Through the summer in Home Groups we will look at the story of the great King David, the second King of Israel, who reigned over the golden age of Israel a thousand years before Christ. The events will be familiar and this will give us opportunity to focus on how they apply to our lives and to our relationships with other people in the church and the world.
For narratives like these it can be very helpful to read the stories in a less familiar translation. Try the Living Bible, the New Living Translation, or the Good News Bible.
* There is an extra study to use if the Home Group would like to celebrate communion together.
God looks at the heart 1 Samuel 16:1-13
1. Ask the Group what is their favourite story about David? This will give you an opportunity to judge how well they know the stories.
2. The story so far. Saul the first King of Israel has disobeyed God and God has rejected him. God sends the prophet Samuel to anoint the King who is to replace Saul. Now read 1 Samuel 16 :1-13.
3. Read verse 6. Why do you think Samuel thought Eliab was God’s choice? What characteristics do people naturally look for if they want to choose a King, a leader or a politician? Read 1 Samuel 8:19-9:2 to see Saul’s qualifications for the task.
4. What characteristics do we look for if we are choosing a friend?
5. But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
What does this verse tell us about the criteria people should use in choosing leaders, or friends? Does this verse have implications for hiring and firing in the workplace? What are the implications when we are voting for our local Councillors (polling day coming up soon)?
6. So what characteristics should a church look for when choosing a Minister?
7. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. What are the implications of this tremendously important truth for the way each of us should live our lives as Christians from day to day, and for our witness to the world?
8. The LORD looks at the heart .What does this verse say to us about our relationships with each other in church and especially in Home Groups?
David and Goliath 1 Samuel 17:1-58
This is possibly the most well-known story about David. But many Christians never think more deeply about it than the simple messages we hear as children. So the point of today’s study is to ask very seriously, is there anything in this passage AT ALL which DOES apply to us today?
We will talk about interpreting Old Testament narratives in our evening sermon series on “Understanding the Bible.” Starting below and on the next page is a summary of some of the points we will make. This will give some clues to answers for questions 6-9 below.
1. Read 1 Samuel 17:1-58. You may well choose to read in a paraphrase like the Living Bible, and also to read round, not a verse at a time but a paragraph at a time.
2. Ask the Group, “What is the most important lesson from the story of David and Goliath for us as Christians today?”
3. Read verses 32-37. What do we learn about David’s faith in God?
4. Read verses 38-40. What does this teach us about how we should face the trials of life?
5. Read verses 45-47. The battle is the Lord’s. What does this teach us about our lives?
6. Now let’s look at the questions above in greater depth. As leader you will need to read the next page before continuing.
Firstly, the problem of “historical peculiarity.” David was unique. His situation was very different to ours, 3000 years ago and thousands of miles away. He was no ordinary man but the greatest King ever! He was a Jew, not a Christian. The stories about David were told and written down precisely because they were unique! So the important question is, “How legitimate is it for us to expect the stories about David to have ANY application AT ALL to our Christian lives today?”
7. David’s faith assured him that God would keep him safe. Read Psalm 91. Can we assume that God will protect us as Christians from any harm and danger? Why (not)?
8. David was confident God would give him the victory over Goliath. This leads “health, wealth and prosperity” theology to assume the same thing for our lives today. Are we always guaranteed victory or success in any situation, just because we are Christians?
9. So “Was David’s example of faith and courage an example we can confidently follow? Or was it just youthful naivety and bravado?” Discuss
Interpreting Old Testament Narratives – some thoughts
We will explore this issue in an evening sermon soon. Here are some thoughts about understanding stories such as David and Goliath.
WARNING – careless interpreters (and poor preachers) can twist most stories to mean whatever they want it them to mean!
Narratives record what happened – not “what should have happened” or “what ought to happen every time.” What happens in a narrative could be “an example to follow” OR “a sin to avoid” – and the Bible doesn’t usually tell us which! All narratives are selective and incomplete. Narratives are recorded to achieve the author’s purpose, not to answer our questions.
NEVER FORGET: NO Old Testament narratives were written specifically about YOU or for YOU!
Historical PRECEDENTS (historical events recorded) are not NORMATIVE (obligatory for all Christians), but they may indicate what is NORMAL (common but not universal experience) and they certainly indicate what is POSSIBLE (may happen to some).
We need to look at the CONTEXT and the AUTHOR’S INTENT to see whether HE expected us to understand the events to be normative, normal or merely possible.
The Bible teaches us
Doctrine – what we believe
Ethics – how to behave
Practice – the things we do
Narratives act as ILLUSTRATIONS and EXAMPLES of doctrine, ethics and practice. We should interpret what we learn IMPLICITLY from narratives by what is taught EXPLICITLY elsewhere, e.g. in words of God or Jesus or prophets, or letters.
Errors to avoid
1. Allegorising – replacing the obvious meaning with deeper “spiritual” meanings
2. Decontextualising – taking things out of context
3. Selectivity – choosing some parts, ignoring others
4. False identification – “this” then means “that” today
When it comes to the stories of David, we face the problem of “historical peculiarity.” David was unique. His situation was very different to ours, 3000 years ago and thousands of miles away. He was no ordinary man but the greatest King ever! He was a Jew, not a Christian. The stories about David were told and written down precisely because they were unique! That “historical distance” means that we need very good reasons before we even begin to think that what David did gives us a pattern for what we should do.
David shares two attributes with us. He was a human being – so things he did as a human being may correspond with things we do. And although he often expressed his faith very differently, David was a man of faith who served the same unchanging God as we do, so sometimes it may be right to imitate his faith. But we need to recognise that the battle with Goliath was a unique historical event. On that occasion David was serving God as Israel’s future king. He was acting as Israel and God’s unique representative, which is something we never need to do! The safety David assumed and the victory he claimed then were a pivotal element in God’s plan of salvation for the whole of Israel. Similar situations do not usually arise in everyday life for us today!
This week you will begin by seeing how these principles could apply to our study of David and Goliath. Keep them in mind in future weeks, and whenever you are seeking to apply the Old Testament to life and faith today.
David and Jonathan 1 Samuel 20:1-42 and 2 Samuel 1:23-27
1. What is ‘a friend’? What is ‘friendship’? In what ways do people become friends?
2. Read round 1 Samuel 20:1-42 in a paraphrase version. The relationship between David and Jonathan is usually viewed as the best example in the Bible of friendship. What expressions of friendship can we see in this passage? See also 2 Samuel 1:23-27.
3. Read Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23. God calls Abraham His friend. Read John 15:12-15. Jesus calls his disciples His friends. What do these verses teach us about our relationship with God and about the meaning of friendship? What makes a good friend?
4. The hallmarks of our consumer society are ‘choice’ and ‘satisfaction guaranteed’. In the olden days people had to work hard at forging friendships within the limited number of people they met in their village or workplace. In this age of email and texting and social networking, some people are increasingly spending time online with people they rarely if ever meet, rather than working at friendships with real people face to face. Are there other reasons why many people are forming fewer and less deep friendships nowadays?
5. “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.” Does that truism have anything to teach us about our relationships in the church?
6. One slogan for improving church would be “less meetings, more friendships”. What practically can we do to encourage friendships within the church? What could we do to be good friends to our friends outside the church e.g. in the workplace?
7. Pray for your friends – both Christian and not yet Christian.
David and the consecrated bread 1 Samuel 21:1-15
1. They say, “Rules are made to be broken.” Is it ever acceptable to break rules or laws?
2. Read 1 Samuel 21:1-15. Ask “What rules does David break in this chapter?” (As well as eating consecrated bread which only priests were allowed to do, David lied about his ‘mission’ in v.2. Even pretending to be insane in Gath was less than honest!)
3. Read Matthew 12:1-8. Jesus’s justification for breaking Sabbath regulations rests on the shared assumption that it was acceptable to God for David and his men to have eaten the consecrated bread. Was it legitimate for David to break those rules? Why / why not?
4. Are some people allowed to break rules/laws because they are so important? In either of these passages do David or Jesus give us ANY guidelines AT ALL for OUR behaviour? (HINT: are some laws perhaps more important than others? Can rules/ laws sometimes be in conflict? e.g. Was it legitimate for Christians hiding Jews from the Nazis to lie?)
5. Ask the Group if they can suggest situations in the world today where it could perhaps be acceptable to break rules or laws? (e.g. Resisting an oppressive regime? Evangelising in a country where evangelism is illegal?) At the end, pray about such situations.
Are there any situations WE face in everyday life where it might be justified or even necessary for US to break laws? (If you are brave, mention speed limits or income tax!)
David and Saul 1 Samuel 24:1-22
This study is about loving our enemies. If as the questions go by, none of your Group feel they have any enemies, or if they say they never feel tempted to take revenge or to take short cuts to an easier life, read John 15:18-21 and Matthew 5:11-12. Jesus says we WILL face opposition!
1. We thought two weeks ago about friends and friendship. This week we look at the other side of the coin – enemies. What is an enemy? Do we have anybody who we would consider to be our enemies? Any neighbours who make our life a misery? Any folk in the workplace who seem to be out to get us?
2. Recount to the Group the story so far. God has rejected Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul is jealous of David, who God has chosen to replace him. Saul had made various attempts to kill Saul. David has the perfect opportunity to murder his enemy. What will David do? Read 1 Samuel 24:1-22. This study considers a number of the temptations David faced at that time.
3. The temptation to take revenge on Saul. There are many situations where we could be tempted to hit back at other people who have hurt us, to upset them or scare them or make trouble for them. Invite the Group to suggest some examples of this.
Read Romans 12:17-21. What should we do when we are tempted to take revenge on others.
4. The temptation for David to make all his problems go away. There are many kinds of situations in life where we can take an easy way out of problems, if only we will compromise and do something which is wrong. Invite the Group to suggest examples of this.
5. The temptation to turn a blind eye and let his men kill Saul. Read 1 Samuel 24:4-7 again. Are we ever tempted to let other people do the dirty work for us, if only we will turn a blind eye? “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Discuss.
6. The temptation to take a short cut to God’s promise. David knew God had rejected Saul as King and that he, David, was God’s chosen replacement. He had been anointed to be King by Samuel – not as King-in-waiting, but as King. David knew his destiny, and it could have been fulfilled so much quicker if he had just got rid of Saul. But David did not take that quick short-cut to God’s promise.
Can the Group think of any examples of Christians taking a quick short cut to receive God’s promises? Any ways in which we can grab at blessings by disobeying God? Any situations where we might feel “The end justifies the means”?
Read Luke 4:5-8 to remind yourselves of the ways that even Jesus was tempted! We should always wait on the Lord in prayer, and to wait for the Lord in patience.
7. Read 1 Samuel 24:12-16 to see the promise David makes to Saul that he will never harm him. “Perhaps the Lord will kill you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you.” (The Living Bible) What a wonderful example for us to follow of “overcoming evil with good” (Romans 12:21) by trusting in God to vindicate our cause.
8. Read Matthew 5:44-45 to see what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount about loving our enemies. Ask the Group if there are things they will do differently (or not do at all) in the light of this study. Pray for each other in any difficult situations anybody is facing.
Saul and the Witch of Endor 1 Samuel 28:1-25
This evening’s study uses a particularly significant event in Saul’s life to lead into a discussion of the dangers of the occult. Page 7 present an overview of the subject and you should have a few spare copies of that page to give to anybody who is particularly interested. You may want to spend your time discussing just a few specific issues rather than cover the whole breadth of the topic. If Group members share any significant or disturbing experiences, please be sure to let Peter know.
1. Begin by asking the Group “What do we believe about fortune-telling?” Have any of the group ever had their palms read, or their tea leaves read, or visited a fortune teller with a crystal ball? How many of the Group read their horoscopes?
2. Read 1 Samuel 28:1-25. How many sins did Saul commit in this one chapter?
3. The Bible regards fortune telling as a serious sin carrying the death penalty!
Read Deuteronomy 18:9-13.
How do the Group view fortune telling? Harmless fun? Or deadly danger?
4. Spiritism (spiritualism) and contacting the dead (by mediums and séances) are similarly condemned by God. Read Leviticus 19:3 and 20:27.
Have any of the Group ever had any contact with spiritualism
5. The woman in this story is often called “the witch of Endor”. From TV shows such as Charmed or Supernatural, the musical “Wicked” and books such as the Harry Potter series, most people today regard witches, witchcraft and magic as either pure fantasy or harmless or even exciting. Magical charms, spells, fortune telling and love potions are a major ingredient of magazines aimed at teenage girls. The Bible condemns all witchcraft and sorcery. Read Exodus 22:18 and Revelation 21:8.
What attitude do the Group have to such things? Just harmless fun? Have any of the Group ever had any contact (that they are aware of) with magic or witchcraft?
6. There are many superstitions which form part of folklore e.g. “touching wood”, not walking under ladders, black cats. How do the Group view such superstitions?
7. The story suggests that the spirit or ghost of Samuel appeared to Saul. In fact the Bible makes clear in many places that there is no contact between the dead and the living. Either for some reason God allowed a unique exception in this case, or else what probably happened was that a demon manifested itself with the appearance and in the guise of Samuel. Have any of the Group ever seen a ghost, or had any other “paranormal experiences”? How should we understand such events?
(Ghosts etc. may best be viewed either as psychological/emotional experiences or as manifestations of demons sometimes imitating people who have died. They are NOT the souls or spirits of dead people come back to haunt the living!)
8. What should WE be doing to reach out to those in the grip of the occult in its different forms?
DOORWAYS TO DANGER – SOME BACKGROUND NOTES
Jesus Christ came to proclaim the beginning of God’s Kingly Rule, in words by preaching the gospel and in actions by healing diseases and by casting out demons (Mark 1:14-15, 32-33, 38-39). He entrusted this ministry first to the twelve and then to all his disciples (Mark 6:6-7, Luke 10:17-20). Western European Christians have generally been faithful in the preaching and are slowly rediscovering the healing. The ministry of casting out demons remains neglected.
Because of the dangers of contact with demonic beings the Bible condemns all occult practices very clearly: see Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Exodus 22:18; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 21:8.
Here is a brief introduction to ways in which people can open their lives to the influences of the principalities and powers. The OCCULT means “hidden things”. We are not advised to be curious, but to be on our guard against these areas. Varieties of the occult offer power or knowledge or both, always by supernatural means at great cost and with damaging effects.
Attempts to manipulate the spirit world, to gain power over enemies (black magic) or to help friends (white magic). Telepathy, ESP, automatic writing, charms, fetishes, levitation, “out of the body experiences” and astral projection, magic healing and witchcraft, all forms are evil! A person may fall under the control of magic by hereditary involvement (the actions of an ancestor) by occult experiments, by occult transference from one person to another (e.g. spells or curses, blood pacts) or by explicit Satan worship. PLACES used for magic in the past or possession of occult books or OBJECTS can also have dangers. Some superstitions can be expressions of magic.
Here the object is knowledge rather than power. Varieties include palmistry, tarot cards, crystal gazing, psychometry, astrology and horoscopes, reading tea leaves etc, dowsing.
SPIRITISM or SPIRITUALISM
Attempting to communicate with spirits of the dead for various purposes. Approaches include mediums, séances, trances, Ouija boards, and table turning. Spiritualist “churches” and spiritual healers are highly dangerous. We should beware of many of the psychic or paranormal events which people experience without seeking them, e.g. ghosts and poltergeists.
OTHER DOORWAYS TO DANGER
Here is a basic checklist of other ways in which people can open their lives to demonic influences. CHRISTIAN DEVIATIONS are dangerous, e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses; The Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints); Christian Science; Unitarians; The Unification Church (Moonies). So also are some OTHER RELIGIONS including Transcendental Meditation, and some other forms of Yoga; Eastern Mysticism, especially including ancestor worship and idol worship, and many tribal, pagan and animistic religions including witch-doctors and voodoo. Beware of the many faces of the “New Age” movement; Ancient Celtic religions and traditional British mysticism, other world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Krishnas, Scientology, Reincarnation, White Witchcraft, “Wicca” or “The Craft”. Many kinds of obsessive behaviour, e.g. violence, sexual perversion; Many aspects of Martial Arts; Possession of charms, amulets or other objects (often from the East) which have been used in idol worship; Many aspects of Alternative Medicine; Fantasy games and literature e.g. Dungeons and Dragons etc.
These are all “doorways to danger”, channels by which the demonic CAN gain a hold on a person’s life. This does NOT mean that EVERYBODY who has been involved in such things is necessarily controlled by demons OR that people dabbling are totally evil! Demonic activity in North Springfield is rare. Refer any suspected instances to a minister experienced in these areas.
David and the Ark of the Covenant 2 Samuel 6:1-11
Here is a straightforward story of God’s holiness and judgement. Some people say that it reflects a “pre-Christian” understanding of God, and that the God who is revealed in the New Testament as pure Love would never do such things today. Others say it is a necessary reminder of the Holiness and anger of God who is just as righteous and pure and holy today. What do you think?
1. What do we understand by the word “Holy”? What does it mean to say that God is Holy? Read Exodus 33:18-23 and Habakkuk 1:13.
2. Read 2 Samuel 6:1-11. Why was God angry with Uzzah? Was it fair for the LORD to strike Uzzah down dead like that?
3. Read Leviticus 10:1-3 and 2 Kings 2:23-24 for two more examples of God’s holiness, anger and judgement in the Old Testament.
4. Some people have interpreted natural disasters such as floods, epidemics and tsunami as God’s judgement on different people. Some even interpreted the Twin Towers terrorist attack as God’s judgement on America’s materialism and greed and their economic and military policies towards the Middle East. How can we know if events on the world stage, or even in our own lives and the lives of people we care about, are actually expressions of God’s anger and judgment? Can we think of any examples of God’s judgment in the modern world? Is God’s judgment ever expressed in such ways any more?
5. Why do you think it is hard for us to believe that God gets angry today? Is it true that the church and preachers have emphasised God’s love and neglected God’s justice and judgment? Read 1 Timothy 6:15-16
6. Read Acts 5:4-5, 9-11 and 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. What do these New Testament passages teach us about the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin?
7. Read Hebrews 12:28-29. Is there enough “reverence and awe” in churches today? Why do you think this is sometimes lacking? What should we do (if anything) to regain this understanding of God as Holy?
8. Read 2 Samuel 6:1-11 again, with pauses for prayerful reflection between verses grouped as 1-2, 3-4, 5, 6-7, 8, 9, 10-11. Meditate on the anger of our Holy God.
David and Michal 2 Samuel 6:12-23
1. Invite the Group to describe the most joyful worship occasion they have ever attended. Remind them that “joyful” does not necessarily mean the same as “noisy” or “lively”.
2. Read 2 Samuel 6:12-23. In how many different ways did David express his joy and celebration? (Don’t overlook the sacrifices, or the bread and cakes!)
3. Why do you think David’s wife Michal “despised him in her heart” when she saw David making an exhibition of himself? Have we ever been present at worship where in our judgment people went “over the top”? What feelings did we have on that occasion?
4. What was David’s defence when Michal criticised him? (See verses 21-22.) Look also at Jesus’s defence of Mary’s “over the top” intimate worship in Matthew 26:6-13.
5. In the Bible we find more than 20 references to worshipping God by dancing. See e.g. Psalm 30:11; 87:7; 149:3; 150:4. Why don’t we dance in worship? Indeed, why do we use our bodies so little in worship? e.g. Why don’t we kneel to pray? Should we change?
6. Our last study looked at God’s holiness and His righteous anger. This story is a dramatic contrast – it looks at the joy of worshipping the living God! And it is not insignificant that the two stories come back to back in the same chapter! How can we maintain the right balance in our worship between reverence and awe and at the same time joy and celebration and “dancing before the Lord with all our might”.
7. In our worship culture we tend towards the extreme of awe and reverence rather than the extreme of wild celebration. Why do you think English Christians are often so reserved (inhibited?) in their worship? What could we do to change this? Should we?
David and Bathsheba 2 Samuel 11:1-27
1. Read round 2 Samuel 11 1:27. How many of the 10 commandments did David break? Which sin was the worst? Should David take all the blame – was Bathsheba blameless?
2. Retrace David’s actions (the outline may help) and identify points at which he could have made different choices. What could David have done differently to escape the traps of sin?
3. The Old Testament often gives us examples of sins to avoid. What does this story about David teach us about our own battles with temptation?
4. David let himself be in a place where he could be tempted. What should we do to avoid ending up in places where we could be tempted? Read 1 Corinthians 10:11-13
5. When temptation came along, David pursued the sin! When faced with the “first glimpse” of temptation, how should we react? How can we avoid chasing after sin as David did?
6. Invite (but don’t pressure) the Group to share areas in which they are prone to temptation. Pray for each other in the temptations we struggle with and our “besetting sins”.
The downward spiral into the swamp of sin! David neglects his responsibilities (v 1). Wrong place wrong time (v 2) and a first glimpse (v2) then David pursues the temptation (v3) and makes an opportunity for sin (v 4). Sexual Immorality (v 4) David tries to cover his tracks(v 8-9) tries to get Uriah drunk (v 13) and arranges for him to be killed (v 14-17) but God is not happy! (v 27).
David and Nathan 2 Samuel 12:1-25
This evening we see the Holy God challenge and punish David for his sin with Bathsheba. There is an obvious theological and moral difficulty in the heart of this story – God punishes the parents through the death of their baby in verse 14ff. We could argue that the Israelites had a more primitive understanding of the nature of God, but the interpretation of the tragic events as God’s punishment is made explicit by Nathan the prophet in verse 14, and the narrator specifically states that God struck down the child in verse 15. Tricky!
That theological problem is very challenging, but the lessons from the first half of the passage about conviction of sin are so important that I don’t think we can miss the passage out. What I do suggest is that after question 4 on godly sorrow and question 5 on the value of confession you move on very quickly to question 6 on God’s forgiveness. I suggest you DO NOT ATTEMPT to wrestle with the issue of whether God’s actions in this passage were just and fair.
1. Begin the study by recapping the story so far, either yourself or by encouraging the group to remind each other. You may wish just to focus on last week’s study on David and Bathsheba, which is the essential background for tonight’s study, or else looking at the whole series, reminding yourselves particularly of May 2/3 “God looks at the heart” and of June 20/21 “David and the Ark”, as well as “David and Bathsheba”.
Read 2 Samuel 11:27 to remind yourselves of God’s anger with David’s sins.
2. Read 2 Samuel 12:1-25. Ask the Group to put themselves into David’s shoes and say how they think David would have FELT, and what kind of thoughts would have been in David’s MIND, when Nathan confronted him, “You are the man!”
3. Read again 2 Samuel 12:13. We give that experience David had the label of “conviction of sin”. Can you think of any other individuals in the Bible who had similar experiences? Look in context at the following verses: Luke 5:8; Mark 14:72; Isaiah 6:5; Jonah 3:6-10; Matthew 27:4; Acts 9:5-6; 1 Kings 21:19.
4. Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-10. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation. Would you say that some kind of an experience of “conviction of sin” or “godly sorrow which brings repentance” is an ESSENTIAL part of salvation?
5. The introduction to Psalm 51, which is part of the ancient text but not necessarily understood as part of Holy Scripture, says “For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.”
Read Psalm 51:1-19. What elements in the Psalm link it to the events of 2 Samuel 12? Would you say that confession is an ESSENTIAL part of salvation? What are the blessings of confession? How important is it that David made his confession to Nathan, and that we make our confession (of “serious sins” or “besetting sins” at least) to another human being as well as to God?
6. Read 1 Samuel 12:24-25. Despite everything she and David did, Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon and consequently the ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ. What does that fact teach us about God’s grace and forgiveness?
7. You may like to use Psalm 51, or alternatively Psalm 32 on the blessings of confession and forgiveness, as a basis for meditation.
Celebrating Communion in Home Groups: an extra study
Do this in remembrance of me Matthew 26:17-30
1. Ask members of your group to share which has been the most memorable or significant occasion celebrating communion for them, and why.
2. Read Matthew 26:17-30. What are the blessings which members of your group look for and receive at the Lord’s Table?
You may then like to look at two or three of the following questions.
3. When Jesus said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19; Mk 14:22; Matt 26:26) what did He mean? What does it mean to members of your group as they receive the bread and the wine?
It would be unprofitable to argue about which understanding of the Lord’s Supper is correct or most Biblical. Roman Catholics believe in “transubstantiation” – the bread actually becomes Christ’s body. Lutherans believe in “consubstantiation” – Christ’s body is literally present but unseen because it is hidden “in with and under” the bread. Non-conformists (including most Baptists) interpret Christ’s words as pure symbolism – “this bread represents my body.” However it will be much more helpful today to learn from each other how God blesses each one at the Lord’s Table than to dwell on “the correct meaning” and significance of the bread and the wine. Save that debate for another occasion.
4. Read together (or let the Leader summarise) the Passover story in Exodus 12:1-30. In what ways does Communion echo (and replace) the Jewish Passover?
5. When we talk about the New Covenant in the blood of Christ, what does this mean? Answer: A Covenant has two sides. 1. God’s promises of forgiveness by grace on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross, and all the other blessings of salvation. 2. Our response of repentance, faith and obedience. We break the bread and drink the wine to claim God’s promises afresh and renew our promises in return.
6. Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) This has clear echoes of Isaiah 53:4-12. Spend a while discussing or meditating on this passage.
You could then lead on from the study above to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as follows.
Time of praise and worship in song or prayer.
The “Words of Institution” from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (or 23-29) or Matthew 26:26-30.
Prayers of confession and repentance e.g. as below, introduced by 1 John 1:8-9.
Almighty God, my heavenly Father,
I have sinned against you and against your children, my brothers and sisters,
in thought and word and deed, in the evil I have done and the good I have not done,
through ignorance, through weakness, through my own deliberate fault.
I have wounded your love, and marred your image in me.
I am sorry and ashamed and repent of all my sins.
For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, who died for us, forgive me all that is past,
and lead me out from darkness to walk as a child of the light, in newness of life,
to the glory of Your Name. AMEN
Prayers of thanksgiving for the bread and the “wine”.
Breaking the bread and passing around the cup.
Prayers for individuals in need, for the church and for the world.