Rev. Trevor Johnston
Sermon Series: Up Your Game
Week 4: Are YOU Down?
- Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent. Lent is the 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) leading up to Easter. It’s a time to prepare your heart for Easter. Before celebrating Jesus’ resurrection at Easter, it’s good to first take time to acknowledge the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Lent is not prescribed in the Bible; but it is a tradition that the Church developed to help Christ-followers grow in their understanding and gratitude of all that Jesus sacrificed in order that we could have salvation. During Lent, some people choose to give up something to help them remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us. We call this practice “fasting.”
What has your personal experience of Lent been (whether positive or negative)?
- Read Isaiah 58:1-10
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. 2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'”
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
What questions or comments do you have about this passage?
- What was the problem with this people’s practice of fasting during the time Isaiah was writing?
- If fasting is just a religious ritual, God is not pleased by it. What kind of “fasting” does God desire, according to Isaiah?
- This year at COH, instead of focusing on fasting during the Lenten season, our leadership has decided to focus on serving the poor and oppressed. As part of this, we participated in a meal-packing event on Ash Wednesday – packing over 40,000 meals for people in Haiti who are still suffering from Hurricane Matthew. We’re also planning an evening of prayer for justice on April 13, the Thursday before Easter. How does this Lenten season plan fit with the Isaiah passage above?
- Read Mark 10:35-45
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- What was the disciples’ view of greatness?
- Note that Jesus doesn’t reprimand their desire for greatness.
- It’s OK to want to grow in greatness in God’s Kingdom. But Jesus wants us to understand how to do that God’s way. What does Jesus teach here about God’s way of moving toward greatness?
- Steve Seamands said: “The Journey of Christianity is a descent into greatness.” Why does he use the word “descent”?
- Read the words of Misty Edwards’ song “Servant of All“
I’m in love with a king who became a slave
I’m in love with a God who is humble
You gotta go down if you wanna go up
And You’ve gotta go lower if you wanna go higher and higher
Well you’ve gotta hide and do it in secret if you wanna be seen by God
Cause it’s the inside outside upside down kingdom
Where you lose to gain and you die to live
I wanna be Your lover so show me how to go lower
For in the depths I will find You where You’re serving my brother
I wanna be with You where You are
I wanna be with You wherever You are
I wanna be with You where You are
You’re the servant of all
What do you notice in the text of this song?
- Name some ways that Jesus has served you.
- How are you doing in this area of serving others? Are there some ways that you could UP your serving game?