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Smyth and Helwys Uniform Series Lesson Outline for December 14, 2014

Make a Joyful Noise          Psalm 95: 1-7a

Focal Outline:           Psalm 95: 1-2             A joyful noise!

                                    Psalm 95: 3-5             Creation testifies

Psalm 95: 6-7a           God’s Son

 

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. The psalmist reminds us that we have reason to rejoice, and that our worship should include that joy!
  2. The worship experience of Psalm 95 is not just about jubilant spirit. Community/connection is presumed.
  3. If worship is to be a priority for us, then we will have to push back against distractions.
  4. God guides and shepherds our lives. God cares about us. Give thanks and worship God with a sincere heart!

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. What are some of the reasons we have for rejoicing that make God worthy of our worship?
  2. In a corporate worship experience, even a more formal one, how can we connect with others around us?
  3. What are some distractions that can keep me from worship? What distractions come to me during worship?
  4. Next time you worship, how might you let your own sense of “praise” heighten that experience?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

 

How do you feel during worship? That is just one of the central issues that our text this week evokes. We acknowledge the obvious diversity of students who will share this lesson across our churches. Some of those congregations employ more contemporary styles of worship, while others may use liturgy and tradition in staid and meaningful ways. Some will resist any talk of “feelings,” insisting that Spirit or thought are more central to their worship. Still, one can’t help noticing the “joy” and energy that drives this text!

O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Thanksgiving is at the heart of this scripture. So, let pose the question again in this way: how often do you feel thankful as you worship? How often are you in touch with all that God has done that makes life possible? How often do you respond with gratitude and joy in the presence of God?

If you are like me the answer might be, “Not nearly as often as I should be.” I am busy during worship. I am looking to see who is missing. I am looking to see who is there. I am evaluating how well I think the choir sang or whether the Offertory pray-er (whom I enlisted) is actually there and ready. All too often thankfulness, gratitude, encouragement and relief are not what I show up ready to offer God. I offer busy. How about you? We are so busy telling each other that God will take us as we are—that we forget the Holy One still deserves better. In reality, God wants my joy. I think that’s what God wants, along with a word of praise!

 

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. How do you usually feel during a worship service? This challenging question comes during this week’s lesson (p117) Emphasis is on the word feel, of course. Enjoy the discussion and see where this leads.

 

  1. How does your faith community gather for worship? Asked another way– how would you describe the personality or feel of your church’s worship? Where does community or connection fit in worship?

 

  1. Have you ever had the responsibility for daily care of an animal or pet? Our lesson writer suggests that this experience is analogous to God’s shepherding of us. What do you think? Why?

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p107 of your Uniform Teaching Guide. Enjoy this discussion, especially focusing on the role of the Psalms in our worshipping lives.

 

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Locating the Text” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the Focal Passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

Psalm 95: 1-2                        A joyful noise!

How would you describe the mood of v1, beyond the words themselves? What are two assignments we should take up in v1? What more should we do in worship, as found in v2?

           

            Psalm 95: 3-5             Creation testifies

V3 begins to answer the “why?” question. How so, as you read this verse? How do v4-5 substantiate this further? What perspective should we take away from this?

 

Psalm 95: 6-7a           God’s Son

V6 gives us something specific to do. What do you believe that is? What does this posture of “bowing” down suggest about our approach? Again, how does v7 further testify as to “why?”

2. On p119 (lrg. print) our lesson writer says, “Fear kept me from fully enjoying God’s handiwork. Is anything keeping you from worshiping God? Is worship a priority for you?” In an observation and two questions here, what challenges to self-evaluation do you feel from this?

 

  1. How does Ps 24: 3-4 relate to this passage?   How about 1 Chron 16: 7-15?

 

  1. On p121 our lesson author says “How might the experience of caring for an animal help you better understand the image of God as our Shepherd? Like the animals in our care, we rely on God to nourish and sustain us.” What could you do with this Shepherding/caring image the next time you worship God?

 

  1. In the Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour leads with a powerful story about a 4 yr-old girl in worship. Then on p75 he asks, “What is proper behavior in worship?”   At the very top of p76, see one qualifier for this “praise” we are to offer (there is no one way or action). On p76, why should be thankful or joyful? On p77, how should worship affect our lives? See “Conclusion” on p78 for 3 reminders that Psalm 95 gives us.

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the questions…

  1. a. Ask God to show you what you can do to experience a greater sense of joy in worship.
  2. Pray for the commitment to find small reasons for joy even in difficult times.

 

  1. Read 1 Chron 16: 7-15. Reflect on the deeds that God has done in your life, and in the lives of your family and friends. Come to worship expectant and aware of how you can offer God genuine thanks!

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p111 in the Uniform Teaching Guide. What can we do to keep our worship fresh without losing focus on God?
 Uniform 12-14-14

Smyth and Helwys Uniform Series Lesson Outline for December 21, 2014

Glory to God in the Highest                 Luke 2: 8-20

Focal Outline:           Luke 2: 8-9                An audience; a messenger

                                    Luke 2: 10-14                        Good news of great joy!

Luke 2: 15-20                        Let us go and see

 

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

  1. Christmas as we celebrate today can often bear little resemblance to the quiet and surprise of the first one!
  2. God sharing this news with the lowly Shepherds was a powerful sign of a new order.
  3. The shepherds reacted with curiosity and acceptance. Their example should challenge our faiths.
  4. In the midst of the all the joy and adoration, Mary offers us a model of quiet reflection.

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)  

  1. What are some of the reasons we have for rejoicing that make God worthy of our worship?
  2. What can we learn from God using the Shepherds as a humble audience for this good news?
  3. How are the Shepherds’ reactions (curiosity and acceptance) held up as healthy challenge to us?
  4. We have something to learn from the brief mention of Mary’s spirit. What is that lesson?

 

Points to Ponder

[NOTE: These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented. Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants. Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

 

Already, this is the fourth Sunday of Advent. Can this be? Christmas day is straight ahead. The Christmas that surrounds so many of us is alive with imagery! Lights blink and beckon. Decorations bring smiles to our faces and songs guide joy into our hearts. But, admittedly the schedule can get a little challenging. The hustle of a busy Christmas can leave us breathless. The strangled feeling of “How will we manage all of that?” or “What am I forgetting?” also accompanies the season—if we allow.

Let this text tune the heart of your spirit to a much simpler, quiet setting. For on that first Christmas, some of the lowest employees on the organizational chart were tending their flocks by night. The shepherds were there and doing their jobs. They had packed their dinner and figured this night would be like any other. Then, news arrived! Great news, in fact. News that left them no alternative but to respond, for the glory of the Lord shone on them. And, they moved into that first Christmas guided by their Wonder.

You have a few days left. How can you carve out enough space—enough peace and quiet—to allow the glory of the Lord to shine on you? God has a fresh word for us. God wants better for us than to simply survive another hectic Christmas season. No, the hope of Advent is far deeper than that. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (v11) This is news that urges a response from any and all of us. In Isaiah 63: 20, the prophet made this plea: O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down. Here is the best news– God did just that! Prepare your heart, for the Lord awaits.

 

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes – These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

  1. How do you usually feel during a Christmas Eve worship service? This is a variation on last week’s opening question. Still yourself and reflect. Then, enjoy the discussion and see where this leads.

 

  1. What is your favorite Christmas tradition? This could be something you do personally. Or, a family or workplace custom. What is one thing that tunes your spirit to the Holy One during Advent?

 

  1. How do you typically respond when you hear news that is too strange or too wonderful to be true? Do you dismiss immediately? Do you investigate? Do you trust? Share within your group; celebrate the diversity!

 

  1. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p114 of your Uniform Teaching Guide. Enjoy this discussion, focusing on the memorable characters of Luke 2 that make this story come alive.

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes – See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

  1. Share an overview of the Lesson from “Locating the Text” (Teaching Guide ) and then examine the Focal Passage using a variety of teaching methods…

 

Luke 2: 8-9               An audience; a messenger

What meaning do you make of the shepherds being the first audience depicted as receiving the good news in v8? Why might God have chosen them? In v9, what is it about the “glory of the Lord” that is terrifying?

           

            Luke 2: 10-14                        Good news of great joy!

What reason did the messenger offer for why they should not be afraid, in v10-11? How many important points can you count in this news from v10-11? Why did they need a sign? What else about God did this sign communicate? What are some responses to God’s grace that we find suggested in v13-14?

 

Luke 2: 15-20                        Let us go and see

What can we learn from the shepherds’ responses in v15-16? (haste; belief; action) What else did the shepherds do in v17? (told) How would you characterize Mary’s response? Why do you believe this detail is included in the story?

2. On p125 (lrg. print) our lesson writer says, “In James 2:5, James writes, ‘Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?’” What are some ways we can be poor? What does it mean to be rich in faith? What does it mean to love God?

 

  1. How does Jas 2: 5 relate to this passage?   How about 1 Chron 16: 35-36?

 

  1. On p127 our lesson author says “The shepherds could have responded to the angel’s message in several ways. One is denial…or they could have approached the news with skepticism.” What are some of the other ways they could have reacted? What might have been some other acceptable responses?

 

  1. In the Uniform Commentary, Brian Harbour offers a story with a surprise ending (and a strong application!) as we start. On p79-80, what is “that region” and who are the players? On p80, how does a Savior differ from a Messiah or a Lord? See p81 for only 3 NT occasions when angels “sing.”

 

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes – Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the questions…

  1. a. Read James 2: 5. Ponder how God has chosen the humble for spiritual riches.
  2. How can the shepherds’ story encourage us toward more even treatment of others around us?

 

  1. In Luke 2: 8, we see unmistakably that God is at work in new and surprising ways. Pray that the same God who surprised the shepherds, and all around, will awaken your heart with a fresh word this Advent!

 

  1. See “Applying the Lesson” on p119 in the Uniform Teaching Guide. How does God’s sense of timing give hope to your own waiting in life?

 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!

 

Bo Prosser, series editor, is the Coordinator for Organizational Relationships at CBF in Atlanta.

Charles Qualls, session writer, is Associate Pastor at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta.

 

Copyright SS Helps 2014            All references to Smyth and Helwys literature are used by permission of the Publisher.

All materials used are available through Smyth & Helwys Publishing,www.helwys.com, 800-747-3016.

 

Send Comments to:        Center for Christian Education ATTN: Gail Prosser e-mail – gail24@comcast.net

2511 Summeroak Dr. Tucker GA 30084 phone: (770)493-6648

 Uniform 12-21-14