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Nov 21 04

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“What’s the Goal Here?”

Genesis 1:24-31

Study Guide for November 21, 2004

In one sense, that’s an easy question to answer: The goal is (1) __ __ _____ _______!  Yet, in another sense, that is most (2) _________.  That goal is not only a personal goal, but the goal of the (3) ______ as well.

We can see that goal from the (4) ____________.  We are created in the (5) _______ of God.   When we read about being created in the image of God, we are tempted to think of each individual as a (6) __________ reproduction of God.  In thinking that way, we tend to make God over into our (7) _________ and ___________ selves.  One way of imagining the image and likeness is to think of a (8) _______ and ____. A key does not look like the lock, it is not a scaled down version, but it is made to (9) _______ with the tumblers of the lock. The (10) _______ and __________ of the key is to move within the lock.  People, like keys, are all different.  God is not trying to crank out (11) _______ ______ versions of Christians, but is refining each of us differently as we are each different in personality, temperament and needs.  But the goal is the same: to bring us all to the point that like the key, we fit and mesh with God and move and have our being in him.

So, how do we get there?  Some say by (12) ______, others by (13) ___________ either way it’s about losing ourselves to be found.  Hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26.  There is a great paradox here.  To gain the life that God wants for us, we must (14) _____ __ the life that God gave us.  We must die to self and give our life to God.  Just as the key must give itself to the (15)_____________ to gain entry to the lock, so we must give ourselves to the divine potter and be molded to his image.  There is no (16) ______________ or ____________ here.  We can’t reach that goal any other way.

The first words to Peter from Jesus were: Follow me. Almost the last words of Jesus to Peter were: Follow me.  In between those calls was a whole life of discipleship.  This following of Jesus is not mere (17) ________ the way a Mina bird mimics human speech, but a transforming way that leads us into the life that God is calling us to. 

Paul uses the same imagery when he talks about dying to sin and being raised to new life in our baptism. (Romans 6). The New Testament never lets us get away from the fact that God wills for each of us to be made in the image of Christ. John 15:1-17; Romans 8:29; Philippians 2:5-11; Galatians 4:19; 1 John 3:1-3.

The church is called as well to that image.  The institution of the church is not a place to build personal power bases, not a profit making place to have more money than the other churches in town, but a community of faith to bear the image.  As our communion liturgy reminds us, we are to be for the world what Christ is for us, a (18) __________ community that in its brokenness finds it wholeness and a safe place for others to come and find a place to (19) _______ and then be raised to newness.  The church is not here on earth for itself.  The church is here to bear the image of Christ.  The church is here to extend Christ’s offer of salvation to the world, all else is sinking sand.

To point to all of our talk about stewardship and our prayers, presence, gifts and service is not for the sake of the institution, not for the purpose of maintaining the institution, but for the bearing of the image of God into the world.

It is not only for our (20) ______________ salvation, but for the salvation of (21) ____.

Answers: be like Jesus. 2. difficult. 4. beginning. 5.image. 6. miniature. 7. broken and fallen. 8.lock and key. 9. mesh. 10. destiny and purpose. 11. cookie cutter. 12. dying, 13.surrender. 14. give up.

15. locksmith. 16. substitute or short cut. 17. mimicking. 18. redeeming. 19.die. 20.personal.  21. all.

Monday, November 22, 2004.  Formation.  We talk about formations of people doing the same thing: they were marching in formation.  We talk about a formation of rocks: those huge beds of rocks that have interesting patterns and colors.  We also talk about formation as in the beginning of something: we talk about a child’s formation of personality.  All of those things have something in common: they take time.  Geological formations take millions of years.  Marching in formation takes practice and practice. It is not learned too quickly.  Personality formation starts early in a child and in one sense is fixed pretty early, but change is possible over time.  Where does God begin our formation?  Psalm 139:1-18 gives us the clue and answer: from our beginning. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (v.14).  Where do you see God at work in your formation process?  When do you see God concluding that formation process?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004.  Jeremiah 18:1-6.  While the context of this passage is about bringing judgment on Israel, with the warning to “turn now, from your evil way” the image of the potter is hard to escape.  The potter can shape a lump of clay into any vessel of his choosing.  If the vessel is marred, the potter can start again.  So with us.  We are the clay for the molding hand of God. We are marred, not by the hand of the potter, but by our own sin and brokenness, yet the potter is always looking to remold us. Isaiah 64:8 reminds us: “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  What is God seeking to remold in our lives?  As clay to his hand, are we yielding ourselves to his loving and working hands?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004.  In the book of Galatians, Paul is dealing with a congregation that has decided to go back to some form of Judaism.  They were not sure about Christianity’s ability to save them. Paul speaks some harsh words to them and yet he speaks as a loving parent to them.   He is so concerned they are abandoning Christ for the sake of some form of mental security that is not secure to begin with.  He makes a very personal observation about his work for them: Galatians 4:19-20.  He wants Christ to be formed in them, and it’s almost as if he is giving birth.  What would we look like, spiritually, if indeed Christ was formed in us?  What would we look like to each other and to the world around us?  What would we have to give up for that formation to take place within us?  Are we willing to do that?

Thursday, November 25, 2004.    In our Eucharist service we speak about the elements becoming the body and blood of Christ for us that we might be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.  Think about that phrase.  We are praying that we might be for the world the body of Christ.  What kind of transformation is needed for that to become a reality?  In the Book of Common Prayer, Eucharistic Prayer C there is this line: Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.  The Eucharist is not just a routine we do because that’s what we always do, but a real source of renewal and formation into the image of God. Think about the meaning of the Eucharist is your life and do you allow that to be a time of healing and renewing in your life?  How meaningful would it be to be able to take the Eucharist more often?

Friday, November 26, 2004.   It is common to say to new parents that the baby “looks just like you”.  It thrills the heart of the parent to know that their child is carrying on the family in looks and character.  That is what thrills the heart of God.  In John 14:1-9 Jesus is telling his disciples that he is the way, the truth and the life and that he is going to the with the Father.  Philip ask to be shown the Father.  In reply, Jesus makes that wonderful statement, that if they had seen him (Jesus) they have seen the Father.  Jesus prays later in John 17 that they, the disciples, may be one with him as he is one with the Father.  How is our “oneness” with God going?  Are we still trying to go through the motions without letting it get into us and renew and remake us?  How much are we carrying on the “family resemblance?” 

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