SPECIAL NOTE: UPCOMING SMALL GROUP SEMESTER BREAK
Beginning the week of November 26 (the week AFTER Thanksgiving), Small Groups will be on a Semester Break. Small Groups will begin again the week of January 14 and run through the week of May 5. During the Semester Break there will be no Small Group Questions written or available. Groups are encouraged to plan & schedule a social gathering during the break (See the Read-Aloud Small Group Tip).
Group Leaders, be sure to communicate your plans for leading in the Winter/Spring Semester.
Group Members, be sure to communicate your plans for participation in the Winter/Spring Semester.
READ-ALOUD SMALL GROUP TIP
A Small Group is only as good as its members. To help you and everyone in the group be great Small Group Members there will be a tip to read aloud & discuss briefly as a group.
TIP: OFFER TO ORGANIZE THE NEXT GROUP OUTING
Planning and preparing for normal group meetings is a big job in and of itself. There’s prepping for the Bible study, making sure everyone has the details for the meeting, cleaning the house, preparing food options, and many other varied details that help make it a great experience for group members.
One way to take some of the load off of the leader/host is by offering to organize a fun outing or a serving/mission opportunity for the group to participate in. This can be a monthly or quarterly event. The leader will appreciate the initiative, and the group will be better for it.
-Is there a special outing or get-together we want to plan or organize during the Semester Break or during the Winter/Spring Session? Who (other than the Group Leader 😊) would be willing to organize it?
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want to have with you and why?
SPECIAL NOTE: Read Mark 7 together as a group. This can be all at once or the group can read the relevant sections of the chapter based on the story or section being discussed.
1. In Mark 7:1-23, Jesus challenges the Pharisees about their traditions and their understanding of what defiles a person. He criticized them for their hypocrisy in neglecting the commandments of God and inner purity for the sake of their traditions and ritualistic practices.
-Are there traditions that you have followed that at one time you thought were biblical that you have changed your mind on? If so, what brought about this change?
-How can we distinguish between essential spiritual practices and mere legalistic traditions in our own faith communities?
-What would you say for you are examples of essential spiritual practices?
-What legalistic traditions have you seen at BCC or other faith communities you’ve been a part of?
-How can we cultivate a genuine and authentic relationship with God, focusing on the transformation of our hearts and minds?
-In what ways do we sometimes prioritize human traditions or rituals over the foundational principles of our faith? How can we guard against this tendency?
2. The Pharisees ask Jesus a question about his disciples eating with ceremonial defiled hands. Jesus doesn’t really answer their question. Instead, he quotes the prophet Isaiah highlighting the danger of honoring God with our lips while our hearts are far from Him.
-Why might Jesus have replied the way he did?
-In what ways can we ensure that our outward expressions of worship genuinely reflect the devotion and reverence of our inner beings?
3. Mark 7:14-23 addresses the defilement that comes from within the heart.
-How can we actively work on purifying our intentions and motivations to reflect the values of the Kingdom of God in our daily lives?
-Reflecting on the healing of the deaf and mute man, how can we use our own unique gifts and abilities to serve others and spread the message of God's love and grace in our communities?
4. The same Jesus who declared all foods clean, thus overturning the Mosaic dietary laws (see Mark 7:19), also said that He had not “come to abolish the Law” (Matthew 5:17). This is the same Jesus who charged the Pharisees with breaking the Law of Moses (Mark 7:9). Discuss how these two views of the Law might be resolved.
5. Mark 7:24-30 records a perplexing interaction between Jesus and a woman from Syrian Phoenicia.
-Why do you think Jesus initially seems hesitant to help the Syrophoenician woman?
-What might this hesitation reveal about Jesus' mission and his relationship with the Gentiles?
-How would you explain Jesus withholding mercy from this woman at first, then his calling her a dog?
-What does this encounter teach us about the nature of faith and persistence in prayer, especially in difficult circumstances?
6. Eric referenced Henri Nouwen in the following quote: “Hospitality wants to offer friendship without binding the guest and freedom without leaving him alone. Hospitality…means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them a space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit. It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to live and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.”
-Before answering the questions below, take time to discuss the quote.
-How could the ideas communicated in this quote reshape or redefine your understanding of hospitality?
-How do we see Jesus modeling hospitality in the interactions with the various individuals in Mark 7?
True hospitality, as Nouwen defines it, as Eric talked about it, and as Jesus modeled it, is creating an environment where someone can be confronted with who you really are (both the good & the bad) while also being received as who they really are (both the good & the bad).
-Have you had an experience of true hospitality? Talk about that.
-Have you had an experience of false hospitality? Talk about that.
-How does Security in the Truth remove pride and open the way to true hospitality?
-How does Humility in the Gospel remove insecurity and open the way to true hospitality?
7. Mark 7:31-37 tells the story of Jesus healing a deaf and mute man.
-How does this miracle illustrate the power of Jesus and the importance of spreading the good news of the Gospel through acts of compassion and healing?
8. The healing of the deaf man takes place in the Decapolis, where Jesus exorcised the demons from the Gerasene man at the tombs in Mark 5.
-How do the events in Mark 7 demonstrate the Gerasene man’s success in telling about what Jesus had done for him?
9. Both Jesus’ interaction with the Syrophoenician woman and the deaf and mute man demonstrate his compassion for those who are marginalized and afflicted.
-How can we, as a group, actively engage with and support individuals in our community who may feel marginalized or voiceless?
10. Jesus often emphasized the importance of faith in his miracles.
-How can we strengthen our faith and trust in God in the face of challenges and trials, knowing that he has the power to heal and transform our circumstances?
-What are ways God brings about healing even when it is not physical or miraculous?
11. The overarching theme in Mark 7 is compassion and inclusivity. We’re also challenged to reevaluate our understanding of purity and holiness in light of Jesus’ teaching on the nature of the human heart.
-How are you challenged to extend grace and acceptance to those who may be considered outsiders in our society and communities?
-How can we actively practice radical inclusivity in our lives as followers of Christ?
-How can we actively pursue inner transformation and spiritual growth to align ourselves with God's standards of righteousness vs. human standards of righteousness/purity?
As a group or individually, pray & ask God to examine your hearts and show you your motivations for right living. Confess any motivations that come from wanting to look good or keep traditions that are contrary to scriptural teaching—and that tend to keep people away from God. Then pray for the discernment to know which traditions are in line with Scripture and which are not.