Ways to engage different ages, spiritual styles and learning preferences
Ideas for a sermon or interactive talk
See also ‘Thought for the week’ to read out in place of a sermon; and 'The week in focus', linking the readings to the news.
- People change direction in life frequently today. Almost no one has a job for life any more; many people have several careers. What does it feel like to retrain and begin a new line of work? Is it exciting, scary or both? How does this experience relate to the story of the disciples abandoning their careers in fishing and following Jesus? Is this a life choice the disciples make, or a response to being chosen by Jesus? What difference does it make if you believe that you’re answering a call from God?
- We often think of hesitancy as a less attractive quality seen in someone unable to make their mind up, whereas careful forethought – assessing and evaluating possible outcomes before making a decision – is a good quality. Do we commend the disciples for their unhesitating commitment to Jesus, or wonder about the impact of their decision on their dependants? What if forethought is the foundation for an unhesitating ‘Yes’ to Jesus? Are Christians called to live their lives in a state of readiness, expecting that the Lord will be at work in our lives in new ways? There is a strong link between unhesitating service and the practice of trusting God from day to day.
- Fishermen have many skills. They need patience and the ability to endure hours in the hot sun or the cold wind. They need to notice the movement of the water that reveals the presence of the fish. They need strength to play a big fish and gentleness to land it. These are all transferable qualities. Sharing God’s message also demands patience and endurance, sensitivity to other people and careful attention to the ways of bringing them into Jesus’ presence. No wonder Jesus spoke about becoming ‘fishers of people’! What about other skills that people have developed over the course of their work and life? How might God make use of these as resources for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ?
- Obedience is not the admired quality in our society that it once was. For some, it is associated with outdated ideas of marriage or the status of a subject or servant. Many people value much more the right to express their own opinions, to challenge the status quo, to protest unjust decisions – and sometimes to be deliberately disobedient. Centuries of Christian protests have attributed this to obedience to a different authority, and one that focuses on justice in a way not always found in worldly powers and authorities. Many people saw Jesus as disobedient for the same reason. He consistently challenged rules and practices. because his obedience was to the authority of God, which transcends human restrictions and flows from love. Where does our obedience lie?
Thought for the week: Can you hear God calling?
Have you ever tried to ignore a ringing phone? Perhaps some of us are more disciplined than others. Perhaps it is easier now that many phones – mobile phones, in particular – show us who is calling before we pick up. But for many people, it is a hard thing to do – and research shows it’s getting harder!
A study in Austin, Texas, showed that simply having their mobile phone in the same room as them made people less effective at a given task. With social media on our phones as well, we can see our friends, their current ‘status’, and their ‘news’ (or is it gossip?). We can see the national news, weather updates, traffic updates. We can access our emails. And much more. And that’s on top of using it as an actual phone to call people – colleagues, friends and family – to speak to them, or receive calls from them.
And that’s all in just one small amazing device. What about all the other demands on our attention and time? How much harder is it to hear God’s voice in our everyday lives, when they are full of so many preoccupations and distractions? Are we expecting God to compete with the other voices in our lives? Should we ask God to speak up?
The disciples were busy when God, through Jesus, called them. They had financial pressures, family pressures and peer pressures pushing them – just as we do. So, the fact that they were able to hear, and to recognise and respond to Jesus’ voice is – at least in part – what marks them out as followers of Jesus. Many others were invited to follow Jesus, or thought about it, but ended up walking away. If we feel that we don’t hear God’s voice in our daily lives, perhaps we need to ask ourselves whether or not we are making enough space in the daily noise to really listen.
A familiar game with a twist
A fun way to illustrate the challenge of distractions.
- Invite two pairs of people to the front to play Pictionary™. Give each pair a pen and a flip chart (or large sheet of paper). Give one of each pair a word (whisper it or pass a slip of paper). Those two people draw something (not words!) to help their partner guess the word. When the correct word is guessed, they reverse roles.
- Start with an easy word (e.g. table or aeroplane), but move quickly to more challenging examples (use things that are relevant or amusing in your context). Play five ‘rounds’ of the game to prevent it running too long.
- While the game is being played, have another person stand behind the two teams reading a few simple sentences in a normal speaking voice – e.g. an address or a historical fact.
- After the five rounds, announce that the winner will be the person/pair who can best remember what was read out behind them while they were playing the game.
Questions for discussion
Listening to Jesus in our daily routine.
The disciples were in their daily routine when Jesus came and called to them. With so much to do, and pressure from others to complete work and make money, it would have been easy for them to have ignored him.
- Where in our daily routine is Jesus speaking to us? Are we missing his voice as we struggle to complete all that is expected of us by family, colleagues and friends?
- If we were to hear him, what would we expect him to say?
- Would we be willing to change what we are doing if he asks us to?
A listening exercise
Explore how we listen to each other and to God.
- Working in pairs, ask one person to talk about a recent holiday or trip out, and the other person actively to convey ‘not listening’ – e.g. avoid eye contact, check phone, look out of the window. After one minute, swap roles. Invite feedback about how it felt to talk without being listened to.
- Now repeat the exercise, but with the listener making an effort to show that they are truly listening. Reflect on how much easier it is to speak when someone is listening. In pairs, discuss how you might indicate that you are listening to God when you pray.
- Agree at least one practical step or action for each person during the coming week. (If circumstances allow, the following week you could check out how this went.)
A simple worship activity
Pray for the week ahead.
- Display a calendar or diary and turn to the page for the previous week. Invite people to recall again the past week (see Gather). Was there any place or time where you felt that you ignored or dismissed God speaking to you?
- Now turn the calendar/diary to the week ahead. Invite people to look ahead and think about people that they will have contact with in the coming week. What problems, anxieties or worries might you be facing? What might stop you from hearing God’s voice?
- Gather these thoughts together and offer them in prayer.
E S A
Two pen and paper exercises – choose one.
Finding time in the daily routine.
- Give everyone a sheet made to look like a page from a ‘day-to-a-page’ diary, and a pen. Invite people to fill in the diary sheet with as much detail about their regular/typical daily routine as they can recall.
- When complete, invite people to look for spaces. That is: where are the times/moments in their day where they can pause and pray, listen to a hymn, read from the Bible or Bible notes?
- Invite them to review how they actually use such times; or if they found none, how they might make some.
Looking for God in everyday decisions.
- Give everyone a small sheet of paper and a pen. Ask them to draw a line down the middle of the paper.
- On the left-hand side, invite them to write down any decisions or commitments they have made recently, and what they hoped to gain from each one (e.g. to lose weight, to make better use of time).
- Next, ask them to think about what following Jesus more closely in daily life might look like in practice, and on the right-hand side, to write down at least one or two achievable resolutions or commitments.
- Take the paper home and review it from time to time.