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Sermon for November 26, 2023 –The Reign of Christ

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5053The Why of Praise
Jeff Broadnax

Many people are familiar with Psalm 100. It’s called a “psalm of thanksgiving,” and it encourages the entire earth to “make a joyful noise.” That sounds like a good time to me! But what I want to focus on today is the why – why should we “make a joyful noise?”

Let’s set the stage by reading what we should be doing:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him; bless his name.
Psalm 100:1-4 (NRSVUE)

Notice all the things we “should” be doing – making a joyful noise, serving with gladness, singing, knowing that God is our Creator, and giving thanks and blessings to the Divine. While these verses can be instructional, if you’re like me, you often want to know “why” you need to do something. And by knowing why, it connects the head with the heart. Our actions become linked to heartfelt emotion, and what might have been routine, mindless acts suddenly become infused with meaning.

Let’s look at the last verse of Psalm 100 to understand why we would even consider making a joyful noise, serving with gladness, or any of the other actions the first four verses tell us we should do:

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100: 5 (NRSVUE)

The reason we respond with a joyful noise and thanksgiving is because God is good, but verse 5 does more than leave the definition of “good” up to our human imaginations. It defines God’s goodness as “steadfast love” and “faithfulness.”

The phrase “steadfast love,” can be more expansively defined as “kindness or love between people” or the idea of giving yourself fully to another. God gives steadfast love fully to each one of us, and we know this by Jesus’ crucifixion, where God’s Son endured the hatred and mistreatment of humankind so that we could be brought into the triune relationship. We also have evidence of the fullness of God’s steadfast love through the gift of the Holy Spirit, our Helper and Comforter, who lives in us.

The word “faithfulness,” refers to trustworthiness in relationships. God’s way of moving in the world reflects his loyalty and commitment to humanity. This trustworthiness in relationships was demonstrated by Jesus’ commitment to people who were often marginalized in his culture, like women, children, and Gentiles. Jesus went out of his way to encourage, hang out with, and even heal those who had no power or money to offer him. This is God’s way of showing his trustworthy commitment to people while pointing out the problems with man-made systems and cultures.

God’s complete commitment and loyalty to all of humanity is what inspires our praise. When we make that “joyful noise,” it’s because we understand the goodness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

May we make a joyful noise, knowing the fullness of our triune God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 100:1-5 • Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 • Ephesians 1:15-23 • Matthew 25:31-46

Today marks the last Sunday of the church calendar, known as Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday. Next Sunday begins Advent and a new church year. While we can express gratitude (after all, Thanksgiving was this past week in the US), the Reign of Christ gives us pause to think about our participation in God’s kingdom on earth now. We can think of this day as a church “New Year’s Day,” complete with a review of how we participated in kingdom work over the last year and with imagination to see areas we might move toward in this next church calendar year.

The theme for this week is the why, what, how, and when of kingdom participation.  Psalm 100 sets us up to think about why we want to participate in kingdom work and why we praise God at all. Ezekiel 34 further defines the why by using rich metaphors of a caring shepherd and flock, as well as showing what caring for others looks like. In Ephesians, the how of kingdom participation is outlined with a focus on the hope we’ve been called to and the power we’ve been given through Jesus Christ. The sermon text comes from Matthew 25 where the what, how, and when of kingdom participation is detailed in the well-known metaphor of sheep, goats, and judgment.

The Most Important Time Is Now

Matthew 25:31-46 (NRSVUE)

There’s a children’s book by Jon J. Muth called The Three Questions. It’s based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, and in the story, a boy named Nikolai was thinking about what it meant to be a good person. He decided that there were three questions he needed to be answered to understand how to be a good person:

When is the best time to do things?

Who is the most important one?

What is the right thing to do?

Nikolai’s three friends, a heron, a monkey, and a dog, tried to help, but their answers were limited. Nikolai decided to check with a wise old turtle named Leo. He found Leo digging in his garden and asked him the three questions. Leo just smiled, and after watching him a bit, Nikolai decided that he could help Leo dig in his garden since he was young and strong. While they were digging, a storm blew up, so they hurried back to Leo’s house. On the way there, Nikolai heard a cry for help and discovered an unconscious panda whose leg had been injured by a fallen tree. He carried her into Leo’s house and made a splint for her leg. When the panda woke up, she cried, “Where is my baby?” With that, Nikolai raced back into the storm to the place where he found her, and there in the forest, he found the baby panda, cold and shivering. Nikolai took the baby to her mother and helped dry and warm her. The next day, the storm was gone, and the mother panda’s leg was feeling better, but Nikolai still did not have the answers to his three questions. He asked Leo the turtle again, and the wise turtle responded, “But your questions have been answered!” He went on to explain:

“Yesterday, if you had not stayed to help me dig my garden, you wouldn’t have heard the panda’s cries for help in the storm. Therefore, the most important time was the time you spent digging the garden. The most important one at that moment was me, and the most important thing to do was help me with my garden. Later, when you found the injured panda, the most important time was the time you spent mending her leg and saving her child. The most important ones were the panda and her baby. And the most important thing to do was to take care of them and make them safe. Remember, then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.” (Muth, The Three Questions).

This children’s story illustrates today’s sermon text from Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus talks about judgment and how we are to participate in the kingdom of God now. Let’s read the passage together: (read sermon text)

The scripture passage concludes Matthew’s theme of righteousness. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20, NRSVUE)

Later verses in Matthew point out that this righteousness doesn’t come from our keeping the law, but from mercy and love for God and others (Matthew 9:13; 22:37:40).

When we focus too much on the scary judgment verses in the passage (v. 41, 46), we miss important points about what, why, when, and how we participate in the kingdom of God. As we reflect on this scripture passage, let’s consider these ideas:

We can be ignorant of what God’s kingdom looks like: Neither the sheep nor goats recognized what they were doing (or not doing) as participation in the kingdom of God. American theologian and Duke University professor Stanley Hauerwas writes, “The difference between followers of Jesus and those who do not know Jesus is that those who have seen Jesus no longer have any excuse to avoid ‘the least of these.’”

Even as Nikolai in The Three Questions did not see his actions as his intuitive answers to the three questions, we also do not always perceive the mystery that is the kingdom of God at work on earth right now.

The “why” behind our questions and actions matters: Both the sheep and the goats express surprise at the king’s allegations, and both groups ask a similar question: “Lord, when was it that we saw you…” (v. 37-39, 44).  However, their motivation for asking the question was quite different. The sheep acted kindly toward “the least of these” without considering whether they would be rewarded or praised. The goats, on the other hand, ask the question with an unspoken caveat: “if we had only known it was you.” The goats were still trapped in the works and reward mentality, misunderstanding that grace extended to others doesn’t expect anything in return.

Sometimes in our outreach efforts, we are focused more on identifying and serving those we determine to be “the least of these” than we are on expressing the natural compassion that arises as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. New Testament scholar and author Stanley Saunders writes the following:

Even the broadest definition of the least ones, as anyone and everyone in need, carries a similar consequence if the ensuing acts of compassion are motivated by the reward promised in the parable. When motivated extrinsically, in fact, such deeds cease to be ‘compassionate’ at all. They devolve into the kinds of charity that preserve the vulnerability of the least ones in order to confirm the ‘righteousness’ of the benefactors. In other words, as we pursue our quest to identify the least ones, the jaws of the parable snap shut. We discover ourselves in the goat pen.

We can learn from the example of the boy Nikolai in The Three Questions that we often don’t need to look much further than those who cross our paths during the course of ordinary life. Keeping our eyes and ears open to a need that we might be able to meet is one way to answer the questions of what, when, and how we participate in God’s kingdom.

Creating relationships helps prevent us from turning people into projects: When we take time to develop relationships, we find value in caring for others and in being cared for by others. Rather than turning a person into a social justice or evangelism project, we become the hands and feet of Jesus; we wash others’ feet, and sometimes we are the ones lavishly anointed with perfume.

New Testament professor at Wesley Theological Seminary Carla Works writes:

The blessed ones are those who have seen a King who is not like the kings of this world.  They are blessed because they know a King who brings real peace, who sees the needy, and who hears the cries of the oppressed. In God’s kingdom, no one is hungry, naked, sick, or alone. To bear witness to Christ as King is to be a messenger of this kingdom – to serve others and thereby profess the invasion of God’s glorious empire.

The who, what, where, and why questions all revolve around our participation with Jesus. He has invited us to join him in what he is doing. He is building relationships with others and often includes us in the process. If we consider the sermon text in conjunction with the children’s book The Three Questions, we learn that the most important time to show kindness and love is now, the most important person is the one we are with now, and the most important action we can take is to do good, whatever that looks like in the situation we are in. The why is always, always a deep love for Christ the King, whom we serve as we live and move on this earth.

Call to Action: Be aware of opportunities to show kindness to someone. Do good within your means and abilities, and then give thanks for a chance to join Jesus in what he is doing – some phrase this as being the hands and feet of Jesus – bringing many sons and daughters to personal relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. In other words, participating with Jesus in doing his work for God’s kingdom on earth.

For Reference:
Muth, Jon J. The Three Questions. Scholastic Press, 2002.

Reign of Christ w/ Dr. Michael Morrison W4

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November 26 — The Reign of Christ
Matthew 25:31-46, “Reign of Christ”

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Program Transcript

Reign of Christ w/ Dr. Michael Morrison W4

Anthony: Our final pericope of the month is Matthew 25:31-46. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for the reign of Christ Sunday on November 26.

Mike, do us the honors, please.


31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You who are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.”

Anthony: Okay. There’s a lot to unpack here, Mike, and this is a Reign of Christ Sunday. Some call it Christ the King Sunday.

And let’s start there. People often raise arguments about the sheep and the goats and eternal punishment, and we’ll get to that soon enough, but the passage starts with the Son of Man on his rightful throne as the king of his kingdom. How does that reality shape the rest of the passage?

Mike: Perhaps the most important aspect of this is that the Son of Man is not only the king, but he’s also the judge. In our democracies, we’re used to a separation of powers that the judiciary has some independence from the executive power, and generally the highest court in the land is actually a committee to prevent any one person there from having too much power. But the ancient world was ruled by what we today might call dictators.

They had power over all branches of the government, and it was just assumed that a king was also a judge. Although he would delegate smaller decisions to his subordinates, he had the ultimate authority to make all judicial decisions, whether it was to sentence people to death, to free them, to fine them, to give them victory in a civil case over their neighbor.

When people in the first century heard the word “king,” they would understand that kind of power went along with it. Now here, the Son of Man is the king. It’s Jesus, the representative of all humanity. We call him Lord, as well as Savior, because he has the authority to tell us what to do. But that authority is always used with perfect wisdom, perfect compassion, and perfect love. We worship him not just because he has overwhelming power, but because he is overwhelmingly good.

Now the passage starts off like a simple prediction—here’s what’s going to happen. But it quickly turns into a parable about sheep and goats. A parable is the best way to describe what’s going to happen. When Jesus returns in authority, what will it be like? How will he judge his people? What criteria will he use? It’s going to be like this.

One thing that caught my attention on this reading was the phrase “inherit the kingdom.” People in the first century knew what that phrase meant. Today, we might say, if you inherit a mansion, it’s not just that you can live there for a while. No, it means that you own it. And similarly, in the ancient world, if you inherit a kingdom, it’s yours.

When King Herod died, for example, his will said that his sons were to inherit his kingdom. The Roman government had the final say on that, but the idea of inheriting a kingdom was part of the way the ancient world operated. The king’s son would inherit his kingdom, or sometimes they’d split the kingdom so that more than one of his children could inherit a kingdom.

So, when the Son of Man tells people to inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, it’s not just a matter of living in God’s kingdom, it’s also a matter of having our own kingdom, part of God’s empire, we might call it.

In a different parable, Jesus talked about ruling five cities or ten cities. He is talking about a significant reward and a significant responsibility. Now, that may be a metaphor that Jesus is using examples from his own day of a fabulously extravagant reward. If Jesus were making a parable for modern times, he might talk about inheriting some multinational corporation, maybe the Walmart empire, or controlling stock in Microsoft.

The point is that it’s an exceedingly large inheritance, a reward far out of proportion to what ordinary people imagine is possible. As king of all kings and as judge, he can be extravagantly generous with people.

Anthony: Mike, how do you hermeneutically preach about the sheep and goats in verse 32 and eternal punishment that we read about in verse 46?

What say you?

Mike: It goes back to the two questions I mentioned earlier. What’s the main point? And how did the author want the readers to respond? Is there something in there that we need to learn? Or is it telling us about something we need to do? Knowing and doing can rarely be completely separated, but there is often an emphasis on one or the other.

For example, a passage might tell us that God is great and good, completely trustworthy. That’s something to know. And we might respond to that knowledge with worship, faith, and trust. The knowledge and action are connected, but I’d say that the emphasis is on the knowledge. God isn’t interested in fake worship, in us going through the motions, even when we don’t believe it. The emphasis, in this case, would seem to be on what we know and believe.

A different example is the Great Commission: Go into all the world, make disciples, baptize, and teach. That’s something to know, yes, but the emphasis is on that we ought to be doing something.

Here in Matthew 25, where is the emphasis? I don’t think it’s in knowing the typical habits of sheep or goats. They provide the setting for the introduction of the parable, but there is no further development of that particular detail. And similarly, there is no further development of the angels who come with Christ at his return.

What about the difference between right and left? In the ancient world, is good and left is bad, and the parable uses that as part of its setting, but it’s not developing that in either way. It’s not telling us that our left hands are bad or anything like that. It’s just part of the framework of the story.

The main part of the story, the part that seems to be emphasized, in this case by repetition, is found in the idea, I was in need and, you either helped me or you didn’t help me. In the story, the people ask, when did we see you in need? When did we help or not help?

Now, this is not some script that we all have to act out on the day of judgment. After all, if we know we are supposed to ask that question, then we also know what the answer is. And it’s just play acting. It’s pretending. The story includes this dialogue mainly as an opportunity to repeat the words, to give emphasis to the key concept: I was in need, and some people helped me, and others didn’t.

The point of the story is that we need to be helping the hungry, helping the thirsty, helping the stranger, helping people who need clothes, who are sick, who are in prison. That’s something that Jesus will be judging on. Perhaps I should say he’s already judging us on. That’s something that he cares about.

It’s only one of many things that he cares about. The parable doesn’t intend to list all the points of judgment. It’s just making one point, one illustration. It’s not an encyclopedia of ethics or faith or worship.

Life is much more complex than a simple story can picture. But the illustration here does tell us something that Jesus wants his people to be doing, and that is helping others even without any motive of reward.

Some people might want to make another point out of the story that Jesus is actually in all these needy people. In one sense that’s true, but that actually weakens the point of the parable. The point is not that we should help people because we know that Jesus is in them. Or rather, it’s that we should help people even when we do not know that Jesus is in them. That gets repeated in the parable, and we shouldn’t try to undermine that part of it.

I’ve already commented about the reward mentioned in the parable and that we’ll inherit a kingdom. As a side point, it’s interesting to note that this kingdom has been prepared for us from the very beginning. It’s been part of God’s plan all along. It’s even tied into one of the first things that we learn in the Bible, that humans are made in the image of God, and we’re supposed to rule over other aspects of his creation. God wants to give us authority, but not until we can be trusted with that authority, not until we’re going to rule in the good way that God would.

You specifically asked about the penalty part of the parable. The people who were sorted out on the left will go into eternal fire and eternal punishment. What’s that about?

What should you do if you’re preaching this passage? It goes back to our initial questions: What’s the main point, and what’s our response? The main point is that we should be helping people who need help, even if we don’t see Jesus in them. Where does eternal fire fit into that picture? It doesn’t, really. It was not the main point.

Jesus did not tell this parable so his disciples would know more about the details of the end time day of judgment. We are not to expect massive herds of people being moved around on the terrain of the new world. He did not tell a parable so that we’d know more about what the future reward will be like.

It’s good, yes, but we really don’t know many details. That wasn’t the main point. And in the same way, the punishment for not doing this wasn’t his main point either. It’s just part of the framework of the parable.

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus talked about a conversation between the rich man and Hades, and the poor man and Abraham’s bosom. Jesus is not trying to teach us that such conversations will occur, or even if they’re possible. Instead, Jesus is using a common belief of the day as part of the scenery of the parable, without attempting to either endorse or refute the common belief.

Similarly, in another parable, a man who owed a debt was thrown into prison to be tortured until he could pay. But the purpose of the parable is not to tell us about the nature of the end time punishment. That’s simply part of the framework of the parable using imagery that was borrowed from the customs and beliefs of his time period.

In some places, Jesus talks as if the end time punishment is fire. In other places, it’s outer darkness. It’s difficult to put all these together into a sensible picture for the simple reason, I think, that they are not supposed to be put together into a sensible picture. Jesus is just using ideas that circulated in his culture and he is not endorsing them or trying to set them straight. He never attempts to settle our curiosity about what the details will be like.

But I think it’s fair to generalize the overall picture by saying that if we make certain choices in life contrary to what Jesus wants, then we are going to regret it. Jesus says we should make every effort to avoid that.

If we are preaching this passage, what should we do with it? Just read it and move on.

It’s not what the parable is really about. Jesus saw no need to elaborate on it. And we don’t need to either. Jesus saw no need to refute the idea or clarify it, so we don’t have to either. So, I recommend that we ignore it.

Now, if we are writing a commentary or conducting a series of Bible studies about the parables of Jesus, then we ought to deal with it in an excursus or as a side point. If we are presenting a class about the future, then we should deal with it. But in a sermon, it’s just too much of a can of worms to deal with it well. The sermon gets dominated by a side point. And the main point is pushed to the side.

It reminds me of a class I took a long time ago on the book of Galatians. There was a lot in the book that the teacher didn’t like. So, his class was mostly that Galatians doesn’t mean this, and it doesn’t mean that. And he never got around to telling us what it actually does mean.

That’s what’s likely to happen if we try to deal with the topic of eternal punishment when we really ought to be spending our time trying to get people to respond to the parable in a way that Jesus wanted his people to respond to the parable. We’re supposed to help the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give clothes to the naked. And so forth.

Now, it’s also true that we should give hope to the hopeless, give the gospel to those who haven’t heard it, and teach people who don’t know very much about Jesus. Those are true, but they are not the point of this particular parable.

And if we preach those other things too much, it will come at the expense of the main point of this parable, which is about helping people with physical needs eve when we don’t know that Jesus is there. Doing good to others has simply become so much a part of us that we really aren’t keeping score.

We’re not doing this to earn future rewards, but simply because it’s a good thing to do. We love these needy people as we love ourselves.

Anthony: And I think it’s helpful, Mike, in reading this passage Christologically to consider what God has already accomplished for us in Jesus Christ, that he found us thirsty and was living waters for us. He found us hungry, and he gives us himself in the cup and the bread, that he clothed us, that all good things come from above.

So, in that way instead of judging others as the least of these, we realize we were the least of these, right? And God found us in Jesus Christ in the far country. Hallelujah praise him!

You know, sometimes in the past, Mike, I’ve heard this passage preached as separation, judgment, and punishment alone, and of course, you’ve already dealt with this, but in terms of closing out our commentary on this passage, what other pieces of good news can we find or glean that maybe we haven’t touched on yet?

Anything else?

Mike: Is there good news in this? Does it just lay a burden on us? So, we got to do this, we got to do that. If you think that being kind to other people is an unpleasant burden, then maybe there’s no good news here for you because that’s really what we ought to do, or at least it’s one of the many things we ought to do.

But the good news here is that Jesus Christ transforms people from self-centered to other centered, from stingy to generous, from callous to caring. People do good to others without keeping score, without expecting anything in it for themselves. And when that happens, the world is a better place. That’s good news.

And as other passages in the New Testament tell us, it happens because Jesus lives in us. The Spirit lives in us, changing us from the inside out. That’s good news, even for the people who don’t believe it.

Of course, there’s also good news in the future, as the passages in 1 Thessalonians and here in Matthew point out. The good works that we do now are good, but they’re just a cup of cool water compared with the oceans of blessings that God will give us in the future. What we do now is just a child’s crayon drawing compared to the IMAX theater version that we will enjoy in the future.

Anthony: IMAX. I did not expect that reference in our conversation, Mike. Thanks for that metaphor. That’s pretty vivid.

And you mentioned that as we serve others, even when we don’t know Jesus is present, he is. And it reminds me we are not a delivery service hired by Jesus to take him to our neighbors. But we are witnesses to Christ already at work in the neighborhood. So, let’s be in the neighborhood, being a blessing to others as we have been blessed ourselves.

Mike, thank you so much for being a part of this podcast. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I’m so thankful for you and the call to ministry God has on your life.

And I want to take a moment to thank the people that make this podcast possible, Reuel Enerio and David McKinnon, our podcast producers, as well as my beloved wife, Elizabeth, who does the transcription. So, you can read every good word that Mike has spoken here today.

Mike, it is our tradition here at Gospel Reverb to end with prayer. So, if you would do the honor of praying for and with our people, I’d be so appreciative.

Mike: Thanks, Anthony, for inviting me and giving me the opportunity. Let’s pray.

Father, thank you for Scripture, for things that you inspired people to write for our encouragement and instruction.

Thank you for giving us glimpses into the glory that you want to share with us, and the joy of being chosen by you for a life of never-ending joy and love in your presence. Thank you for Jesus who gave up his phenomenal riches and came to us even though he knew we would kill him. Thank you for raising us him up and for including us in his life.

Thank you for the people who make the podcast, for the people who listen because they want to be better at handling the words of God. We ask the Spirit to encourage them in what they do, in the sacrifices they make to serve others, in the joy they have in sharing good news with the people they love.

Some of our listeners are seriously ill, and yet they serve anyway. Some of them battle with depression, even as they intellectually know that the news is incredibly good. Help each of them day by day. Help us all when we are spiritually hungry, spiritually thirsty, spiritually naked, feeling sick, and all alone. We all need help, and you are the help that we need.

And thank you for the intercession of the Spirit and the Son on our behalf. Amen.

Anthony: Amen.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • We are often more preoccupied with what we should be doing than why we are doing it. Why do you think we have this tendency, especially when it comes to our worship and service of God?
  • Have you ever considered what inspires our praise? How does thinking about God’s steadfast love and trustworthiness inspire praise? How does it inform the way we meet life’s challenges?

From the sermon

  • Why do you think we focus on the “scary” portion of the sermon text (i.e., verses 41, 46)? How does our tendency to want to be good, like Nikolai in the children’s story, often obscure our natural compassionate response to others’ needs?
  • Why do you think it is important to consider our motives for showing compassion toward others? How do you think others feel if we turn them into a “project” rather than creating a genuine relationship?

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