ELCA Faith Lens's Blog

Weekly Bible studies that engage youth and young adults in connecting world events with the Bible, faith, and everyday life.
 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

September 27, 2020–Another Alarm Bell

Scott Mims, Virginia Beach, VA

Warm-up Question

  • Take a few moments to check in with one another.  What have been some of the “highs” and “lows” of the past week?
  • What is one thing you used to think or believe as a small child that you find funny now?

Another Alarm Bell

Recently, a massive section of Greenland’s ice cap broke off in the northeastern Arctic.  This section of ice, measuring 42 square miles, is a dramatic example of the accelerated melting of Arctic ice that scientists say is evidence of rapid climate change.  As one observer put it, “This is yet another alarm bell being rung by the climate crisis in a rapidly heating Arctic.”

In fact, the effects of global warming are so severe that they are reshaping the climate of the region. As one study in August concluded, Greenland alone lost a record amount of ice during a record-breaking 2019, resulting in a melt massive enough to have covered the whole of California in 4 feet of water.

Elsewhere, a rapidly warming climate is also being linked to conditions that make for more intense wildfire seasons in the American West, and more active hurricane seasons in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions.

For more:

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/dismay-huge-chunk-greenlands-ice-cap-breaks-rcna117

see also:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/14/climate/arctic-changing-climate.html#:~:text=The%20Arctic%20Is%20Shifting%20to,a%20new%20study%20has%20found.

Discussion Questions

  • Despite an ever-growing body of evidence that our planet is warming rapidly, why do you think some people have a hard time accepting that climate change is real?
  • Who has the most to gain from people and nations working together to address climate change?  Who might have the most to lose from the actions and policies that could be called for?
  • Are you optimistic about the future of our world and our ability to successfully tackle the complex issues around climate change?  Why or why not?

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Philippians 2:1-13

Matthew 21:23-32

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

As we head into the last weeks of the church year, our gospel readings jump to Jesus’ final days before his crucifixion.  Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and “cleansing” of the Temple (Matthew 21:1-16)  set the stage for his confrontation with the chief priests and elders.

“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”  That is the question put to Jesus by Jewish leaders who are obviously upset at what they perceive as an attack against both the Temple and their own authority. Yet, their question is not an honest one.  That is, they are not really seeking knowledge and understanding, but are looking to trap Jesus.  Indeed, they are well aware of what his actions imply – that he is the Messiah, God’s anointed one.  They hope, in answering this question, Jesus will give them something they can use against him.

Jesus  is wise to their ploy.  And while his counter-question hangs them on the horns of a dilemma, it is more than simply a clever way out.  This question concerning John the Baptist is a clue to the answer Jesus would have given, had his questioners been open to the truth.  If they truly understood what John was about (see Matthew 3:11-17), they would know where Jesus gets the authority to say what he is saying and do what he was doing. 

In sharing a parable about a man with two sons, Jesus goes on to underscore the fact that they have chosen to ignore John’s message and, therefore, Jesus himself .  After all, what does it say that even people whose daily lives seem to be  a big “No!” to God believe John’s message of repentance and renewal, when the religious leaders do not?  What does it say that even tax collectors and prostitutes “get it,” when those who should most welcome the Messiah refuse to see God at work?

This is not simply a story from long ago.  Jesus continues to challenge us to open our eyes to what God is doing in the world, calling us to view our lives through our “faith lenses”.  How we answer the chief priests and elder’s question as it pertains to Jesus is critical.  What does it mean for the church that Jesus is Lord?  And, more personally, what does his authority as God’s Messiah mean to each of us?

Discussion Questions

  • What do you know about John the Baptist?  Read Matthew 3:1 – 17 together.  Who was John, and what was he about?  
  • Think about what you know about Jesus.  What are some of the other pieces of evidence that point to who he is and to the authority that he has?  
  • Why do you think the religious leaders and authorities had a hard time accepting Jesus?  What did they have to lose?
  • What does the word “authority” mean to you?  In what ways does Jesus have authority in our lives?  

Activity Suggestions

One Small Change:  How do we connect our faith to the needs and challenges of our world?  Where do you see God at work, and what do you think he may be calling us to care about and do?  Explore some possible actions, activities or service projects that your group might do related to your conversation.  Choose one thing and go for it!

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, in your love you have given us gifts of abundance – ourselves, our time, our abilities and possessions.  Help us to say “Yes!” to your call to share these gifts in the work of your “vineyard,” that we may be signs of your gracious love.  Give us wisdom and reverence for our planet, and help us to work for a future in which generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty.  We pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  

 

The post September 27, 2020–Another Alarm Bell appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

September 20, 2020–Equity and Equality

Drew Tucker, Columbus, OH

Warm-up Question

Describe a time when someone has been unexpectedly generous. If they were generous to you, was anyone jealous of what you received? If they were generous to someone else, were you jealous?

Equity and Equality

In colleges and universities across the country, schools are discussing the importance of equity, and the difference between equity and equality. For instance, in this recent article about the equity approaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Shannon Watkins writes about the institution’s investment in a new “race and equality task force.” Equality is an approach that gives the same amount of resources, opportunities, or assistance to everyone.  Equity is an approach that gives everyone the amount of resources, opportunities, or assistance that they need in order to truly level the landscape. Of course, investing based on people’s specific needs means that some people will receive more, others less, and some, none at all.

While some might decry this as unfair, consider some of the ways equity already plays in our lives. For instance, at some church and university events, we provide audio assistance technology, closed captioning, and American Sign Language interpreters to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing. That’s a move toward equity, since not all people need access to those resources but they are ensured for those who need them.

Many churches have a relationship with a community like Haiti, where they take annual mission trips to places.  They invest a disproportionate amount of money, time, and relational resources because of the way Haiti has suffered due to natural and economic disasters. That’s an attempt at equity, not giving all people the same resources, but investing a specific set of resources in people who need specific kinds of support.

If a university admissions team visits college fairs attended by suburban schools with large transportation budgets, but visits individual urban high schools with smaller budgets and a higher proportion of Black, Latino/a, and other students of color, that’s a move of equity.  It ensures that students in the city know the college exists, as well as what academic, scholarship, and extracurricular opportunities are available for them. 

The goal of equity isn’t to give everyone the same thing. The goal is to give everyone what they need to succeed. This doesn’t guarantee anyone’s success, but it does remove unnecessary barriers from their journey toward thriving. 

Discussion Questions

  • If you have access to the internet, look at the cartoon by Angus Maguire in the article cited above. How does it illustrate the difference between equity and equality? 
  • Share one thing that you like and one thing that concerns you about an equity approach. 
  • What ways might an equity approach affect some of the conflict you see in our society today? 

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jonah 3:10-4:11

Philippians 1:21-30

Matthew 20:1-16

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

When reading Jesus’s parables, it’s necessary to explore the story’s metaphor. We often assume certain characters stand for God, others for “good” people of faith, others for “bad” people of faith.  Every once in a while we assume a Satan or Antichrist character. One way to find the God character in parables is to locate the character who inverts cultural norms or status quo expectations. In this story, the landowner does just that.

The first workers, who agree to a wage when hired, expect more payment at the end of the day because the people who worked less time receive the wage to which the first workers agreed. We can  hear them cry out, “It’s not fair!” Jesus’ listeners would have agreed. Many of us would agree. We expect a wage based on the amount of hours we work or amount of product we produce. 

But Jesus says, “What I give you is not based on how much work you do. It’s based on the fact that I choose you in the first place.” We’re so used to earning appreciation, affirmation, respect, and love, that the concept of God choosing us, not for what we’ve earned, but because of divine generosity, seems ridiculous. We hear a challenge to the core of the social fabric. 

Rather than earning our way into God’s presence, God has given Godself to us, first at Christmas, in the person of Christ, and then on Pentecost, in the Holy Spirit. God chose to be with us here on earth. We didn’t earn it. And Jesus’ parable reveals that the same is true for heaven: God choosing us is what determines our destiny,  Not our good deeds. Not how long we’ve believed. Simply God’s gracious generosity. It does not matter if we were chosen early in the morning or brought into the fold late in the day.

In other words, God’s approach to us is one of equity, not equality. You might want to read this parable as equality, since everyone receives the same wage. But, a denarius was a high daily wage for unskilled labor, maybe even twice as much as they might usually expect. Thus, the workers are already promised very generous payment (at least, compared to their earning potential). The landowner offers people not just enough to survive, but enough for abundance. The landowner understands that everyone needs a daily wage to survive, so guarantees that their ability to earn won’t determine their ability to survive. He also understands that, to find a way out of poverty, they need more than what’s considered fair. So he blesses each of them with an unexpected and unearned abundance. 

And so it is with God. This story confounds attempts to establish fairness or equality as God’s intent for dealing with humanity. God offers us all the same divine presence and eternal blessing–regardless of our works, the strength of our faith, or the rightness of our belief. God offers us an overabundance, so that we can do more than just get by in faith, but thrive in faith. We receive whatever we need to live abundantly, some more, and some less, but all that is needed. Thanks be to God.

Discussion Questions

  • Imagine you were one of the first workers hired. How would you respond at the end of the day? How would that change if you were one of the last? 
  • God’s generosity is surprising to us all. Why do you think some people find that offensive?
  • If God gives someone else more than you, or more than they’ve earned, does that lessen God’s love for you? Why or why not? 

Activity Suggestions

  • Over Under – Using the data available from The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center, you can create  simple over/under game played with students to address issues of inequity. For instance, using the numbers or percentages of children leave school without diplomas, teens aren’t working or in school, children who are homeless, and the like, you can highlight that there are particular students who have different needs than those experienced by others in your group. Present a number and have participants guess whether the real number is more or less. Give the real data and then introduce a conversation about how your church might consider supporting people with those specific needs as an act of equity. 
  • Generosity Tipping – To model the landowner’s generosity, talk with the youth about setting a certain percentage or dollar amount for every wait staff person who serves your group while on trips together. Invoke conversation from them and repeat the story to enculturate a sense of generosity rather than deserts. 
  • One to One – Sometimes, we don’t know the specific needs of our groups until we specifically ask. Institute a practice of 1×1, in public and accountable places, where you can invite conversation with individuals about what challenges they’re experiencing in the group and what resources might help them thrive. These could be relational challenges, like difficulty in the home or cultural distinctives, or resource challenges, like lack of personal computer access or limited funds to attend trips. 

Closing Prayer

Compassionate God, you meet the needs of every person, giving in abundance even when we have not earned it. Thank you for your generosity to us and your determination to share abundant life with us. Inspire us to share with others with the same vigor that you share with us. We pray this all in the name of Jesus: Amen. 

 

The post September 20, 2020–Equity and Equality appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

September 13, 2020–Foray and Forgiveness

Kris Litman-Koon, Mount Pleasant, SC

Warm-up Question

Share a time from this past week when you needed to be forgiven by another person.

Foray and Forgiveness

Both the attendees and the viewers of the livestreamed 11:00am Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul in Philadelphia were shocked by what transpired during the service on August 23. Sarah Contrucci had just finished reading as the lector and was returning to her pew. An unknown woman approached Contrucci and punched her twice in the face, for no clear reason. The staff of the cathedral said the attacker had previously attended their services, however, she was not a parishioner. Police later found and took the suspect into custody, however no charges were filed. 

Contrucci, who did not seek medical attention, has forgiven her attacker. “I hope that she learns to love the Lord and maybe even come back to Mass someday and is respectful.” 

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever seen an act of violence or heard harmful words which shocked you because it took place at church or another setting that is not commonly associated with such behavior?
  • What is your reaction to Sarah Contrucci’s statement of forgiveness?

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 50:15-21

Romans 14:1-12

Matthew 18:21-35

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Immediately prior to today’s gospel lesson, Jesus tells the parable of the shepherd bringing lost sheep back  into the fold (18:10-14).  Then Jesus offers instructions for how to correct (i.e. reprove) the actions of another Christian in the church (18:15-20). That leads into today’s two-part lesson of how many times we ought to forgive a fellow Christian (Jesus’ answer: forgive them more times than you can count) and of the parable of the unforgiving servant. 

At the outset Jesus says  this parable should shape how we understand the reign of God. As is the case in many parables, extraordinary circumstances seek to highlight certain details. A servant owes ten thousand talents.  That would take 150,000 years for a laborer to pay off if every cent earned every day went to paying off the debt. That impossibility does not so much highlight the hole of debt this servant has dug, as it highlights the incomprehensible magnitude of God’s willingness to forgive. Yet, this forgiven servant threatens a fellow servant to pay what is owed to him, which is the equivalent of only 100 days of labor, a measly amount compared to the forgiveness the first servant received. The master hears of this and is irked, to say the least.

The way this parable shapes our understanding of God’s reign is twofold.  It offers a glimpse of God’s incomprehensible proclivity to forgive us, and says that divine forgiveness must shape how we treat others. 

Forgiveness can be a complicated concept. Most people begin to grasp it as young children, when playing with other young children. One child physically or emotionally hurts another child, and then an adult offers an instruction to forgive. It is a good lesson for a child to learn that if someone (intentionally or unintentionally) knocks over your blocks, you need to let that act not ruin your whole day. Yet, we grow in age and the situations that involve a call to forgiveness grow more complicated.

Do we “let bygones be bygones” if a bully steals our lunch? Must we “forgive and forget” those unwarranted double punches to our face from a stranger? Should we “turn a blind eye” to someone’s pattern of abuse? It does no good for us or for the other person if we passively accept this harmful behavior out of a child-like understanding of forgiveness. Recall that immediately prior to today’s lesson, Jesus was teaching how to correct, or reprove, another Christian’s behavior. So perhaps we must consider how reproving another person may be the necessary step for that person to desire forgiveness and to make amends for their actions. 

Our understanding of forgiveness must develop beyond what we initially learned as children playing with others, especially when the offending behavior shows a pattern of abuse instead of a one-time accidental offense. This Faith Lens article is not the place to flesh this out; other resources and books can do that for us. However, a summary of a more mature understanding of forgiveness is this: We need not like the person after forgiving them, nor do we have to maintain a relationship with them. Forgiveness is for us to be liberated from the power that person’s action has over us, and we should hope that our forgiveness will direct that person toward being liberated from whatever is driving them toward this unhealthy behavior.

Discussion Questions

  • This passage of scripture speaks of Christians correcting and forgiving other Christians. Do you think Jesus’ instruction should also influence how Christians correct and forgive people who aren’t Christian?
  • Is it helpful for you to view forgiveness as our liberation from the power someone’s action has over us?
  • What are some scenarios that you imagine it would be difficult to forgive another person? 

Activity Suggestions

The game “Most Likely To…” can be played in person or in a virtual chat. Have someone lead by reading one of these statements at a time, allowing the group to determine who is most likely to do that item. Try to give all participants a “most likely to” designation; beyond that, your group can determine its own rules. If time allows, participants can submit their own creative “most likely to” statements to the leader.

  • Most likely to speak with their mouth full.
  • Most likely to do something gross on a dare.
  • Most likely to sing in an open field.
  • Most likely to go to bed without brushing their teeth.
  • Most likely to eavesdrop on a conversation. 
  • Most likely to forget their mask when going out.
  • Most likely to need help finding their other shoe.
  • Most likely to cry during an argument.
  • Most likely to burn popcorn.
  • Most likely to forgive.

Closing Prayer

Loving God, we are not able to fathom the forgiveness you eagerly await to bestow on us each day. Help us, likewise, to be forgiving people. When we need forgiveness, may your Spirit help us accept that reality and correct our behavior moving forward. Amen. 

 

The post September 13, 2020–Foray and Forgiveness appeared first on Faith Lens.


Monday, June 1, 2020

June 1, 2020–FAITH LENS ON SUMMER HIATUS

Faith Lens is not published during the summer.

But don’t worry, it will be back September 8 with a new posting for Sunday, September 13, 2020.

The post June 1, 2020–FAITH LENS ON SUMMER HIATUS appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

May 31, 2020–Love in Many Tongues

Dave Delaney, Salem, VA

Warm-up Questions

  • What a time to be talking about the effect of the wind and the effect of breath! As the spring has gone on, we’ve learned that the virus that is currently dominating our lives is primarily spread through vapor that comes from our mouths. Have you mostly ignored that, or have you started to think about how connected we are to others through our breath? We have had to come to terms with a somewhat unpleasant truth – that when we’re in an enclosed space with other people, we will invariably breathe each other’s air. If it’s carried by a slight wind, like air conditioning, the effect is even amplified. Medical science has always known this, of course, which is why surgical masks are worn. We are connected by air / breath / spirit whether we like it or not! What do we each owe to those around us in helping to safeguard their health?
  • When you see something that’s just plain baffling, what is your usual reaction? Imagine seeing strange lights in the sky or a really clever optical illusion (like Zach King’s short videos), or even a person you know acting completely out of character. Do you usually try to come up with an explanation that fits the normal way things work? Or do you take time just to enjoy the novelty of the experience? Or does it freak you out in some way?  When something extraordinary happens, do you think about the possibility of that being God’s work?
  • We have come to the end of the Easter season. In these scary and frustrating times, what were some of your greatest joys over the last seven weeks?  How did you notice or give witness to the reality of Christ’s resurrection in your life and your world during the Easter season?

Love in Many Tongues

A recent news story emphasizes the importance of interpreters in the dealing with the current pandemic. In a place such as New York City, where more than 800 languages are spoken, one can only imagine how hard it must be to make sure someone with any medical emergency can provide a description of their condition, as well as receive understandable instructions. If we add to that the restrictions that accompany our current reality, where an interpreter might not even be in the same room to provide a sense of comfort to a disoriented or otherwise distraught patient, or where the patient may not even be able to speak due to medical apparatus, the task of sending and receiving clear messages in the patient’s own language becomes overwhelming. 

In addition, while the wholesale introduction of new technology into medical care can make a positive difference for the patient, there have also been unexpected effects on the interpreters, bad as well as good. Health care interpreter Helen Sweeney says of a recent patient, “We just kind of had him do like a thumbs up or thumbs down for ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ And we just simplified the communication.”  Her story – communicating remotely by screen and having to improvise on the spot – sounds at first like a grand success for the kind of creativity and commitment that would make these interpreters even more “essential” –  to the point of life and death!  

But interpreters have also had trouble maintaining their revenue in the face of technology and other struggles associated with the pandemic. So-called “tele-health” practices do not provide the same income for these interpreters as does on-site interpretation. Since this could easily become the norm rather than the exception, even after the pandemic passes, analysts wonder whether this will affect the availability of good interpretive services for the most vulnerable patients. 

In addition to the doctor-patient interaction, interpreters are often the only ones who can also communicate the condition of a patient to their family members, or even inform them that the patient has sadly died. Helen Sweeney has, however, managed to preserve some very human elements of these somewhat impersonal screen-based translation encounters. She describes a call with an older, Russian-speaking woman who was stressed about her health care and had symptoms of COVID19. Later, Helen ended up being put back on the call with the same woman, who she says remembered her instantly. “It’s very rarely that you’re interpreting for someone in a very dark situation, and then you’re able to catch them again,” said Sweeney. “She recognized me, not by my face, but by my voice.”

Discussion Questions

  • For anyone who has studied a language other than the one spoken in their home, what are the most difficult kinds of things to communicate to someone in your second language?
  • What would you be feeling if you were in a setting where no one spoke your native language and you had an emergency? What then would be the further effect on you if someone suddenly appeared who knew your language perfectly and was willing to help?
  • Medical interpreter Helen Sweeney notes that a recent patient recognized her not by her appearance but by her voice. What are some things that are distinctive about *your* voice that you think would help someone recognize you? In your life, whose voice is the most recognizable and what are the key signals that help you know that voice? Are there voices that just by hearing them they provide more anxiety than relief or joy? Who has the most comforting voice you know, regardless of what they’re saying? Whose voice most inspires you?

Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Although Acts 2 is not the gospel reading for the day, it is the centerpiece reading for The Day of Pentecost. Some phrases may jump out at us right now because of the restrictions surrounding the pandemic: “…they were all together in one place…” “… at this, the crowd gathered…” – things we cannot quite do as the church yet! 

The words describing the reaction of the crowd also feel familiar: bewildered, amazed, astonished, perplexed, sneering, and so on. These gathered visitors in Jerusalem would never have seen anything like this before and did not know whether to be terrified or excited. They did not think about this as possibly God’s work, until Peter informed them. The spoken word of the gospel had to accompany the experience they were having, which remains true throughout the book of Acts.  Over and over again, the apostles have to awaken their listeners to the activity of God among them in the midst of a confusing experience. 

As if to address the confusion head on, the nations and languages represented indicate the church’s view that this movement of the Spirit was to be a worldwide phenomenon! In the same way that the current virus has tragically spread to nearly every part of the world in a short time, so the gospel was to be proclaimed throughout every nation. Peter’s sermon goes on to cast the same very broad vision later  articulated by St. Paul in Galatians 3:28, that none of the human distinctions we observe – heritage, sex, age, etc. – matter when God’s Spirit is poured out. 

Discussion Questions

  • We may find “tongues of fire” to be a surprising, even weird, image for the presence of the Holy Spirit. We’re used to the dove and the wind. Fire is also a dangerous image to dwell on, because whenever we hear of fire in the news, it’s almost always destructive or tragic. But one of the characteristics of fire is that it can spread. Once our tongues are set on fire with the gospel, our minds can be set on fire for God’s good news and our vocation as evangelists.  We become urgent in prayer, eager to study God’s Word, and alert to those who may need to hear that good news. Who are the people in your congregation or our youth group who have this fire? Can we spread some of that fire ourselves by identifying just three people in our own lives who would welcome a word of God’s gospel?
  • Notice that, even though Peter alone gives the sermon, this pouring out of the Spirit only happens once the disciples are together! God could certainly have sent this inspiration and heavenly power to each of them as individuals, wherever they were, but something more powerful happens when they are gathered. We are currently praying that we will be able to be more and more together as the coming weeks and months pass. When that starts to happen, how can we best watch for the Spirit of God to motivate each of us in ways we might not notice if we are by ourselves?
  • The disciples of Jesus lived in a time when it was presumed that young people, people from other lands, and especially non-males would have no role in any work that God was doing in the world. Peter’s sermon quotes the prophet Joel  stating emphatically that this will not be the case with the outpouring of God’s Spirit. How do you as a young person or as someone without a privileged position in the world claim that promise of God for yourself? What are some situations where you could speak a word of God’s love and good news as a fully authorized and Spirit-empowered disciple of Jesus? How do those of us who are in privileged positions repent from prejudices that make us suppress or ignore the voices of others?

Activity Suggestions

  • On Pentecost Sunday, many congregations feature the reading of Acts 2 in multiple languages – often at the same time! – to create the sense of the attention-grabbing sound that the crowd heard on that first Pentecost. Whether your group is meeting in-person or online, you can approximate that just by using your congregation’s native language and have everyone read the same passage at their own pace, not trying to stay together. Especially if it’s an online experience, the confusion will be very apparent! Then have just one person read the sermon from Peter (vss. 17-21) and notice the contrast. In our daily lives, what kind of speaker or message does it take for all of the rest of us to be quiet and listen, not because we’re expected to, but because we do not want to miss what is being said?
  • We often think of Pentecost as just one day, but it is a whole season of the church year lasting half the calendar year! It will be Pentecost Season all the way until the end of November! Your group can celebrate that together by taking time to affirm each member individually. What are the spiritual gifts you see in each member of your group? How do those gifts contribute to the mission of the church, the vitality of your youth ministry, and the life of the world, especially when you’ve got weeks and months ahead of you to reflect on that?
  • Many congregations have their Confirmation Service on Pentecost Sunday. Due to this year’s restrictions, families may not be able to be present the way they might have under normal circumstances. This would be a perfect time for your group to provide special cards and notes for each confirmand. AND – do not forget the families! As a group you might generate a giant thank you card for each of the confirmands’ parents, siblings, and other family members who have nurtured that confirmand to this point in their faith journey. 

Closing Prayer

God of wind and fire, we thank you for sending the Spirit to those first disciples and to all believers throughout the centuries, giving us peace, hope, and courage for service and witness. Make our faith strong and our words clear to those who know and hear us. Give us listening ears to the cries of those who need you most, and bless our outreach with an abundance of joy and an ever-increasing body of those who call on the name of the Lord. In the name Jesus, our Savior and Lord, Amen.

 

The post May 31, 2020–Love in Many Tongues appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

May 24, 2020–That We May Be One

Ginger Litman-Koon, Mt. Pleasant, SC

Warm-up Question

How do you see people becoming divided during the pandemic? How have you seen people coming together?

That We May Be One

The global pandemic has caused communities around the world to put social distancing and isolation measures in place. These measures have proven effective in keeping people apart, and, therefore, reducing the spread of COVID-19. Artists across the globe, however, have not allowed social distancing to squelch the unifying effect of art. Musicians began to share their musical gifts, either from their front door or through the web. One video of opera singer Maurizio Marchini performing an aria from his balcony in Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries in the world, went viral and brought joy to both his neighbors, as well as audiences across the web.

Photographers have also been employing their talents to lift people up and bring communities together. In Minneapolis, photographer Scott Streble began what he calls the Front Porch Project, to document this memorable time in our shared history. No matter what our families, homes, or lives look like right now, one thing we can share is the experience of “quarantine,” as the national social-distancing efforts have been commonly termed. In New York City, the worst-hit metropolitan area in the US, artist Arina Voronova created a street-art campaign called Act of Love, showing different couples sharing a kiss while wearing surgical masks. Her goal was simply to spread love in a difficult time. Her campaign is just one of many which uses art to lift spirits and create a sense of solidarity amidst the stress and isolation of pandemic.

Discussion Questions

  • How have you seen unity during the pandemic?
  • Has your community participated in any acts of solidarity during this time? How?
  • What effect have these actions had on you? on those on the front lines? The community?

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:6-14

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

John 17:1-11

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Protection. We all want it. We all need it. Especially with the ever-present threat of COVID-19, protection is front-and-center in our minds these days. You or your family members may have used protective coverings to go out for work, shopping, or even exercise. Wearing a face mask to the store or gloves to pump gas may feel awkward or even embarrassing. But over the last few weeks it has become necessary for the safety of self and others. 

In today’s Gospel Reading from John 17, Jesus prays to God the Father on behalf of his disciples. He prays that God would grant us eternal life, and he prays that he would provide us with protection. “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me,” Jesus says, “so that they may be one, as we are one.” I don’t know about you, but just hearing these words of Jesus gives me a sense of comfort. Our Lord Jesus prayed for us, for our protection. Just that fact alone brings peace.

Jesus prays that God would protect us. He prays because he knows that we need it, and he prays because he knows God can provide it. Disciples of Jesus need protection, because we are not supposed to stay locked away behind closed doors forever. Our calling is to shine the light of Christ wherever we go – even if, for right now, that’s just for a walk or to the store for a loaf of bread. Disciples of Jesus are called, equipped, and commissioned to be Christ’s representatives in the world, even when the world is a little scary. And that’s why we need protection. That protection may come in the form of face masks and gloves, worn to protect the most vulnerable around us, or it may come in the form of God’s watchful eye, leading and guiding us through each day in safety.

But there is another facet to Jesus’ prayer for our protection. He prays that the Father would protect us for a particular reason. The reason he gives is “that they may be one.” Jesus implores the Father to protect us, not only from harm, but from division. Jesus’ ultimate desire for his disciples is unity. Jesus wants his followers to know the loving unity that he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Above all, Jesus prays that the Church would be protected from everything that pulls us apart, builds walls between us and sets us against one another. 

We, the Church, may not “feel” very united right now, since many of us cannot worship together in-person. However, there are many ways we can see how God is keeping us united. We are being united by worship – whether through online worship, drive-in church, or messages arriving through “snail mail.” We are being united by service – disciples around the world are finding ways to serve those in need, whether through blood drives, food collections, community gardens, or other means. Some people are using their sewing skills to make cheery patterned or logo masks, in order to make personal protection a little less intimidating. We are also being united in prayer – pastors have received many calls, notes and emails just letting us know that we and our congregations are being lifted up in prayer at this time.

For the sake of his beloved Son, God is answering Jesus’ prayer for protection. He is providing for our physical and spiritual needs through the work of very Body of Christ, the Church. May we trust more each day in God’s care for us, for Jesus’ sake.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you needed extra protection during the pandemic? Did you have what you need?
  • In what ways have you felt protected during this time? Have you offered protection?
  • Do you have any ideas of how you or our church could help provide protection to others?

Activity Suggestion

In the next to last paragraph, the gospel reflection mentions a number of ways we are being united–by service, worship, and prayer.  Do something to build  unity through service in the coming week, either by engaging in one of the actions mentioned in this Faith Lens or by doing something of your own creation.

Closing Prayer 

Sheltering God, like a mother hen, you cover your children  under the protection of your holy wings. Keep us safe, protect us, and guide your Church toward greater unity, now and always. Amen.

The post May 24, 2020–That We May Be One appeared first on Faith Lens.



Upcoming Events:

Sunday, September 27
10:00am: Worship
Tuesday, September 29
11:00am: Bible study
Wednesday, September 30
9:00am: Food Pantry

Lectionary Texts:

September 24, 2020:
First Reading: Nahum 1:1, 14-2:2
Psalm: Psalm 145:1-8
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:1-4
September 24, 2020 Semicontinuous:
First Reading: Exodus 15:22-27
Psalm: Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
September 27, 2020 Ordinary 26:
First Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalm: Psalm 25:1-9
Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-13
Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:23-32
September 27, 2020 Ordinary 26 Semicontinuous:
First Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm: Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

RCL (C) 1992 The Consultation on Common Texts used by permission



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