Last night was the third installment of Encounters with Jesus. The leaders/participant's guide can be found here.
I thought the story of the blind man is remarkable. As I was studying to write the narrative, I was struck by what a strong personality the man was. He had no fear to tell things how he saw them, even to the people in power. In this story, we also have a remarkable claim by Jesus that he is the Messiah. And then the blind man worships Jesus and Jesus doesn't tell him not to.
It's amazing what having Jesus present and speaking for himself does in a person's life. There was no surprise within the group that Jesus allowed the man to worship him - they basically felt that this was a natural extension of what's been happening in the stories up to this point. In other words, Jesus's deity has become self-evident in the exploration of these stories.
We spent a lot of time discussing the tension of faith and doubt and fear that the man must have felt before he washed in the pool. We questioned how he had the strength to hope that his sight had been restored and whether we would have been willing to risk that or not. That led to some very interesting conversations about being able to hear what Jesus asks of us and how we have the strength to follow where he leads. It is such a beautiful thing to see people seeking Jesus, particularly those who have never tried to do it before this time. In all, this story lends itself to great conversation and discussion, and a great opportunity to invite Jesus to restore/redeem our own spiritual blindness. We also had the opportunity to talk about what true worship is.
Now for some practical notes: My group members requested the participant guides so that they had something to refer to during the re-telling of the story and the discussion times. But last week I handed them out during the story time, and it seemed to take away from the imaginative listening. So I think the default will be to hand them out during re-telling so that people can listen once and then refer to the guides later.
Second, we have been making sure to take time to respond and give some quiet time for reflection after the discussion. For us, this has come in the form of drawing or writing in response to questions on a sheet of blank white paper. I've been including those in the resources too. After that time, we have everyone share their responses, and then we pray for each other. I think that this has become the sweetest and most enjoyable part of the group time. The response questions give people the opportunity to reflect, and they are sharing some really deep things about the way they perceive themselves and God. Then we are able to pray for one another, inviting both those who are familiar with prayer and those who are not to pray for one another. This allows us to keep forming deeper relational bonds, and it also allows people to see God moving and working in their own lives. I don't want to get into a rut with the response times, but it seems to be working for us right now.