Summer 2017 Sermon Series

Who are the friends in your life? What kind of friend are you?

This Summer at Covenant UMC, we’ll look at some friendships in the Bible and think about what they can teach us. This sermon series is drawn from the book, 11 Indispensable Relationships by Leonard Sweet, who believes we need certain types of friendships in our lives.

We’ll consider the qualities of honesty, loyalty, wisdom, gratitude, generosity, and faithfulness as important attributes of friends as well as attributes of God.  We’ll try to be more grateful for the gift of friendship and think about ways we can each be better at being a friend. Each week, we’ll post questions to help you think more deeply about the topic.

Come join us Sunday mornings at 9 or 11:15 am.To listen to past sermons, go to the “About us” section of this site.

Week 1: Who’s your Jethro?

Scriptures: Exodus 3:1; Luke 9:51-62

Do you see a hunger in the world today for stronger and deeper friendships?

Why is it hard for us to develop friendships?

In Exodus 18, Jethro scolds Moses for taking on too much responsibility and advises him to delegate.  When was the last time a friend got through to you that you need to take time for yourself and your family?

Paul wrote about one group of believers and said, “…for this reason, God gave them up.” (Romans 1:26) God didn’t hurl thunderbolts at them or strike them down; God merely left them to their own devices. What is the greater danger, that God will punish us, or that God may leave us alone with our choices and just let things take their course?  Why?

Who are people who are good blessers?  Who are some people who help you bless others?


Week 2: Who’s your Nathan?     

Scriptures: 2 Samuel 12:1-13; Matthew 18:15-20

In the book, 11 Indispensable Relationships, Leonard Sweet refers to Nathan types as “editors” rather than people who hold you accountable because he believes that like a good editor, some friends can help you present your best self. What do you think of this analogy?

Who are people in your life who are good editors?  How can you be better at this?

Do you think there are times when a Nathan needs to “knock you out” like an anesthesiologist? A surgeon can’t save a life until the anesthesiologist knocks the person out. Do we need to be hit hard before we see the truth?

Brene Brown’s bestseller Daring Greatly addresses the issue of vulnerability. In what ways does vulnerability connect with receiving the truth from a friend? How would allowing ourselves to be vulnerable make us stronger Christians?  How can we keep ourselves protected while still being open to constructive criticism?

Is it helpful to think of criticism as the voice of God?  Why or why not?  How do you handle self-criticsm?

Do Nathans need to just point out what is wrong in the world, or do they have a responsibility to provide solutions?


Week 3: Who’s your Jonathan?      

Scriptures: 1 Samuel 18:1-5; John 14:1-4

It is said, “Never assume people are interested in your problems.” Is this a good rule of thumb? Is that what makes a Jonathan so special rare – because they genuinely care about your problems?

Who is your Jonathan?

In some cultures, a spouse is most often one’s Jonathan. In other cultures, a spouse is most often not one’s Jonathan. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a spouse as your Jonathan?

In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus says,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Does this ring true to you about religious leaders today?  Are we today lone rangers to the core?  Is it difficult for people in today’s culture to truly open themselves to deep relationships?


Week 4: Who’s your Timothy?    

Scriptures: 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:10-11

In 11 Indispensible Relationships, Leonard Sweet quotes a mentor of his who used sycamore trees as a metaphor for human relationships.  She said, “A healthy tree is not a single tree, not matter how beautiful it may look. A healthy sycamore tree is a tree with heirs…a sycamore community with trees in various stages of growth and development.” Do you think this is true?  Is this happening in your communities of family, work, and church?

In his Rules, St. Benedict says that the young should respect their elders and elders should love their juniors. Which group do you think has the harder time?

In the Bible, Eli was a mentor and “parent” to Samuel. Hannah gave him up to serve in the temple when he was very young. How difficult do you think this was for Hannah? Does it make a difference that she was a person of deep prayer?

Have you been blessed to have mentors in your life?  Who have you mentored?  Who will inherit your life’s work?


Week 5: Who’s your Barnabas? 

Scriptures: Joshua 1:1-9; Acts 11:19-26

Pastor Stella’s sermon touched on the value of encouragement, and she defended the much-maligned used of participation trophies.  What do you think of participation trophies?

Can you recall a specific encouraging act or words that someone gave you? Who have been Barnabas friends to you? What has encouragement meant to you in your life?

Do you have memories of a time when you “lost your first love,” when Jesus was more in the grave than out of it in your mind? Is there anyone who comes to mind who helped you move to a place of hope?  How did that person encourage you?

Leonard Sweet wrote about having the spiritual practice of encouraging strangers throughout the day, When are you most in Barnabas mode? When are you least so?

Some Barnabas types use humor to show encouragement. Do you believe that faith and humor are connected? When has laughter with a friend made a difficult situation easier?

Food can offer comfort and in a sense encourage us?  What are your comfort foods?


Week 6: Who’s your Peter?                                                                               Scriptures: Exodus 17:8-13; Hebrews 13:1-9, 17

Who were your spiritual mentors when you were growing up?  Have you ever had a spiritual mentor or guide that others would think of as unconventional?

Saint Francis Xavier referred to Ignatius as “under God, the father of my soul.”  Do you have fathers/mothers of your soul? Can you name them? What do you do to honor them?

To whom do you look for guidance in your life?  If you could choose a “dream team” of spiritual mentors, who would they be, or what qualities would they possess?

How can you build up spiritual leaders?

Some have said that the best way for mentors to learn something is to teach it. True or false? If true, why does that make the learning experience more reciprocal and mutual?

In 11 Indispensable Relationships, Leonard Sweet writes about passing the baton from one generation to the other.  Do you think that is still happening, or does it seem like people prefer to start things on their own? In what ways have you taken a “baton” from someone else and carried it forward?


Week 7: Who’s your Deborah?      

Scriptures: Judges 4:1-10; John 13:1-7 and 31-35

In the Deborah chapter of his book, Leonard Sweet talks about how we often suffer from “friendly fire,” attacks from people we think we can trust.  Why is this so?  Who are your protectors (your Deborahs) in these situations?

Who have been your protectors in the past? What can you do to reinforce their identities as your back-coverers? When is the last time you thanked someone for covering your back?

As Pastor Stella noted in her sermon, Scripture refers to Deborah as “woman of Lappidoth.” This is usually translated as “wife of Lappidoth.” Since lappidoth means lightning or torch in Hebrew (and there are only capital letters used, so it is harder to determine if it is a name), you could also translate the title as “firey woman.”Which do you think is the correct translation? Why?

Do you believe there are Deborahs in your life you don’t know about? Have you ever been surprised by a Deborah at work in your life? If so, describe your Deborah discovery.

When people try to prove us wrong and fire away at us, can we be proven in the fire? Can we prove ourselves? How can we maintain courage under fire?