mins)
For centuries we have romanticized the cross to the point that it no longer holds any scandal for us. The cross has become a thing of beauty or a thing without consequence. We’ve memorized the image of the forlorn Jesus stretched out in the shape of a T, his sad puppy dog eyes embossed in pewter jewelry, printed on candles, pixelated in memes.
But, in reality, the cross was contemptible. Don’t imagine Jesus’ face as handsome and forlorn, but his eyes blackened and swollen shut from having endured beatings. Don’t imagine Jesus’ lean, marble body stretched across smooth wood, but his shivering frame split and convulsing, flies gathering in his wounds. Don’t imagine Jesus in a satin loin cloth, but naked and humiliated, likely soiling himself, aware that his mom was watching the whole thing.
This week, we want to spend some time remembering the intensity of what Jesus went through as a way of remembering what we’re getting ourselves into — full surrender of our lives to God. Following Jesus is not a club; it will cost us everything. Jesus died so that we might live. We will die so that we might live for him. He’s that good, and we want him that bad.
Debrief this Sunday’s Teaching (20 Minutes)
With that in mind, work through the following discussion questions as a Community:
- In your life, how have you experienced the imagery and story of the cross (a gruesome and humiliating execution? More of a nice symbol for sacrifice?)? How has this impacted your impression of Jesus’ sacrifice?
- Are there areas of your life where you still need to “die” to yourself or fully surrender to God? What about that area is hard to let go of?
- With Jesus as our example, what do you imagine might be on the other side of your death to self?
Practice For The Week Ahead: Imaginative Prayer (5 Minutes)
If we’re being honest, there are parts of following Jesus that are difficult. Every one of us is called to come and die — to take up our cross and to follow after Jesus — because Jesus does not, nor will he, share his throne. Every other thing we want to put on the throne with Jesus (like our sexuality, our job, our family, our independence, our comfort, and our money), has to die. But dying is uncomfortable; it goes against every instinct we have for comfort and security. Dying to ourselves, therefore, has to be a choice that we make.
The Practice for the week ahead is an imaginative prayer exercise. Set aside some time this week to reflect on Jesus’ crucifixion.
Invite the Spirit: Once you are in a quiet, undistracted place, invite the Spirit to access your imagination and to speak to you throughout this exercise. Spend a few moments slowing your breathing down and letting your thoughts settle.
Imagine Jesus’ Crucifixion: Next, imagine yourself at Jesus’ crucifixion. Imagine Jesus’ hands and feet nailed to the cross, his body bleeding and bruised, the agony on his face and the jeers from the crowd around you. Let the scene move you, as you remember that he died to make a way for you to be made right with God and to live.
Invite the Spirit to Search You: Next, invite the Spirit to search you. Perhaps ask the questions, “Where am I serving another god?” or “What part of me is not yet crucified?” And as you ask these questions, be as specific as possible — rather than saying “in my relationships,” name the specific relationships and the specific ways in which these relationships aren’t crucified; rather than saying “with my money,” name the specific ways in which you are worshipping your money. Let the Spirit bring one thing to mind.
Lay Your Idols Down: As the Spirit brings to mind something that needs to die, imagine yourself laying it down at the foot of the cross. As you do, tell Jesus how hard it is for you to let it die, but then tell him why you’re doing it anyway. Tell him that he’s worth more than this thing.
Take the Next Step: As you lay this idol down at Jesus’ feet, let the Spirit speak to you about how to practically let it die in your life. What new boundaries do you need to set, conversations do you need to have, actions do you need to take? Let someone close to you know, who can help you, and then take that step.
Prayer (20 Minutes)
Spend a few minutes praying for God’s grace over each other, that we would become a people who daily pick up our cross, die to ourselves, and follow Jesus. Ask that God would be our guide and our guard in all things and that we would see the resurrection life that Jesus has given to us. Spend any remaining time praying for any prayer requests or anything that came up during this guide.