Locating Your Place in God’s Story

Resources for a Three-Part Summer Series

Introduction

This short sermon series was originally conducted at Wolf Creek Community Church and then preached at a weekend family camp. For many of us, summer is a time to slow down, and when it comes to the local church, summer is often a time for certain ministries to take a break, allowing more time for rest and reflection. For me, summer is a great time for stories—reading books and hearing people’s stories as we connect with family and friends on vacation. This got me thinking about Jesus’ story in the gospels and how it intersects with our own stories. In this series I invite you to reflect on your story and even more on God’s story as we look to Jesus. You might be surprised where your story intersects with his.

Series Objectives

The objectives of this summer series are to help us reflect on the present state of our hearts; to help us discern where we need help and healing in our lives and to pray for healing; and to review Jesus’s call to discipleship and (re)commit our lives to following Jesus.

Week One

Scripture
Mark 4:1–20

Sermon
“Four Soils, Four Hearts”

Sermon Notes
This parable is about the power of God’s Word to penetrate our hearts. At the same time, it is a parable that invites us to reflect on the state of our hearts. As we examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word, where do we see ourselves? Perhaps we have experienced each soil at some point in our lives. However, as I reflect on this parable in light of our Western culture, I see a lot of “thorns”—“the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word” (v. 19). We live in a very distracted age. How can we help our people to stop and focus long enough to receive the Word? Happily, as we do that, the soil of our hearts will become soft and fertile, and we will begin to see God’s Word grow in our hearts. Thanks be to God!

Questions for Reflection

  • What “soil” best describes you?
  • How would you describe your walk with God right now?

Service Suggestion
A children’s lesson in which this parable is told with samples of each kind of soil.

Song Suggestions
Song for Illumination: “Ancient Words” DeShazo, LUYH 762
Song of Response: “When We Walk with the Lord” Sammis, LUYH 327, SSS 636, PsH 548
Blessing: “My Friends, May You Grow in Grace” Meaney and Diamond, LUYH 938, SSS 704

Week Two

Scripture
Mark 6:45–56; 10:46–52

Sermon
“Jesus, Our Helper and Healer”

Sermon Notes
In this sermon I try to cover a lot of ground. Feel free to treat the two passages separately, making this a four-part series. But I think Jesus as helper and Jesus as healer go together quite well. In the story from Mark 6, the disciples are straining at the oars, laboring to cross the lake, fighting against the wind. Can you picture it? Sometimes we can relate to the disciples in this regard. We are pushing hard at home, work, or in ministry—so hard that we grow weary and we wonder if we are going to make it. But just when we think we can’t row any more, Jesus shows up to help us, saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” And we are strengthened for another day of life and ministry. Similarly, in Mark 10, we see blind Bartimaeus begging at the side of the road. Perhaps you also feel blind or disabled in some way. Maybe you can’t see the way forward, or you don’t know which way to go in terms of a decision you are facing. Bartimaeus was humble enough to ask for help. When he heard that Jesus was coming, he sensed an opportunity. And happily, Jesus heard his call for help and listened. Whatever our trouble, we are encouraged to call out for help and trust that Jesus will have mercy on us.

Question for Reflection

  • Where do you need Jesus’ help and/or healing?

Service Suggestion
Invite people to come forward and receive prayers for healing. See “A Prayer for Healing in Relationships.” Haupt, LUYH 304

Song Suggestions
“Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer” Becker and Getty, LUYH 660, SSS 345
“Healer of Our Every Ill” Haugen, LUYH 303, GtG 795, SSS 339
“Mighty to Save” Morgan and Fielding, LUYH 611

Week Three

Scripture
Mark 8:27–9:1

Sermon
“Following Jesus”

Sermon Notes
After softening the soil of our hearts through the receiving of God’s Word, and after receiving God’s healing and help, we have become convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. As the Messiah, Jesus has the right and privilege to call us to follow him, which he does in this passage. But as we learn in this story, the way of discipleship is difficult. In fact, it will lead to suffering and even death. And that is the point: death to self—not necessarily physical death (although some have been martyred for the faith), but certainly spiritual death. Jesus calls us to come and die to ourselves so that we can experience a new life in him. This means saying no to our sinful desires and to living to please ourselves, and saying yes to living for Jesus. As we take up our crosses and follow him, we will experience eternal life now and later. Thanks be to God!

Questions for Reflection

  • What are you looking forward to or dreading in the near or distant future?
  • Will you follow Jesus? What does that look like in your daily life? If it’s close to the start of the school year, encourage students to reflect specifically on how they can be Christ’s disciples at school.

Service Suggestion
End the sermon series with a “coming forward” style of communion—a practical application of Jesus’ call to discipleship.

Song Suggestions
“Will You Come and Follow Me” Bell, LUYH 742, GtG 726, SSS 598
“Just as I Am, Without One Plea” Elliott, LUYH 627, GtG 442, SSS 500
“Here I Am, Lord” Schutte, LUYH 869, GtG 69, SSS 608

Rev. Leon H. Johnston is a pastor and director of faith formation at Neerlandia Christian Reformed Church in Alberta, Canada.