1. Dismembered


Part 1 of the Spotlight series "Membership is Passing" 
Have you ever had a "I was today years old when I learned __________" moment? That is, have you ever experienced the awkward thrill of learning something that it seems everyone else has known for a long time? 

Once you've broken the ice, get into the idea of this Spotlight with the another question, this one about feeling left out. Use the clip below for this.
(And welcome, by the way! It's great that you're here!)
Hopefully that makes enough sense to get you started.

Pray this prayer to get into it:
Guide us to understand the true meaning of belonging. 
Help us to see beyond the divisions of our world, 
and lead us into the unity you desire. 
Teach us to love as you love, embracing all, excluding none. 
Together, may we find hope for a membership that unites, not divides.
Welcome Perspective: Wanting to belong is natural, but often works against itself. 
That feeling of being left out, of not fitting in - God understands it.

Isaiah 53:3
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Those words were a prophecy (from 400+ years before Jesus was born) about how he would be received by humanity. Sadly, this prophecy came true.

John 1:9–12
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

This problem, wherein humans who desperately need belonging are unable to get along and fit together…it’s universal. Nevertheless, Jesus found comfort and belonging in the very same thing that you can: the unconditional love of the Father for his children.

Here’s a little story to let you think a bit more about our human struggle to fit together. Click the play buttons in order from left to right to hear it.
Respond to this by listening to and reading Luke 7:36-50, in which a woman washes the feet of Jesus while he visits the home of a Pharisee. This is a fascinating story of different people who don’t seem to belong together being in the same place and having very different perceptions of who should and shouldn’t be allowed in the room.

Press play on the audio clip below. You can read along with the story using the text beneath the clip.
Luke 7:36-50
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his home for lunch and Jesus accepted the invitation. As they sat down to eat, 37 a woman of the streets—a prostitute—heard he was there and brought an exquisite flask filled with expensive perfume. 38 Going in, she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping, with her tears falling down upon his feet; and she wiped them off with her hair and kissed them and poured the perfume on them.
39 When Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, saw what was happening and who the woman was, he said to himself, “This proves that Jesus is no prophet, for if God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman this one is!”
40 Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“All right, Teacher,” Simon replied, “go ahead.”
41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—$5,000 to one and $500 to the other.42 But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both, letting them keep the money! Which do you suppose loved him most after that?”
43 “I suppose the one who had owed him the most,” Simon answered.
“Correct,” Jesus agreed.
44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn’t bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in.46 You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume. 47 Therefore her sins—and they are many—are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.”
48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 Then the men at the table said to themselves, “Who does this man think he is, going around forgiving sins?”
50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The song “Alabaster” is a worship song meant to put you in the sandals of the woman with the jar. Listen and sing along as you are comfortable. 
Finish this worship time by praying silently, guided by the prompts given in the clip below. 
Worship Perspective: Even when you feel like you don’t fit, God proclaims that you do belong.
Learn Perspective: Every membership you will have on earth will be an imitation.
Consider hosting a Gather event.
Scan the QR code above to learn about Global Refuge's Gather events. Illume is encouraging each of our groups to consider hosting an event while (or shortly after) doing this series. 

From the site:
The Gather program invites you—as an individual, family, congregation, or group—to learn through food, music, worship, and personal stories of refugees and immigrants. We have provided educational resources, recipes, discussion guides and more in our Gather toolkits.
Serve Perspective: Being left out can, at least, teach us a little about belonging.
Prayer Activity
  • In groups of three, answer these questions:
    • Do you struggle with belonging in an area of your life currently? 
    • What about when it comes to church/religion? How has your experience been? 
  • Then, take turns praying for yourself, asking for increased compassion and understanding.

Once everyone has prayed, pray together this prayer, which was taught to the disciples by Jesus and has been used in every corner of Christianity for centuries. 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

Prayer Requests

Close your time together by singing along with the song Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow. This melody and setting for German hymn writer Paul Gerhardt’s evening hymn was created by Caleb Schmiege and Melanie Bourman. 
Farewell Perspective: When membership pulls us apart, God reminds us to see his kingdom beyond our earthly boundaries.

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