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.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Faith Lens on Summer Hiatus

Don’t despair.  Faith Lens is just on a Summer hiatus.  The next posting is scheduled to appear on August 27, for Sunday, September 1.

The post Faith Lens on Summer Hiatus appeared first on Faith Lens.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

June 9, 2019–Transformative Changes

Kris Litman-Koon, Isle of Palms, SC

Warm-up Question

What is a plant or animal that fascinates you? Is there a place of natural wonder that instills in you a reverent presence?

Transformative Changes

Sobering news was released in May by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations. Using a team of 455 authors from 50 countries, IPBES spent three years reviewing 15,000 government and scientific sources to come to the assessment that one million species of plants and animals (roughly one in eight species in the whole world) are threatened with extinction, many within decades. The chair of the IPBES, Sir Robert Watson, explains; “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” The driving factors behind these changes to our living planet are, in descending order of magnitude of impact: (1) changes in our land and sea use; (2) our direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution; and (5) invasive alien species. All of those are the result of human activity.

The glimmer of hope found within the report is this: we can still avoid much of the worst consequences, perhaps nearly all of them. To do so, it will take “transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors.” For instance, a shift is needed in governmental and financial policies that will discourage actions that further this breakdown of biodiversity. Individual actions — like eliminating frivolous purchases and composting food scraps — are helpful in their ability to keep creation care at the forefront of our thoughts and practices. However, large-scale societal changes are needed to fully address the problems presented by IPBES. Ultimately what is required is a societal rethinking of our interconnected role within the broader ecosystems of this planet, followed by subsequent actions.

Discussion Questions

  • When you hear news of an assessment like this, what is your initial reaction? Fight (“That can’t be true.”  “Someone else is more to blame.”) – Flight (“Quick! Change the channel!”) – Freeze (“If I do nothing, the problem will work itself out.”) – or something else?
  • The IPBES assessment says, “Negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the Report, except those that include transformative change…” How old will you be in 2050? How old will your loved ones be?

Acts 2:1-21

Romans 8:14-17

John 14:8-17 [25-27]

(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 C at Lectionary Readings

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

Gospel Reflection

Acts 2:1 says, “When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place.” The day of Pentecost (“fiftieth day”) originated as a Jewish celebration. The apostles and other Jews like them had come from places that spanned the entire Mediterranean region to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Jewish version of Pentecost. This is commonly known as the “Feast of Weeks” or “Shavuot,” and it is held fifty days after the Passover. To this day, Shavuot primarily celebrates the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22) as well as God giving the Torah (i.e. the Law) to the nation of Israel. In summary, Shavuot highlights God’s goodness and providential care toward them as a people, witnessed in an abundant harvest and in the gift of Torah, which itself gives life and leads toward life.

For Christians, Pentecost coincides with the fiftieth day since the morning of Easter. This festival day is when we celebrate the Holy Spirit being first given – and continually given – to the church. However, too often we leave the story there. We may adorn our chancels in red paraments, we may read of the uniquely spectacular miracle of wind and tongues of fire; in the end our collective response to it is basically, “That’s a pretty neat story.” The special effects of that first Christian Pentecost story can make it easy to forget that Pentecost has more to say about the natural realm than it does about the supernatural realm. After Peter’s speech, the “wonders and signs” performed by Christians are listed: they shared communal possessions, gave to those in need, worshiped together, broke bread together with glad and generous hearts, and had goodwill toward all people (Acts 2:43-47). Those wonders and signs are not supernatural; the Holy Spirit is of course supernatural, but the manifestations of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit are very real and very earthly.

In many ways, this part of the Acts 2 Pentecost story fits nicely within its Jewish roots. Those roots of Pentecost proclaim God’s goodness, God’s providential care, and God’s desire for life on earth to be filled with abundance. Yes, a miracle gave the first apostles the ability to speak in different languages, but that was not an end to itself. That miracle was a means to draw people into Christ’s movement; a movement that is best manifested in real, earthly ways (see again 2:43-47) that proclaim in word and deed God’s faithfulness and God’s will for humanity. One way of viewing this manifestation in verses 43-47 is that these Christians are now empowered by the Holy Spirit to daily embody the fullness of a Shavuot celebration.

What are the ways that the Holy Spirit is moving us today, during this Pentecost Sunday? If we hear that Pentecost has at its core a celebration of harvest, of God’s faithfulness, of God’s goodness and providential care, and if we also hear the pleas and warnings from a living planet that is suffering at our hands, then we must make a determination on how to proceed. God desires life, an abundant harvest, and a people who will prophetically proclaim and embody God’s faithfulness toward all. We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is a power that we shouldn’t – but easily can – underestimate. This powerful Holy Spirit is moving Christians to come together to be voices and hands that are aligned with God’s goodwill and providential care in very real and earthly ways.

Discussion Questions

  • The apostles were limited in number and were fearful/doubtful of what awaited them, but then the Holy Spirit empowered them to proclaim the good news of God in Jesus Christ. That has changed the course of history. Can you think of other examples of people who were faced with a daunting task, but the Holy Spirit gave them power to overcome their fears or doubts?
  • When we acknowledge the scope of the earth’s biodiversity problems, we may experience anxiety or despair, with inaction often being the result. A productive method of getting over this hurdle is to find someone or a group who is willing to listen to our concerns and take them seriously. Who could you trust to listen to you? Could this be done within your congregation?

Activity Suggestions

  • Think back to the warm-up question: a plant, animal, or natural setting that fascinates you. Resolve to learn more about this unique creation of God and what its place is within ecosystems. Is it facing any threats? Are there people who are active stewards of it?
  • If you have the time and ability, have your group go outside together. Even if you are surrounded by human development, in what ways do you witness life in its various forms? Discuss how your group can take bold steps in being caregivers of this small corner of creation.

Closing Prayer

Lord God, on this Pentecost Sunday, stir your Holy Spirit that is within us. Light a fire within us and within your church across the world, that we may proclaim in word and deed your faithfulness, your will, your providential care, and your desire for life. Amen.

The post June 9, 2019–Transformative Changes appeared first on Faith Lens.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

June 2, 2019–Being One

Chris Heavner, Clemson, SC

Warm-up Question

  • What makes you and your buddies, buddies?  What unites you or holds you together?
  • Do you have a symbol for your group – a style of clothes or type of hats?

Being (Not) One

I was officiating at the wedding of two of our Clemson University alumni.  Their friends stood up to make remarks – all of which were glowing and emotional.  Some of these had gone to Clemson, so they included a “Go Tigers!” in their comments.  High school friends started noting their graduations from other colleges.  Then there was the admission from one that she attended a college in the SEC Conference rather than the ACC.  (College football rivalries are important in the South.)

These exchanges were good natured and humorous; some such exchanges are not.  College football is but one place where division and mistrust and hatred boil over into something ugly.  Our country seems to be in a phase were name-calling and belittling have ceased to be taboo.

This is surely a place where the followers of Jesus need to make known a better way.  In the midst of talk which sets one against another, Christians need to share our story and affirm our convictions.  The followers of Jesus have had differences of opinion, but we have a message of unity beyond our personal preferences and styles.

Discussion Questions

  • Name the five persons with whom you have the strongest bond?  What brings you together?
  • Identify at least two topics or ways of doing stuff which is different among your closest friends.
  • Have you ever had to set aside part of who you are for the sake of someone you wanted as a friend?  What benefit did you experience by not allowing that one thing to push you apart?
  • Do you think Jesus’ followers are “one”?
  • What can you do (what can your group do) to best reflect the oneness we have as a result of Jesus’ ministry and his teachings?

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 16:16-34

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

John 17:20-26

(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 C at Lectionary Readings

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

Gospel Reflection

These verses are the closing words of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse.”  Starting at 13:1, Jesus speaks words to his followers of how they are to understand his ministry and carry on with his mission.  It is clear that being “one” is important to him.

When Jesus speaks of being one with the Father (John 10:30), he means they are of the same nature.  They are one in the way that your foot and your hand are one.  They cannot be separated!  This is the oneness he wants his followers to have.

As is true for the times in which we live, the times in which Jesus lived were full of conflict and contentious parties.  Jesus understood the powerful blessing known as the simple gift of being in sync with those around us.  

To be “one” means we are so firmly connected that we can even risk the challenging work of honest speech.  The hand can expose the splinter in the heel of the foot (which will cause the foot great pain) without the foot lashing out –  “We are no longer connected!”

To be “one” means we know our lives and our futures are connected and so we will act in a way which ensures both of us will experience the fullness God hopes for us.  This is the prayer which Jesus offers.

We are one, with the Christians in Sri Lanka gunned down during Sunday worship.  We are one, with the inhabitants of Marshall Islands whose nation is being lost due to global warming.  We are one, with refugees caught in the cross fire of drugs and gangs. We are one.  Jesus said it was so.  And we will live as one, for the wellbeing of all the creation.

Discussion Questions

  • When have you witnessed persons acting as “one”?
  • What changes in behavior are likely to happen when we acknowledge the oneness of all God’s children?
  • Do you think Jesus was limiting our “oneness” to those who belong to our congregation?  To our denomination?  To Protestants?  To Christians?

Activity Suggestions

  • Identify persons in your community (maybe even your youth group) with whom you have had differences.  Speak to them of the oneness you share, regardless of what might seem to separate you.
  • Make a list of those with whom you are one, and a list of those with whom you wish to strengthen an awareness of oneness.  Pledge to pray the names of these persons each day for the next two weeks.
  • Watch one of many videos in which refugees share their stories.  Here is one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6b5H7je4m1A

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, you have made us one through the words and work of your Beloved Son.  Living as one can be a challenge; living as one is a tremendous opportunity.  With your grace, support us in our efforts to bring to fullness that which you have given to us.  Help to be one, with all your children and with each of our neighbors.  Amen.

The post June 2, 2019–Being One appeared first on Faith Lens.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

May 26, 2019–Circumstances are not Crippling

inspired by Sylvia Alloway, Grenada Hills, CA 

Warm-up Question

  • When you hear the words “made well,” what comes to mind?
  • Have you or anyone you’ve known lived with a disability?
  •  The website for ELCA Disability Ministries notes, “All of us are disabled in some way as we stand before God.” How might we relate with a person with a disability in ways that honor their gifts and our own?
  • What motivates us to help another person, their need or our desire to to feel good about helping?

Circumstances are not Crippling

Most people have heard of Joni Eareckson Tada, the woman who’s arms and legs entered paralysis at 17 after breaking her neck in a diving accident. It is hard to imagine how a young athlete could deal with the fact that she was not going to be healed, but famously, Joni did. Rather than being physically healed, she learned to paint by holding the brush in her mouth. She founded “Joni and Friends,” a ministry that helps persons with disabilities and their families reach independence, physically, financially, and spiritually. 

Does that mean that Joni is spiritually more confident and that her disability no longer leads her to experience sadness or uncertainty?  Not at all. In a meditation she wrote on the 50th anniversary of her accident she confesses her early despair and the ways she tried dealing with it: drinking and socializing with “dark companions” – and how the memory of those days still haunts her. The efforts of Christian friends, who studied the Bible with her, included her in their social events, and shared words of wisdom with her, saw Joni as a person with many gifts to offer the world and helped her see them in herself as well.

God does not allow personal suffering because he likes giving people pain. Yet God can miraculously bring beautiful results from difficult life circumstances, strength from weakness, and joy from sorrow. The trouble-free lives we sometimes wish we could live would only hinder us from becoming the strong, dedicated people our loving God wants us to be.  Most importantly, God is with us on our life journey through all our days, difficult or easy.

Discussion Questions

  • Who are the people in your life who have helped you along your journey?
  • What might have happened to Joni’s life if other Christians had done nothing but tell her to cheer up or assure her that “All things work together for good to those who love God,” rather than becoming a part of her life?
  • Joni’s experience gave her the desire to help others with similar life experiences. Has anyone ever helped you through a hard time and how did they help you? Or have you have helped another person through a hard time and what did you do?
  • Can you think of a way that God has turned a disappointment in your life or someone else’s life into an unexpected gift? What happened?

Sixth Sunday of Easter 

Acts 16:9-15

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

John 14:23-29

John 5:1-9

(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 C at Lectionary Readings

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

Gospel Reflection

The man in today’s Gospel lesson from John 5, may have felt like giving up. His paralysis is said to have lasted 38 years.  His disability had become a way of life.  We may think he had a right to his self-pity, but what good would come from that?  Jesus came and asked him if he wanted to get well. 

What was his response? “Oh, yes!” “Absolutely!” “More than anything!”  No. He answers with all the excuses he has been rehearsing for years for why he can not get in the pool, and not be healed, including blaming others.

Jesus sometimes healed people based on faith, their recognition of their need for him. But not this time. Jesus interrupts the man’s sense of not belonging with a strong command. “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” The man needed more than a healing of his body, a holistic healing was called for.  He takes his first positive action in 38 years. He gets up. He obeys Jesus’ command and he confidently walks.

Few people experience a life-long disability like Joni’s.  Yet we all have things we believe we are not capable of.  Joni’s friends encouraged Joni and she in turn has helped other people.  Yes it takes courage and sometimes there is risk. Our world would be a better place if we followed Jesus’ example and helped each other walk “well.”  And if we do this, the result might just be miraculous.

Discussion Questions

  • What stood out the most for you in the scripture?
  • How were you challenged?
  • Do we ask someone before we help, as Jesus did?
  • Why do you think Jesus healed the paralyzed man, despite disbelief?
  • We don’t have Jesus’ miraculous powers, but we can promote and receive healing alongside others. Share some ways in which we can do this.

Activity Suggestions

  • Ask students to create a challenge/s in which a friend or stranger might need help and someone else provides that help. Then act it out for the group. 
  • Ask for situations in which a person with a disability might invite help from, or provide help to, someone else.
  • Give each person a marker and paper plate/or piece of construction paper. Have them write their name in the center.  Take up the plates/papers and redistribute. Ask each person to write positive words of encouragement or a gift/s they see in that person.

Closing Prayer

Dear God, we don’t always understand why you allow your people to experience pain or the inability to change.  It is hard to suffer or watch our loved ones suffer.  Give us the assurance that you are always with us even as we endure difficult times in our lives. Help us to see the needs of others and share your love with them and bring to our attention examples of those who shine with joy even in their sorrows. Give us strength to follow these examples and give you praise for what you are able to “make well” in each and all of us.  Amen.

The post May 26, 2019–Circumstances are not Crippling appeared first on Faith Lens.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

May 19, 2019–Transforming Moments

Bob Chell, Sioux Falls, SD

Warm-up Question

What event has shaped and changed your life more than any other?

Transforming Moments

Yet again the nation is dealing with a school shooting, this time on the campus of UNC-Charlotte.  On May 1, a young man entered a classroom and began shooting.  Two were killed and four were wounded.  Police were unclear as to the possible motives of the shooter.

According to one news account, Sophomore Joshua Ayers, 20, was in the classroom when the shooter entered. The liberal studies class has about 100 students, but only about 30 were on hand Tuesday for final presentations, one of which was underway when the shooting began, he said.

“All of a sudden, the door on the north side of the room slams open. A guy rushes in, pulls up a gun with his right hand … and began firing at the far north corner table,” Ayers said. “He didn’t speak a word — just ran in and started shooting.

Public officials from around the country decried the new violence, but it was not obvious what changes, if any, might be undertaken to prevent or minimize the impact of such random acts of violence in the future.

Discussion Questions

  • This event will shape and change the rest of Joshua Ayer’s life.Will this event shape his life for better or for worse? Why?
  • How could this event have a negative impact on Josh’s life?
  • How could this event have a positive impact on Josh’s life?
  • How could this event have a negative impact on YOUR life?
  • How could this event have a positive impact on YOUR life?

Fifth Sunday of Easter

(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 C at Lectionary Readings

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

Gospel Reflection

You may know the name Riley Howell. Or perhaps the name is vaguely familiar.  Riley Howell, a student at the University of North Carolina, rushed a shooter, knocking him off his feet as the shooter took Riley’s life. One can’t help but ask, “What would I have done?” or “If I am in a similar circumstance what will I do?” Nearly all of us would begin our answer both questions saying, “Well, I hope I would…” Hopefully, that is a question we will never have to answer.

However, there is a second question we must answer. How will tragic events shape and change my life?  I wish I could tell you it will shape your life in positive ways if you make good choices, or draw positive meaning from an horrific event but this is only partially true.  I suspect there wasn’t much of a decision process for either Riley or Joshua that day and perhaps if the places they were standing or sitting in class that day were reversed their responses would have been reversed as well. We can speculate and imagine and hypothesize all day but we won’t be any closer to knowing.

Initially, all any of us can do is react when tragic events occur and persevere in their aftermath. If the event is across the state or across the world, no matter how tragic it may be, it rarely disrupts our daily lives. But when we are Joshua Ayers, the one who was there, we cannot escape it’s impact.

There may be a day when Joshua will utilize this event to motivate himself to a life of service to others. Or, perhaps he will try to numb his pain with chemicals, or things or experiences and fill his days and his life so full there is no room for the pain.  We can’t know, even he can’t know at this point. He, like all of us, will do the best he can.

So, you may wonder, what does this have to do with Jesus command to “Love one another.”?  The real question isn’t what impact this event will have on Joshua’s life or yours, the real question is the one young adults come to hate. The question that comes from your parents, grandparents, and every relative and family friend over twenty five years old—and nearly every time you see them—“So, what are you going to do with your life?”

Sadly, this brief reflection will not answer that question for you.  But I can tell you there are events and experiences in your life that will bring meaning and purpose into focus, if only for a short time.  When Jesus died scripture says the curtain in the Jerusalem temple was torn from top to bottom. The temple was where people worshiped and the curtain was to protect people from stumbling into the “Holy of Holies,”because confronted with God’s power and majesty they would die.  The significance of the curtain tearing is that God’s power and majesty is most clearly revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now the transcendent is accessible and God is here.

When we celebrate Holy Communion our liturgy speaks of “a foretaste of the feast to come.”  We believe God’s Spirit is present in the water of baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Yet, God’s Spirit is not shackled to the font and the altar. Scripture compares the Spirit to the wind, blowing where it wishes.

You may have experienced the wind of the Holy Spirit in your life already. Great tragedies or great joys reorient our lives as we suddenly see things as if we’ve never seen them before. The birth of a child or the death of a loved one transforms what we thought important minutes before into insignificance. We realize it was never as important as we thought.  These are times when the curtain is torn in our lives and catch a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven and the true value of things.

Jesus says the words in this week’s lesson to his disciples just prior to his death, his crucifixion, and the tearing of the temple curtain. He is not giving his disciples a final order he knows they cannot fulfill, but an invitation. An invitation to a new way of seeing the world and a new way of being in the world.

No one seeks suffering, yet it comes to each of us. When it comes your way listen for the wind, watch for the the breath of the Spirit leading your through the suffering into God’s good promises.

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean that Jesus has been glorified?
  • The author of the reflection above says Jesus gives the disciples an invitation but Jesus says it’s a commandment, which is it and what difference does it make? Can it be both?  How do you hear it for you, as a burden or an invitation to a deeper more meaningful life? Something else?

Activity Suggestions

  • Is there someone you know whose life has been shaped and changed by tragedy? Did anything good come out of that event or experience?
  • Ask an adult who you have deep respect for, “What was the worst thing that happened in your life and how did it shape and change your life?”

Closing Prayer

Loving God, you have blessed us in too many ways to count, yet we still struggle. We struggle to comprehend evil in the world and why we sometimes say and do hurtful things. Pour your healing Spirit into our hearts when they are broken and give us wisdom to discern your Spirits presence in the midst of deep and unremitting suffering.  Amen.

The post May 19, 2019–Transforming Moments appeared first on Faith Lens.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

May 12, 2019–How Do You Know the Truth?

Jen Krausz, Bethlehem, PA

 Warm-up Question

Warm-up Question: When you hear someone’s testimony, do you tend to believe it or question it? Why?

How Do You Know the Truth?

On Wednesday May 1, U.S. Attorney General William Barr gave testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his handling of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report about his two-year investigation into President Donald Trump.

Mueller investigated whether President Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, which would have been illegal. Collusion means working together, which a presidential candidate is not allowed to do with a foreign power like Russia.

Barr faced questions on Wednesday because of his summary of the March 22nd report. Democrats in Congress think Barr has been too partial to Trump and has not been objective about the report.  Barr’s summary said that the report showed no collusion with Russia and was inconclusive about some possible instances of obstruction of justice. Democrats have said that the full report could show some wrongdoing by the President and his administration.

In his testimony, Barr defended his summary against aggressive questions from some Democrat senators, some of whom accused him of being “purposely misleading” and “lying to Congress.”  Barr refused to appear at a parallel hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, which is controlled by Democrats and might have involved questions from lawyers as well as lawmakers.

Trump has called the report a “complete and total exoneration.” Not all Democrats see it that way, however, Democrat party leaders have backed off on calls to impeach Trump since seeing the report.“  Still, many remain unsatisfied with Barr’s answers.  “Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrifice their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office,” Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, said to Barr. Giuliani is Trump’s personal lawyer and Conway is White House counsel.

Discussion Questions

  • Clearly, there is strong disagreement concerned the truth of Barr’s testimony.  What are some ways you might be able to tell whether someone is being truthful?
  • Is truth always black and white?  Is it possible for there to be honest disagreement over what something means?
  • What are some of the possible consequences of giving false testimony?
  • How does false testimony relate to the Ninth Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”?
  • Why might someone not be truthful when testifying about something?

Fourth Sunday of Easter

(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 C at Lectionary Readings

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

Gospel Reflection

As the scene opens, Jesus is walking in Solomon’s Colonnade in the Temple courts. In the Old Testament, Solomon was known for his great wisdom. The wisdom of Solomon remains legendary, but Jesus’ wisdom far surpasses that of Solomon, who eventually disobeyed many of God’s commands to him, i.e. marrying many wives, stockpiling gold, and even worshiping other gods. (See 1 Kings, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes for more of Solomon’s story).

The people around Jesus in this passage are not so different from people today. They want to know what is true; they decide to ask Jesus directly whether he is the Messiah. It seems that this isn’t the first time these people have asked Jesus whether he is the Messiah. For Jews, who have waited hundreds of years for the Messiah to come, it is hard to believe that this relatively uneducated, plain, and peace-seeking person can possibly be the promised Messiah, who will liberate his people.

Like so many people when they hear a word from God in their hearts, they want to hear it one more time before they can embrace it as truth. They just aren’t sure whether they can believe what seems so strange.

So Jesus tells them that his works testify about him. Healing miracles, his teachings, and his unique way of pointing people to God were his testimony. In its best form, testimony gives proof about something. It also reveals truth. The works of Jesus do both of these things, but like people of today, not everyone is convinced of the truth of Jesus’ testimony.

In the King James Version, Hebrews 11:1 says  that Faith is “the evidence of things unseen.” While some theologians have made strong and convincing arguments in favor of God’s existence and Jesus’ divinity (Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, for instance), it isn’t possible to fully prove these things in a courtroom. Faith is required.

Jesus describes people of faith as his sheep. As sheep follow their shepherd, they come to know his voice. In the same way, as we follow Jesus, we come to know his voice. We don’t have to wonder who Jesus is; we know he is the Messiah because we know him through the Bible and our faith, and because his works in our lives have testified to us about him.

Discussion Questions

  • If you consider yourself one of Jesus’ sheep, what has led you to believe in and follow Jesus? If you don’t, what is holding you back from believing and following him?
  • Why do you think those without faith have a difficult time understanding who Jesus is?
  • What events in your life have testified to you about who Jesus is?
  • What helps you recognize Jesus’ voice?

Activity Suggestions

Jesus describes his faithful people as sheep. Do a little online research about what sheep are like. What qualities of sheep remind you of being a follower of Jesus? Do you feel any differently about the analogy Jesus used, which is also found in Psalm 23?

Closing Prayer

Dear Jesus, Thank you for giving us your works and your word to testify that you are the Messiah. Help me to follow you in faith and to better understand who you are through your works in my life. Amen.

The post May 12, 2019–How Do You Know the Truth? appeared first on Faith Lens.

Upcoming Events:

Sunday, July 21
10:00am: Worship
Tuesday, July 23
11:00am: Bible study
Wednesday, July 24
9:00am: Food Pantry

Lectionary Texts:

July 19, 2019:
First Reading: Genesis 13:1-18
Psalm: Psalm 15
Second Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21
July 19, 2019 Semicontinuous:
First Reading: Amos 5:18-27
Psalm: Psalm 52
July 21, 2019 Ordinary 16:
First Reading: Genesis 18:1-10a
Psalm: Psalm 15
Second Reading: Colossians 1:15-28
Gospel Reading: Luke 10:38-42
July 21, 2019 Ordinary 16 Semicontinuous:
First Reading: Amos 8:1-12
Psalm: Psalm 52

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

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