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Scripture: Mark 10:17-31
By: Sue Oleson
Thoughts: Few people would choose to be old and poor. But how about being young and rich? All right? All right!
Mark 10:17 says “…one came running and kneeled” to Jesus. If you can run and then kneel easily, you are young. Biblical scholars call him the Rich Young Ruler. He must have been irresistibly appealing in his looks, his speech, his demeanor, because “Jesus beholding him loved him….”
We may not be young. We may not be rich. But when Jesus looks at us, he loves us. We are blessed.
Discussion: Why did Jesus choose these six particular commandments (Mark 10:19) to test the Rich Young Ruler?
Activity: What tangible possession do you value most?
Scripture: Mark 10:2-16
By: Sue Oleson
Thoughts: Children are cuddly and contentious – precious and predatory – treasured and tiring. Jesus welcomed children. He hugged them and blessed them and told his listeners, “…of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Did these children shrink from a stranger? Did they pull his beard or fuss or squirm to get away? Did they sit quietly on his lap and gaze up at his kind face? Were some of them old enough to remember?
Perhaps, years later, they told their own children about it. “He smiled at me.”
Jesus loves me, this I know.
Discussion: If you were in charge of the children’s time during worship, what would you do?
Activity: Each week, learn the name of one child in our church family.
Scripture: Mark 9:38-50
By: Sue Oleson
Thoughts: We all know that Mark is the shortest gospel. He begins with Jesus as an adult. He proceeds swiftly through Jesus’ travels and teaching and miracles, his trial, death, and resurrection, and presents all this in sixteen tidy chapters.
So we are amazed to find that Mark repeats one verse three times in chapter 9. Verses 44, 46, and 48 are identical. “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
When we remember verses we have memorized, this probably does not spring to mind. Why did Mark think it was so important? Did he like the idea of eternity? Did the monosyllabic words (all but one) appeal to him? Did he savor the sheer repetition?
In Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” Frost’s neighbor tells him, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
“And he likes having thought of it so well he says again, ‘good fences make good neighbors.’ “
Discussion: What does Mark mean by “worm”?
Activity: Memorize Jude 24-25. (Perhaps you already know these verses.)
Scripture: Mark 8:27-38
Gone with the Wind.
These are the most popular answers to “What is your favorite color?” “What is your favorite movie?” “What is your favorite holiday?”
What would be the most popular answers to your favorite hymn? Favorite Bible story? Favorite sermon?
We favor certain things – that is, we like them; we prefer them. But what do we savor? If we savor something, it means that we delight in it; it give us intense pleasure.
Jesus admonished his disciples to savor the things that are of God. So what do we savor in our church? Charming people? Harmonious music? Promises in the Bible?
Discussion: What one part of our Sunday morning church service do you savor?
Activity: Choose a favorite hymn. Perhaps it could be included in a church service.
Scripture: Mark 7:24-37
Thoughts: Tyre and Sidon were cities in Gentile territory. Perhaps Jesus traveled there to escape the derision he was encountering from many Jewish people. Long ago, the area surrounding Tyre and Sidon had been ceded to the tribe of Asher, but they had never been able to subdue it.
Scholars think the time elapsed between Jesus’ time in Gentile country and his return to Galilee may have been as long as eight months. He wanted to spend some uninterrupted time with his disciples. When we remember that Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted only three years, this period of eight months was a good share of that time.
While he was with the Gentile people, Jesus demonstrated God’s love for them in a most tangible way by healing a Greek woman’s daughter.
Back in Decapolis, an area south of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus healed a deaf man who had a speech impediment. With kind consideration, Jesus took the deaf man away from the crowd.
It is usually apparent that a person is blind, but deafness is not so obvious. It is embarrassing not to hear. People may shout at a deaf person and think he is dull and slow-witted because he doesn’t understand. And because this man could not hear, he hadn’t learned to say words correctly.
“Ephphatha! (Be opened!)” Jesus said, and the afflicted man’s hearing and clear speech were restored.
May we open our hearts to God’s love.
Discussion: What is most important for us as church members – open doors, open hearts, open minds?
Activity: Write a note of welcome to someone who visits our church.
Scripture: James 1:17-27
By: Sue Oleson
Thoughts: Many names are used for God – Lord, Father, Creator, the Almighty. James 1:17 calls God “The Father of lights.” When James wrote, lights were not plentiful, nor were they easily obtained.
Of course, there were natural lights – made by God – the sun, the moon, the stars, lightning. Man had discovered fire and had made candles and lanterns. Natural lights were not controllable. Man-made lights were temporary. But the Father of lights was not variable, nor was there any shadow of turning with Him.
“Great is thy faithfulness, great is they faithfulness. There is no shadow of turning with thee. Thou changest not, the compassions they fail not. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”
Discussion: What special gift do you remember receiving?
Activity: Give careful thought to the next gift you give. Try to give the good and perfect gift.
By: Sue Oleson
Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-20
Thoughts: Some of us are list-makers. We describe the supremely organized person as making lists of his/her lists. Today’s scripture contains a list that would make pacifists tremble.
We are admonished (twice)
to put on the whole armor of God;
to put on the breastplate of righteousness;
to take the shield of faith;
to take the helmet of salvation;
to take the sword of the Spirit.
All of these will enable us “… to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Often we hear – and say, “I’ve done everything I can.” Have we indeed “done all”? Are we still standing?
Discussion: What particularly evil day have you withstood.
Activity: Reach out with kind words to someone who is beset by evil days.
By: Sue Oleson
Scripture: Ephesians 5:15-20
Thoughts: I am blessed with sweet memories of my mother’s singing as she worked. Mostly, she sang hymns, and she knew all the verses. Our days were filled with the joy of “There’s within my heart a melody,” the reminder that “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is calling,” and the supplication, “Spirit of God, descend you my heart.”
Her singing was dear and familiar background to our days at home. We scarcely heard it consciously. One summer our cousin from Los Angeles visited us. He seemed very sophisticated and very rich; he had money to buy double-decker ice cream cones.
The first morning of his visit, he remarked, “Your mother must be very happy today.”
I looked up from my pancakes in surprise. “What makes you think she’s happy?”
“She’s singing!” my cousin exclaimed.
“She always sings,” my sister told him. “Please pass the syrup.”
Discussion: What is your favorite hymn?
Activity: Do you know this verse?
“In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow thee.”
By: Sue Oleson
Scripture: Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2
Thoughts: “Be ye angry, and sin not . . . .”
“Be ye angry, but sin not . . . .”
We have been taught that both “and” and “but” are conjunctions. “And” signals a logical following action. “I saw my friend, and I waved.”
“But” signals a change of direction. “I detest Brussel sprouts, but I ate them when Aunt Atossa served them for dinner.”
Realistically, we know that angry feelings will come, unless you live alone in a mountain hut and see no one. Even then, you might become angry with a rabbit who feasted on the emerging carrots in your garden. Or a raucous blue jay who wakened you from a delicious morning sleep.
If we do become angry and sin not, perhaps we may begin to enter a state of grace. Could we learn to quell our anger and not be tempted to sin?
Discussion: How would you define “righteous anger”?
Activity: Ephesians 4:32 is worth memorizing. “And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”