Love is the Way
The questions in this small group guide relate to the sermon from Oct. 18, 2020. If your group has not had a chance to listen to the full sermon related to this discussion guide, they can find it in our sermon library. Bishop Michael Curry preached, with an introduction and conclusion by Rev. Adam Hamilton.
Bishop Michael Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, shepherd of America’s two million Episcopalians. Resurrection invited him to speak as a particularly eloquent voice for the power of love to heal our land amid a racial divide.
The background of the spiritual Bishop Curry sang: the prophet Jeremiah twice spoke of “balm” (not “bomb”!) in Gilead (cf. Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11). “In ancient times, resins were widely used for soothing pain and for healing….Balm was taken from the bark of a tree drop by drop….this word for balsam comes from Gilead in the Transjordan, is one of the main export products of Palestine and is used as medicine. Gilead….has generally been defined as the mountainous region east of the Jordan River….There is strong evidence today that balm was cultivated at En Gedi, located on the west bank of the Dead Sea, as well as at Qumran, located north of En Gedi. Juglets, jars and decanters have been found there that presumably contained balm.” *
Lord Jesus, you told a famous parable that we call “The Good Samaritan” to people who hated their neighbors with a different ethnic background. That story just highlighted your consistent actions that said the “neighbor” you call us to love is not just someone located near us who looks and talks and thinks like we do. You love all the people of this planet, and we invite you to teach us more about how we can love the way you do. Amen.
- In 2018, Bishop Curry and more than one thousand Episcopalians gathered to pray and witness at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. Bishop Curry told the group, “We do not come in hatred. We do not come in bigotry. We do not come to put anybody down. We come to lift everybody up. We come in love. We come in love because we follow Jesus. And Jesus taught us love. Love the Lord your God. And love your neighbor. Love your liberal neighbor. Love your conservative neighbor. Love your Democratic neighbor. Love your Republican neighbor. Love your Independent neighbor. Love your neighbor who you don’t like. Love the neighbor you disagree with. Love your Christian neighbor. Love your Muslim neighbor. Love your Jewish neighbor. Love your Palestinian neighbor. Love your Israeli neighbor. Love your refugee neighbor. Love your immigrant neighbor. Love the prison guard neighbor. Love your neighbor. We come in love. I would submit that the teaching of Jesus to love God and love our neighbor is at the core and the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.” (Curry, Bishop Michael. The Power of Love (pp. 59-60). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.) Do you believe the kind of love the Bishop expressed could truly heal our land?
- Read 1 John 4:7-12. John said the Creator’s love is the ultimate source of our life. That’s why there’s power in love. The Greek word agape was not pop culture’s emotive “luv” (which like all emotions can be transitory). Agape was a chosen attitude. Believers “are not to think that love automatically goes on and on. While in many respects it is self-sustaining, it must also be supported by the exercise of the will….They were not to love them because they were perfect, for they were not perfect…. Love makes allowances. Love tries to help. Love looks at the good people do rather than dwelling on their defects.” ** How can you choose to love in that robust, tough-minded way?
- Read Acts 17:2-8. Bishop Curry wrote about Acts 17, “This movement was perceived as somehow reordering the way things were, ‘turning the world upside down’.…the reason the movement was turning the world upside down was because members of the movement gave their loyalty to someone named Jesus and committed themselves to living and witnessing to his way above all else….The way of Jesus will always turn our worlds and the world upside down, which is really turning it right-side up.” (Curry, Bishop Michael. The Power of Love (p. 75). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.) Opposing people or systems in power will often feel like turning the world upside down. Can you name a time when you opposed a powerful force for principled reasons? What was the outcome? Regardless of the visible outcome, how did doing that affect your inner self? In what ways has Jesus turned your world upside down…or right-side-up?
- Read John 3:3-8. Jesus used the image of a new birth to point to the new quality of life he offered. Bishop Curry has said that the point, the only reason to be born is so that you can live. God wants you to live. The Pharisees (from a Hebrew word that meant “set apart”) opposed Jesus' ministry. Yet Jesus never wrote them all off as “enemies” or “hopeless.” When Nicodemus, a Pharisee, showed even a tentative desire to listen, Jesus responded in love. What does his caring, honest conversation in today’s reading teach you about one aspect of loving your neighbor? How, if at all, are you living in a new way due to God’s presence in your life?
- Read John 13:34-35, 15:9-10. Jesus showed the disciples what one writer called “a triad of love.” The Father loves me, Jesus said. In the same way, I have loved you. Now, as I have loved you, love one another. We often fall short, but this kind of love is willing to do the hard work of binding wounds and working to reconcile. How does it bring you courage to know Jesus’ love for you is rooted in God’s eternal love? How can you live out Jesus' committed, steady love toward all of your neighbors?
- At the end of the service, Pastor Adam said, “I’d like to invite you to be ambassadors of love in a very specific way. I was on a Zoom call two weeks ago with seven area school superintendents. They noted that that they and their staff and teachers were in a challenging period, learning new ways to teach, feeling the frustration of parents, going back to in person classes at a time when the pandemic numbers were rising. They told me their teachers needed encouragement.
We’ve prepared signs that we’ve been installing at our partner schools, and we’d like to put these at the entrances of every school in the Kansas City area. And we’re looking to write notes to each of the teachers at these schools that would like us to. We’re starting with all the schools in the KCMO school district. We’re going to send a handwritten note to 1,300 teachers or more.”
How can you, as individuals and perhaps as a group, help to bless the teachers in our metro community? Click here to sign up to take part in responding to this challenge.
Lord Jesus, heal our anger, and hurt, and brokenness. And make us instruments of your peace, your healing. Amen.
* Zondervan, NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 174044-174050)
** L. L. Morris, article “Love” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997, pp. 697-698.