BLOWING THE LID OFF THE GOD-BOX
Prepared by Rev. Sandy Rehe
Prelude: “Be Not Afraid”
1. Do you agree with the statement on page xi that fear is our typical response to the unexpected and the unknown? Ho much do fear and anxiety interfere with issues in our church or in our personal lives?
2. In your faith journey, how has God done something unexpected?
3. What do you believe it takes to get into heaven?
4. How does God intrude in your day-to-day life?
5. In what unexpected places or in what unexpected forms have you seen Jesus?
6. On page xiii there are three questions in the third paragraph. What do you think God is going to do?
7. When have you heard God say to you, “Be not afraid”?
8. What delightful surprises might God have for this church?
9. What Bible verses or stories come to mind as you think about what you have read?
Chapter 1: “In the Beginning”
1. On pages 1 and 2, Anne shares her beginnings in the faith. Take time to write down your story of growing up in the faith or outside it.
2. Have you ever sensed God calling you to do something? How did you experience God’s call? How did you respond?
3. What is your experience of salvation? Have you always been saved as Anne describes or can you point to a specific time when you made a decision to follow Jesus?
4. Do you agree (p. 5) that “beginnings” begin with night? Do we have to go through darkness before we see the light of a new day? How might this apply to our church?
5. Pages 6 and 7 talk about idols and idolatry. What have been some of the idols in your life (we all have them), things that have held central place in your life?
6. Consider what sins you may need to confess to God, knowing that you will be forgiven.
7. What Bible verses or stories does the phrase “in the beginning” bring to mind?
Chapter 2: “So What’s a God-Box?”
1. Think about your theology (our data and theories about God). What have been your experiences of God? What do you believe about who God is and how God behaves? Where did these beliefs come from? Remember that others may have very different experiences and beliefs. “Now we see only as through a dim and dark glass.” Could it be you all are partially correct?
2. Have you ever been in a church which was sure it had the whole truth and that anyone who disagreed was wrong? What is the atmosphere in such a church?
3. When have you had a sense of God’s power as Anne describes on page 12?
4. How important is Christian community (the church family) to you?
5. Have you ever been afraid of God as Barbara (page 13) was? Where did you learn the fear?
6. Think about the metaphor of the God-Box. What things have you thrown out of the box—things you used to believe? What things have changed? What have you added recently?
Chapter 3: “In the Image of God”
1. On page 19 Anne suggests that we need images to help us imagine the Unimaginable. Stop now and write down every image of God you can think of, as in “God is like…”
2. We pray “Our Father” every Sunday. How is God like a father to you?
3. In what ways is God more “mother-like”? Look up the following passages for maternal images of God in Scripture: Deut. 32:18, Job 38:38-39, Isa. 66:13.
4. Do you experience Jesus as a friend? What about lover?
5. Why is the image of Lord important to our faith? What does it mean for our lives and for our church to say that Jesus is our Lord?
6. Jesus said he came as one who serves. What does that mean for us and for the church?
7. Look at some of the Biblical images listed in the created order. How is God like each of them? Look some of them up in the Bible. Which are most meaningful for you?
8. What does it mean to you to be created in the image of God?
Chapter 4: “Sola Scriptura”
1. How does God speak to you through the words of the Bible?
2. Think about the difference between something being “true,” (that is, imparting truth) and being “factual.” Do you believe that every word of Scripture is meant to be interpreted literally?
3. What does it mean to you that Jesus is “the Word made flesh”?
4. When have you turned to Scripture with a specific question and found an answer?
5. In what other ways (besides Scripture) do you believe God speaks to us?
6. When we believe God is speaking to us, how can we be sure it really is God?
7. Does it trouble you that there are contradictions in the Bible? Why or why not?
8. Pages 34 and 35 describe the Wesleyan “quadrilateral.” Which of the four things is most important to you? Which is least? When and how have you used the quadrilateral to make a decision? How might we use it in deciding the future of this church?
9. Anne writes that all prayers are answered: sometimes “yes,” sometimes “no,” “maybe,” or “not yet.” When have you been aware that God was answering your prayer but not in the way you hoped or expected?
10. Anne’s most comforting Scripture passage is “God is love.” What passages are most important to you personally? What passages come to mind when you think about this church, its current situation, and its future?
Chapter 5: “Who Then Can Be Saved” Part I: pages 40-50
1. What do you think about deathbed conversions?
2. Who do you know or know about who seems beyond forgiveness?
3. What do you think about salvation for those of other religions or even atheists?
4. At the bottom of page 42, Anne writes that we can be assured of our own salvation. What does it mean to you to be “saved”? How do you know that you are saved?
5. At the top of page 43 Anne writes, “I share my faith because it transformed my life, and held me up when all else has let me down.” How has your faith transformed your life? How has it kept you going when all else failed?
6. Read the little
book of Jonah. Who are the people from
7. On page 44, Anne writes about salvation by faith or by works. Which do you believe is more important: faith/believing in Jesus or works/deeds of justice and mercy?
8. Read Matthew 19:16-30 in your Bible. According to this passage, what is necessary for salvation? In what sense does eternal life begin here on earth?
9. Read Luke 10:25-37 in your Bible. How would you answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
10. Read Matthew 24:45-51, Matthew 25:14-30, 31-46; and Micah 6:8 in your Bible. Do you agree with Anne that “works,” (what we do for others) are important? What does this mean for our church?
Chapter 5: “Who Then Can Be Saved?” Part II: pages 51-59
Quickly re-read the first half of the chapter.
1. Read John 14:1-11 in your Bible. How does this passage speak to you? What do you think of Anne’s interpretation in the middle of page 52?
2. What does it mean for us and our church if Jesus incarnate in human flesh (our flesh) or Jesus incarnate in the Body of Christ (our church) truly is the way to God?
3. Read John 3:16-21 in your Bible. Does Anne’s argument that Jesus was referring to a particular group of people make sense to you? How does her statement that “God can’t pardon someone who won’t repent” fit with the Ragamuffin Gospel notion that we’re already forgiven?
4. Read Romans 3:21-26 in your Bible. Do you agree with Anne (page 57) that faith in Jesus is related to our behavior? How is the way you live evidence of your faith in Jesus?
5. Read 1 John 4:7-12 in your Bible. How can we in our church show our love for God, for one another, for our neighbor?
6. In question 7 in the last section we asked which you believe is more important, faith or works. How would you answer that question now that you have read the entire chapter?
Chapter 6: “Where Two or Three Are Gathered
1. Before you read beyond page 61, stop and think about worship. What does worship mean for you?
2. On pages 62 and 63, Anne writes about worship services. Where in our services does worship happen for you?
3. Do you think there are idols (page 64) in our worship?
4. What is traditional worship for you? What parts of worship are essential for you?
5. Think about the prayers of confession in worship (if there are any). When you read these prayers do you feel you are really praying or just reading words? Is this true every Sunday? If not, what makes the difference? If so, how might that be changed?
6. Does God ever touch your heart or speak to you during those prayers, through the message, through the hymns, through the reading of Scripture? How could you be more open to the presence of God in worship?
7. How do you feel about “tongues” (pages 66 and 67)? Have you ever spoken in tongues or do you know anyone who does?
8. Think about the ‘best” worship service you ever attended. Why was it so moving, powerful, inspirational? Was it because of the service itself or the way you came to it?
9. What other traditions (page 70) have you experienced? What might we learn from them? Do they offer something that is missing from our worship services?
10. Anne writes that “our national sin is greed” (page 71). Do you agree? Is greed one of your sins? What about the church?
11. Read Matthew 18:20 in your Bible. What does this mean to you? Is Jesus with you in your study group? If Jesus is present in our worship, why do we not feel his presence more strongly or more often?
Chapter 7: “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?”
1. On what current issues are Christians taking sides, each claiming that God is on their side, and that those on the other side are immoral? Where do you stand on these issues?
2. Read Matthew 12:1-8; Matthew 17:27; and John 8:1-11 in your Bible. What might these passages suggest to us?
3. Read Matthew 25:31-46 in your Bible. What does this passage mean to us?
4. How can people who disagree on an issue live and work and worship together?
5. On pages 79 and 80, Anne writes about changing her stance on the issue of homosexuality. On what issues has your stance changed over the years? Why?
6. What do you believe is the true center of the Christian faith? How important is justice (page 81)? How important is doctrine or our beliefs (pages 81-82)?
7. What do you believe about the resurrection? What difference does your belief make in your life?
8. Read Luke 9:24 in your Bible. What does this passage mean to you? What might it mean for our church?
9. How important is the Old Testament to you? How do you believe the “old” and “new” testaments are related (page85)?
10. Read Matthew 22:34-40 in your Bible. Anne writes that the greatest commandment comes from the Hebrew Scriptures. Read Deut. 6;5 and Lev. 19:18 and some of the verses that surround them. In what way does the greatest commandment sum up all of the Hebrew Scriptures? Does it also sum up everything Jesus taught? What does it mean for us and our church?
Chapter 8: “I Believe in the Holy Catholic Church.”
1. Why are we so uncomfortable talking about a holy, catholic church? Have you ever said or heard in Protestant circles, “we can’t do that—it’s too Catholic”? To what was it referring?
2. Why do you think there are so many Protestant denominations?
3. How important is the Lord’s Supper to you? How often do you think we should celebrate Holy Communion?
4. Back on page 61, Anne wrote that “worship is the adoration of God.” Where in the average worship service does such adoration happen? How could our service be more focused on the adoration of God?
5. Is receiving Holy Communion a truly sacred act for you? Would more frequent celebration make it less sacred?
6. On pages 90 and 91, Anne writes about the mystery of the Eucharist. Share with the group a time when the Lord’s Supper touched you in an unexplainable way.
7. Anne writes that the focus of our worship must be God (pages 92 and 93). What do you think is the focus of our worship? Does it have a focus?
8. On page 94, Anne writes that “our tomb today is the church.” In what ways may this be true of us? How do Christians try to keep Jesus in the tomb/church? Why?
9. Anne writes about the “economics of Jesus.” What do you think about her ideas?
10. On page 96, Anne refers to the church as the “resurrection place” where lives are changed. How do you think this happens? When and how has this happened to you?
11. In the last few pages, Anne is preaching passionately. Read from the bottom of page 95 to the end several times. How closely does Anne describe us (page 97)? Have we faced all that is dead about us? Are we grieving, arguing with God, rebelling? Are we finaly ready to offer ourselves and our church to God, to do with as God wills? What do you think this would mean for this church? What is holding us back?