Church at home

We will not be meeting in person at any of our services during March. Instead, we'd love you to join us online to watch Church at home here

Kingdom Come: Comfort

This is a suggestion for how to lead an online Connect Group, based on the talk that Tim Frisby gave on 22nd November. It lasts around 80 minutes, but feel free to extend sections, remove sections, add your own or just do your own thing entirely! Whatever works best for you and your group. 

The discussion questions and reflections will work without having listened to the talk, but if you are going to use them you may want to watch the talk before you meet.

Welcome & Prayer (5 mins)

Welcome everyone to the group and remind people of the following: 

  • As a general rule it’s helpful to keep your mic muted unless you’re talking to reduce background noise. 
  • During the discussion if you want to speak, raise a hand and I’ll throw the conversation to you. 
  • We’ll be using the chat function to post links, quotes, Bible verses and prayer requests. 

Start your time together by praying, thanking God for the opportunity to be together and asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together (you may want to ask someone else to pray). 

Gratitude & Challenges (15-25 mins)

Ask everyone to introduce themselves and share one thing from the last week they are grateful for, and one thing they are finding particularly challenging. 

Don’t forget to make it clear who is to share next, and to let people know they can pass if they want to. 

Overview & Group discussion (30 mins)

This term we are thinking and praying about what Jesus’ kingdom come ‘in London as in heaven’ might look like. Each week we’ll be looking at a different aspect of the nature of the King and his kingdom. This week Tim spoke about Jesus’ kingdom being a kingdom of comfort, which he explained doesn’t mean Jesus has promised to make us comfortable, but rather has promised to leave us comforted. 

A coming king who comforts those who mourn is a promise we find over and over in the prophecies of Isaiah*, most famously in Isaiah 61:1-3, a passage that Jesus reads at the start of his ministry:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me… to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Throughout the bible, the word ‘mourn’ is used to refer to three different types of mourning:

  1. Those grieving because of loss
  2. Those waiting for justice and redemption to come
  3. Those feeling sorrow and shame over their past

Jesus announced that in his kingdom ‘blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted’ (Matt 5:4) and in the gospels we see him comfort people in all three categories. Whilst Jesus may not be physically present with us now, he is still able to comfort us by the presence of his Holy Spirit, and through those in whom his Spirit dwells. 

Tim suggested that we often settle for false comforts that just distract us or numb us to our griefs and sorrows, rather than connect us with the one who can give us strength to move through them. In the words of John Flavel, “We are perversely resistant to letting Christ love us.”

  1. Do you recognize yourself in that statement? What are the false comforts you often find yourself going to? Why do you think we so often settle for false comfort, rather than going to Jesus for true comfort?

Tim shared that one of the times he most felt the comfort of Jesus was through the ‘embodied’ care of his friends, and then during the worship and prayers of a Sunday service.

  1. If you feel comfortable, share with one another times in your life when you have either felt the comfort of Jesus through the words and actions of others, or times you have been able to embody his comfort to someone else (this could relate to any of the three types of mourning mentioned above). What things most helped you to feel or communicate love and concern in those moments? What things got in the way?

Tim finished by telling the story of what stirred Ben Lindsay to start Power The Fight – seeing hundreds of children grieving because of knife crime with no one to comfort them. He reminded us of the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

  1. Who is there in your life right now in need of comfort? This could be an individual or a group of people. How could you help bring them the comfort of Jesus this week?

A Liturgy for those who mourn (5 mins)

You may want to encourage people to close their eyes, sit up straight in their chairs, place their palms face up on their knees/table and concentrate on their breathing – breathe in for 3 seconds, then out for 3 seconds (people may feel more comfortable doing this if their video feed is turned off).

Then ask someone to pray out loud the following prayer, giving space afterwards for the Holy Spirit to draw close and comfort those who need to be comforted:

We pause and hold unashamed space
for these days beset with disappointments we could not see coming,
and reminders of what could have been.
O Loving Maker, restore our belief that you redeem what is lost,
but also, that our grief is safe with you,
and that lamenting is not a waste of our precious time.

O Christ, you do not scorn our disappointment,
but rather remind us that you are a God who was enrobed in human flesh
and has felt salt run down your own divine face.

O, how glorious! How wonderful to have a Savior who understands!

Hope deferred makes our hearts sick,
so we ask that you remind us, O Sweetest Friend,
that what we grieve –
the canceled event
the lost job
the health of a loved one or ourselves
the paused relationship
the postponed trip
the end of a project that stirred our hearts –
was never the source of our hope to begin with.
You say we are blessed when we mourn, for we shall be comforted.
Come near and be our deepest consolation now, Father.
Tend to our grief-stricken hearts, and lead us into the warmth of your relief,
the tenderness of your word,
the marrow-deep peace of your presence,
the greater intimacy we can enjoy with our Suffering Savior.

We mourn for the loss and death of our good dreams, O Creator,
and ask that you resurrect them, if your gracious will allows.
But for now, we look toward the day
when every tear will be gone
and we meet you, the One in whom all our hope resides.

(This prayer is taken from liturgies.nyc © Church of the City New York)

Prayer (20 mins)

Depending on the way the discussion has gone and how people have responded to the prayer, you may want to open breakout rooms so that you can pray for one another.

Or you may want to move into a time of praying for friends or family, neighbours or coworkers who you know are mourning, praying for the comfort of the Holy Spirit and for opportunities to embody that comfort.

End by praying the Lord’s prayer together to end: 

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 for ever.
Amen.

*For example we read of one who will comfort us like a mother comforts her child (Isa 66); one who will wipe away the tears of every face (Isa 25:8); one who will speak tenderly to us that our struggles have come to an end and that we have been forgiven everything (Isa 40:2); one who will restore to us the things that have been lost and broken (Isa 51:3); and one who will even swallow up death forever (Isa 25:8), meaning that our comfort will be eternal because there will be nothing to ever make us mourn again.