I’ve never been super athletic, I mean, I was the art geek after all. Don’t get me wrong, I really like sports, I’m just not naturally gifted at any particular sport like other people I’ve known. I remember one time when I was going to a private Christian school in 7th grade and they were desperate for players on the basketball team so I was volunteered to play.

I cannot play basketball…you should know that at the outset.

I’ll be honest, it felt pretty cool to wear the team uniform  as my mom dropped me off at the rival school’s gymnasium. For the briefest of moments I forgot that I knew nothing about playing basketball apart from shooting a game of horse with kids in the neighborhood. My school team was so beggared for players, they recruited a kid whom they had never seen play and who had never once practiced with them.

During the warm-up our team formed two lines on either side of the free throw lane to do simple lay-ups. One line would start, the player charging at the basket and deftly launching off the floor to lay the ball gently to the backboard and  into the net. The next line would take the ball from the opposite side. Done properly it is a smooth and almost graceful approach to taking a shot.

When my turn came, I noticed that the rival school’s cheerleaders had gathered behind the backboard of our goal. My 7th grade brain imagined them all noticing how adroitly I would handle the ball. I imagined them all turning their heads my way in slow motion and admiring my basketballish skills. This made my hands start to sweat.

The ball was tossed to me and I awkwardly tried to dribble on my way to the goal. As I reached the point of no return, where I needed to lift off my left foot and raise the ball with my right hand, the ball came squirting out of my sweat-soaked palms and flew full force right at the heads of the flock of cheerleaders.

There were screams and one girl was bent over while others were patting her back.

They were all looking at me, but admiration is not how I’d describe their expressions.

That’s kind of how I imagine Jesus’ disciples feeling in the text we’ll be reading this Sunday, Mark 9:14-29.

It’s clear from this text that as Christ’s followers, we don’t always represent him well. Sometimes things go badly and we fall flat – but that’s okay. As we’ll see in our passage, there are lessons to be learned in failure.

As you read the story, put yourself into each of the character’s sandals. What do you imagine the religious experts are thinking? What do you think the crowd of people were thinking about the disciples ineffectual ministry? What conclusions might they be drawing about Jesus?

When Jesus gets the scoop on what’s happening, the father of the afflicted boy asks Jesus to help if he is able. Jesus teases a rebuke back at him. What do you think Jesus is wanting to correct in that exchange? What might it mean that “anything is possible if a person believes”? What does “believe” mean to you?

When we look at the end result, Jesus was not hampered nor deterred in any way by the failure of his disciples. What can we learn from that as it touches our own walk with Christ?

How do you imagine prayer being an effective aspect of spiritual battles? What do you understand prayer to be?

This will be some interesting stuff to analyze this Sunday – hope to see you there!

Click here to view of a pdf version of the PowerPoint slides from this teaching.

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