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Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11
By: Sue Olesen
Thoughts: Jesus had just been baptized by John the Baptist. When he came up out of the water, the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove. A voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Truly, a mountaintop moment.
But immediately, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. For forty days he fasted. Then, desperately weakened by hunger, Jesus was tempted by the devil.
The devil tempted him with food, with freedom from bodily injury, and with complete worldly power. In response to each temptation, Jesus quoted scripture. “It is written” – in Deuteronomy, in Psalms, and in Deuteronomy again. And the devil went away.
Discussion: What Biblical texts could we quote to a tempter?
Activity: Memorize Deuteronomy 6:4-6
Scripture: Matthew 17:1-9
By: Sue Olesen
Jesus: Peter – James – John – come with me.
Matthew: It’s always Peter and James and John.
James the Less (wistfully): He never asks any of the rest of us.
Simon: What are we, anyway – chopped liver?
Thomas: Chopped liver’s good, you know? – mixed with a little mayonnaise and spread on a cracker?
Judas (whining): But why don’t the rest of us ever get a turn?
Philip: They’ll probably come back and be all secretive about what they did –
Nathaniel: And what they saw.
Judas: I hate that.
Thaddeus: Looked as if they were heading toward Mount Hermon.
Thomas: I doubt if there’s anything very interesting there.
Andrew: Maybe the rest of us need to be more worthy of Jesus’ special attention.
Judas: You would say that.
Discussion: How do we feel about people who seem to be chosen?
Activity: Send a birthday card to someone who is fairly new to the church.
Scripture: I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
By: Sue Olesen
Thoughts: At a recent Super Bowl party, a teen-aged boy undertook to enlighten us about the third Manning brother.
“Yeah, he’s a cripple,” he told us, settling back comfortably, “and he’s retarded and –“
“He is neither a cripple nor retarded,” I interrupted. “He’s the oldest brother, his name is Cooper, he’s a successful businessman, and he had to quit playing football because of an injury.”
The boy couldn’t have been more astonished if the cat sleeping by the fire had started quoting sonnets. “How do you know that?” he sputtered.
“I have read widely about the entire Manning family,” I told him loftily.
Now I have to admit that I enjoyed his amazement that the old lady knew anything about football. And then today I read, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”
Discussion: Was my interruption justified?
Activity: (for me) Share knowledge kindly.
Scripture: I Corinthians 3:1-9
BY: Sue Olesen
Thoughts: The Greek god Apollo was renowned for his masculine beauty. His namesake Apollos was an Egyptian Jew, who was converted to Christianity and became an articulate and effective preacher. He preached in both Ephesus and Corinth.
Perhaps Apollos was a good-looking young man, as well as being an eloquent speaker. Many of the early Christians were so fond of him that they announced they belonged to Apollos.
Wisely, Paul praised Apollos’ good work and told the Corinthians, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”
Discussion: What causes people to identify themselves with one minister?
Activity: Write a note of appreciation to a person who helped to plant and/or water your childhood faith.
Scripture: Matthew 5:13-20
By: Sue Olesen
Thoughts: In Biblical times, salt symbolized hospitality, durability, and purity. Salt was used in sacrifices, and it was indispensable to the Hebrews to prevent food from spoiling in their warm climate.
If you ate the salt of the king, you would owe him your utmost loyalty. If you ate bread and salt together with another person, the two of you made an unbreakable bond of friendship.
When God told Lot and his family to flee from Sodom, he ordered them not to look back. Lot’s wife disobeyed. She looked back at Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt. How ironic that an act of disobedience turned her into something so useful!
Discussion: List the ways the word “salt” is used.
Activity: The American Heritage Dictionary lists 18 meanings for the word “salt.” How many did you list?
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12
Thoughts: John Donne possessed the gift of writing an opening line which carved a channel for the rest of his poem.
“Sweetest love, I do not go for weariness of thee.”
“Death, be not proud.”
“For God’s sake, hold your tongue and let me love!”
Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight memorable beatitudes. No one would have remembered a sermon which began, “It’s so nice to see you all here today,” or “I want to remind you that our pledge campaign is underway, and we need all of you to give generously.”
Most of us remember at least some of the beatitudes. This mnemonic device will help. Remember four p’s, three m’s, and one h: poor in spirit, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted; meek, merciful, mourn; hunger and thirst.
Discussion: That historical examples show the meek inheriting the earth?
Activity: Memorize the eight beatitudes.
Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17
By: Sue Olesen
Thoughts: Did God tell Jesus to go to the Jordan River, so he could be baptized by his cousin John?
Did Jesus tell his mother Mary, “I’m going to the Jordan River to find John, and I’ll ask him to baptize me?”
Did Mary say, “Oh, do be careful, Jesus. Here, take this bread and fish, and give Cousin Elizabeth my love?”
Did John expect Jesus?
Did Jesus expect the dove?
“…the kindling of the heaven-descended dove,
My heart an altar, and thy love the flame.”
Discussion: What are the advantages of infant baptism? What are the advantages of adult baptism?
Activity: Read the Sacrament of Baptism in The United Methodist Hymnal.