Small Church January 29, 2023

Conversation Guide for January 29, 2023

You will hear two epiphanies today—one read aloud from Scripture, and one from someone in your group OR the one you can read aloud, supplied below. In your discussions, make sure you leave enough time to hear and respond to both stories.

Opener (Pick One)
  1. Share a consolation and desolation from the past week.
  2. When was the last time you were astonished? Describe the experience.


Scripture: Read aloud Genesis 16:1-14 the story of Hagar

Background Info: Hagar—whose name literally means “stranger” was an Egyptian woman serving in the household of Abram, our father in faith. She was the servant of Abram’s wife Sarai. When Sarai was having trouble conceiving a baby, she was so desperate to have a child that she gave Hagar to Abram so that he could have sex with her. This seems bizarre— sexual trafficking meets baby surrogacy—but in actual fact—this was an accepted practice at the time.  Slave women were considered human incubators–“wombs with legs”.  As a result of this encounter with God, Hagar becomes the first person in the Bible to give God a name.

Read aloud again Genesis 16:7-13
Discussion Questions
(Pick a few)
  1. What stands out to you from this story? What troubles you?
  2. Why do you think God asks Hagar this question?
  3. How would you summarize Hagar’s epiphany?


Personal Story – someone from your group can share their epiphany story, or read aloud the story “Jesus Would Not Leave”

Discussion Questions
(Pick a few)
  1. What resonates with you from this story?
  2. How would you summarize this epiphany?
  3. What connections do you make between the two stories you heard today?


Jesus Would Not Leave

Novelist Anne Lamott had always believed in God. She prayed and had a relationship with God and read books on spirituality. But she didn’t believe in Jesus. She says, “I could not for the life of me get that to compute.”

           At that time she was living in Sausalito, California but was going to a flea market in Marin City on weekends. She loved flea-market food when she was hungover, and she was “often hungover.”

           While she was at the flea market, she could hear singing coming from a little church down the street and was drawn by the music. So she started going to this African-American Presbyterian church, sitting in the back row and avoiding people. She always left before the sermon because she didn’t want to hear the Jesus part. She liked the music, the people, and the sense of community and activism.

           After going to this church for a while, Anne started having the feeling that Jesus might be after her. She hadn’t been concerned about the possibility of a conversion experience because, from her perspective, there was no reason to have one.

           Then Anne became pregnant and had an abortion. When she got home from having the abortion, she began hemorrhaging heavily. She had been drinking but sobered up instantly when she realized that she was in trouble. Instead of calling anyone for help, she tried to clean herself up and take care of everything herself.

           But she had a sense that something very bad was happening to her, both physically and spiritually that her life was on a downward spiral.

           This is how Anne describes what happened next: “At about three in the morning, I felt Jesus come into the loft of the houseboat where I had been living for a few years.

Through the years, I had always felt my father come into the room if I was in real trouble. But this time I felt Jesus there.

           “I thought, ‘You have got to be kidding.’ Then he took a seat, kind of cross-legged, sort of Indian-like, at one corner of the houseboat, and I turned to the wall and said out loud, ‘I would rather die.’ And I really meant it. All of my friends were left-wing, mostly atheists, and Jesus would not leave. It was really awful.”

           After that, Anne felt very confused and upset. When she attended the little church in Marin City, she still left before the sermons. Yet she continued to have the feeling that she was being pursued.

           As to the moment of her conversion, Anne says, “The moment of my conversion was actually a moment of resignation. I was just so exhausted. I had tried to avoid it and then I felt as though, ‘OK, I’ll open the door, which is the classic imagery. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’

           “So I opened the door and just said, ‘What?’ I felt as if I had put out food and water, and of course, ironically, I was being given food and water. From then on I started staying through the sermons, but I was still drinking.”

           The people at her church gave Anne the room she needed, and slowly she got more involved. Eventually she stopped drinking. She says, “All of a sudden I got that voracious hunger you get when you’re a baby Christian. Then C. S. Lewis started making a lot of sense to me. But it was still really humiliating to me as an intellectual to be having this experience.”

           About six months after she got sober, Anne was baptized.

The song that was played at her baptism was “There is a balm in Gilead, that makes the wounded whole.” Anne hadn’t chosen the song, but it felt like ultimate truth to her.

as told by Anne Lamott to Sharon GallagherFinding Faith: Life-changing Encounters with Christ