Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Set-up:

  • You will need as many different spaces for meeting as there are small groups.
  • For each space, create circles with chairs, or have the group meet around a table.
  • For the first session, have a list prepared for who is which small group, and where that small group will be meeting. It is very important that these groups be consistent each week; if there will be people dropping in and out, create a catch-all small group for those folks.
  • Optional: set up devotional helps. This may be a candle, a cross, an icon, or something else that will remind the group that their time together is blessed by God. They may be placed in the center of the table or in some other visible place.
  • A written agenda that gives time allotments, i.e. Gathering Prayer 5 minutes, Check-In 20 minutes.
  • Space to worship together after the small groups meet.

Agenda for Wednesday Evenings:

  • Meal together (at least 30 minutes before start of program; do not try to eat and do small groups at the same time)
  • Gathering Prayer in Large Group (5 minutes)
  • Check-in in Small Groups (20 minutes)
  • Small Group Activities/Conversations (50 minutes)
  • Check-out in Small Groups (5 minutes)
  • Worship in Large Group (10 minutes)

Needed materials:

  • Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John prayer journals for each participant.
  • Books of Common Prayer for each participant. Hymnals optional.
  • A bible for use during worship.
  • Newsprint and markers.
  • Writing utensils for participants.

Learning outcomes:

  • Participants will be able to articulate what it means to be a friend of Jesus.

Gathering Prayer (Large Group):

A parish leader invite participants to be seated comfortably. Invite participants into a period of silence. You may wish to keep silence for 1-4 minutes. If your participants are unused to long periods of silence, you may wish to start with one minute this week and progressively lengthen the silence by 30 seconds each week. However long is decided, the leader should let the group know how long it will be, and that she is keeping time. At the end of the silence, pray this or another suitable prayer:

Jesus, loving Shepherd of my soul, grant that, as we observe and reflect on the friendships your disciples enjoyed with you, we may, like them, be drawn closer to you in love. And 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.

  • How has someone been a friend to you this week? How have you been a friend to someone else this week?
  • 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:

For I Have Called You Friends:

In this small group activity, participants will think about friendships that are important to them.

Invite participants to think about a friend who they haven’t spoken to in a while. Invite participants to create a card, or take a pre-made card and write a note to their friend, telling their friend what their friendship means to them, and how that friend has changed their life for the better. Encourage participants to address the envelope and send it to their friends.

After the cards are completed, invite participants to jot down (or discuss) what they might write in a card like that to Jesus. How has Jesus been a good friend? What are they grateful for in their relationship with Jesus?

For Abide in Me:

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.

For more options for small group activities, be sure to check out the Teen, Young Adult and Older Adult curricula.

Small Group Conversation:

Small group conversation time is the heart of your work together as 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 [link).

Here are some questions to get your conversation started. You may move through all of them, or get stuck in 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. Because these questions are based on the experience of the Living God, they are 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:

I Have Called You Friends

Describe an ideal friendship. How do friends treat each other? What are some traits that all friendships seem to have in common?

Talk about a meaningful friendship in your life. How did that friendship come into being? How did it help you grow as a person?

How do you imagine Jesus interacting with the disciples? It may help to imagine them walking down the road together. What are they talking about? What are the expressions like on their faces?

Jesus came to regard his disciples as his friends (John 15:14). Does this change how you see your role as a follower of Jesus? How would you act differently toward Jesus if you really believed that Jesus was first and foremost your friend?

Remaining in friendship requires the giving and receiving of forgiveness. After betraying Jesus, Peter had to receive Jesus’ forgiveness for his action (John 21). What is it like to receive forgiveness from a friend? Is it easier to grant forgiveness, or accept forgiveness?

Abide in Me:

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?

Further Discussion:

What is the relationship between being a friend of Jesus and being able to abide in God? Can you do one without the other?

For other discussion questions, be sure to check out the Teen, Young Adult, and Older Adult curricula, weeks four and five.

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 to continue journaling.
  • Remind participants that videos are available online and that they can participate in the social media conversation at #MeetingJesus or on Facebook.

Worship:

About ten minutes before the end of your time together, the groups should come back together. Whoever is responsible for running worship should prepare before worship before the session. Here are some tips and pointers:

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 I Have Called You Friends, we recommend:

  • Scripture: John 15:1-17
  • Hymn: What a friend we have in Jesus! or My Shepherd will supply my need (Hymnal 1982 #664) or Abide in me, fast falls the eventide (Hymnal 1982 #662)
  • Collect: Jesus, loving Shepherd of my soul, grant that, as we observe and reflect on the friendships that your disciples enjoyed with you, we may, like them, be drawn closer to you in love. And 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.  

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.