The Community Guide below is based on Sunday’s teaching for our current series on the Gospel according to Matthew. 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.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
Emotional Health Check-in (20-30 Minutes)
As we focus in on this series, 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 this season, what is giving you joy? Where do you need God to show up in a new way?
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)
In Matthew 23, Jesus confronts the Pharisees in their hypocrisy. We can be tempted to believe that the issues Jesus is confronting have nothing to do with us—he was speaking about and to religious leaders after all. But, if we’re honest, most of us struggle with these exact things that he says the religious leaders do: We too maintain unrealistic expectations, promote our personal image, and preserve our status. It is not just church leaders who need to be cautious of these temptations.
“Everything they do is for people to see,” Jesus said of them. We may not relate to loud public prayer or extra-long tassels, but in the age of Instagram and livestreams and influencers, for many of us, this “insult” may hit pretty close to home.
What is unique about Jesus as a teacher, though, is that he did not just come with critique, he came with another way. What we find in his life and teachings is a man who practiced what he preached; there was no line of demarcation between what he talked about and the way he lived. Jesus is a worth following because he was filled with integrity. And as we look at his life, we see a man who practiced mercy toward others instead of upholding unrealistic expectations, who practiced integrity instead of puffing up his personal image, and who practiced humility instead of preserving his status. This week we want to take time to practice doing the same.
Debrief this Sunday’s Teaching (20 Minutes)
With that in mind, work through the following discussion questions as a Community:
- Do you relate to the temptation to cultivate a specific image of yourself for others? How does this play out for you?
- With whom do you find it most difficult to avoid upholding unrealistic or unfair expectations? (Perhaps within your family, roommates, Community, group of coworkers, with a significant other.)
- Have you tried the practice of giving in secret, or have you been the recipient of a secret gift? What was that experience like for you? Did it feel different from a gift with your name attached?
Practice For The Week Ahead: Growing in Mercy, Integrity, and Humility (5 Minutes)
This week, we want to take Jesus seriously and combat our natural inclinations towards maintaining unrealistic expectations, promoting our personal image, and preserving our status through the practices of mercy, integrity, and humility. But rather than just keeping these vague and ethereal, we believe that Jesus modeled a way forward that is both practical and obtainable. As you read through the following list, pick one of the three categories and think through one specific way you can practice growing in it.
- Growing in Mercy through the Practice of Listening: To combat unrealistic expectations and, therefore, to grow in mercy, we practice listening. When we listen to another and really hear them, their pain, and their story, we cross the chasm of difference that is the cause of so much of our judgement. It’s very hard to judge someone you understand. We do that through listening to another. Be extra attentive this week while you are in conversations; be intentional with the way that you listen and ask questions.
- Growing in Integrity through the Practice of Secrecy: This is all over the life of Jesus. It’s a very simple practice: you just do something good (for God or for someone else) and you don’t tell anyone about it. If you want to grow in this, think through one person that you could bless through the practice of secrecy. (e.g. dropping off a plate of treats on someone’s doorstep, paying for someone else’s meal when you pay your check, pick up trash in your neighborhood, etc.)
- Growing in Humility through the Practice of Service: This practice involves the ultimate expression of love, because it’s self-giving without getting anything in return. The reward for serving is serving well. (e.g. offer to babysit for free for a parent you know who needs a break, sign up to serve at church, do yard work for someone in your neighborhood who could really use some help, etc.)
Prayer (20 Minutes)
Spend a few minutes praying for God’s grace over each other, that we would become a people who grow in mercy through listening well to other people, in integrity through doing good in secret, and in humility through service others with no expectation of return.