Week Five: Abide in Me

Set-up:

Create a welcoming environment for your small group. Ideally, chairs are arranged around a table, or there are chairs in a circle. However, this depends on where you meet. You may decide to have some kind of devotional help (a reminder that your time together is set apart, such as a candle, cross or icon) or you may not. You may wish to have a written agenda for the evening, and the group expectations visible, although that is also optional.

Needed materials:

  • An extra copy of Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John prayer journal in case a participant forgets his or hers.
  • Books of Common Prayer for each participant, or access to bcponline.org. Hymnals optional.
  • A bible (or smartphone; you can access a free New Revised Standard Version at bible.oremus.org) for use during worship.
  • A big multi-color craft-pack of chenille stems (pipe cleaners), at least 5-7 per participant.
  • Writing utensils for participants.

Learning outcomes:

  • Participants will be able to articulate what it means to abide in God, and the implications of abiding with God in their own life.

Gathering Prayer:

Invite participants to be seated comfortably either around a table or in a circle of chairs. If there is a candle, light the candle. Invite participants into a period of silence. You may wish to keep silence for 1-4 minutes. However long you decide, let the group know how long it will be, and that you are keeping time. At the end of the silence, pray this or another suitable prayer:

Gracious God, the Giver and Sustainer of Life, help us to abide in you, and to let you abide in us, so that your life becomes our lives, and your will our will, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Check-in:

Using the process of mutual invitation as outlined in “Getting Started: Meeting Jesus” begin the check-in process with your group.

  • Did you notice the presence of God within you this week? If yes, what was that like?
  • How was the process of journaling? What surprised you? (N.B. this is a question about process “How did journaling/praying go for you?” not content “What did you journal about?”)

Small Group Activity:

In this small group activity, participants will create vines that remind them of how they are intertwined with God.

Place multi-color packs of pipe cleaners in the middle of the table and invite participants to create vines, branches, and fruit. Encourage participants to use multiple pipe cleaners to create their vines.  When the group is finished, invite them to talk about how they connected the pipe cleaners to one another. How do we bind ourselves to Jesus? How do we foster these connections?

Invite participants to take their “vines” home and put them somewhere their creations will remind them to be connected to God.

Small Group Conversation:

Directed conversation is the heart of a small group. Sharing our personal stories and accounts of faith is only possible in an atmosphere of trust and mutuality. Tips for a fruitful conversation can be found here.

Here are some questions to get your conversation started. It may be that  you move through all of them, or have a deep conversation with the first question you ask. You may choose to ask your own question that speaks to the needs of your group. What matters is that participants are engaged with each other. These questions are based on the experience of the Living God and responses will be unique to each person. There is no right or wrong answers, there is only further discussion and exploration of our relationship with God and one another.

Discussion Questions:

In the introduction to Week Five the brothers write, “A key word in the text is ‘abide,’ and this abiding is, for John, the secret to living in intimate union with God and God’s Son. In Greek, the word here translated as ‘abide’ is also translated as ‘remain,’ but that is not a static word. It does not refer to some lethargic state in which one simply bides one’s time. Rather, there is a slight edge to the word that implies ‘sticking it out’ or ‘hanging in there’ when things get tough.” Can you share a story of a time when you had to stick it out with Jesus? How did hanging in there change your relationship with Jesus?

What qualities are essential for a spirituality of the long haul? What sustains people to be in relationship with God over a lifetime?

What are the ways our culture pushes us away from abiding with God? How do you counteract these influences in your own life?

Jesus says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). What is the connection between bearing good fruit and abiding in Jesus? Why do you think Jesus says this?

How would your life change if you were able to truly know that God lived, abided, dwelled, in you? What would you do more of? What would you do less of? What would this mean for your vocation?

Check-out:

Invite group members to share feedback with each other by using one of these prompts:

  • Where did the group have a lot of energy? Where was the energy lacking?
  • Where did you feel close to God? Where did you feel far away from God?
  • Where did you meet Jesus in your session today?
  • Where did you see light from the Holy Spirit?
  • What did you notice about our time together?
  • [If short on time!] Please describe our time together in one word.

Housekeeping details:

  • Remind group members that they will start with Week Six Day One in their journal tomorrow. The theme of the upcoming week is We Declare to You.
  • Remind participants that videos are available online, and that the social media campaign will be starting if they would like to participate online.  
  • Ask for a volunteer to lead worship next week, if this hasn’t already been decided.
  • If there is a meal or refreshments, remind the group of their decisions regarding food and clean-up, or ask for volunteers.

Worship:

Worship is the time we give thanks to God for all the gifts of our life and for our time together. Because Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John is a gift of the Society for Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic order in the Episcopal church, we recommend using the Daily Office, which is a cornerstone of monastic life.

Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families, found on pages 136-140 of the Book of Common Prayer, offers a wonderful and simple framework for your prayer time together. You may choose to use the recommended psalms and readings found in the BCP; supplement with our recommended readings; prayers and songs; or choose your own. Hymns may be sung a capella, or read as poetry. Be sure to make time for prayer intercessions, and encourage the group to pray for one another and loved ones.

For the week of Abide in Me, we recommend:

  • Scripture: John 15:1-11
  • Hymn:  Abide in me, fast falls the eventide (Hymnal 1982 #662)
  • Collect: Gracious God, the Giver and Sustainer of Life, help us to abide in you, and to let you abide in us, so that your life becomes our lives, and your will our will, to the glory of your Name. Amen.  

If your group is meeting in the evening, you may also wish to use the service of Compline, found on page 127. This is a brief, beautiful, and very popular service.

Your worship leader may wish to do something more creative or context-specific, like use another liturgy, lead a meditation, invite participants into silence, lead participants in song, or use prayer beads together. There are many other ways to worship God. Taking into consideration the theme for the week, we invite you to explore what that might look like together.