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 1, 2020


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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

May 17, 2020–“Mat Talk” for the World

Brett Davis, Washington, D.C.

Warm-up Question

Can you think of a time you received a pep talk and it really helped?

“Mat Talk” for the World

A few months ago, the Netflix docu-series Cheer dropped and instantly the hardworking college cheerleading team it profiles became famous and world-followed.  Maybe the breakout star is Jerry Harris, a young man who has had a tough life, but projects incredible positivity.  He’s magnetic in the series and has drawn a huge following because of his story and energizing “mat talks.”  Mat talks are the encouraging sideline cheers he offers for his teammates.  His infectious spirit makes you feel like you can do anything!

It’s not just cheerleading.  Most people have received some kind of pep talk from a coach, teammate, parent, friend, or teacher.  Jerry has taken his talks off the mat, encouraging people all over, including strangers through requests over Instagram. He’s even done one to encourage people on their way into another day at work.

At the end of March, as the pandemic was unfolding, Jerry offered a mat talk for us all.  It ended, “I want you guys to all stay focused on what is good and happy, and always keep an attitude of gratitude, and always be strong.  Because at the end of the day, we got this!”  Hearing Jerry say it, even for a moment, you agree.

Discussion Questions

  • Who gives the best pep talks?  
  • Is there anyone famous whom you follow because of their positivity or videos which encourage you and make you feel stronger?
  • What’s the pep talk the world needs right now?  

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 17:22-31

1 Peter 3:13-22

John 14:15-21

(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

Whose words do you cling to when you are in need?  When you are sick, whose voice comes to mind to comfort or instruct you?  

Once in a great while these people’s words may be truly inspired, or the person delivering them may happen to be a master orator.  But I think that for the most part, coaches or mentors don’t have any uniquely brilliant words. If you read that coach’s pep talk as a transcript, it might sound a little silly, even trite.  Often, as a pastor, I  feel like I don’t have anything that special to say.  But I know it’s important to say the simple things, especially when it’s hard:  “God loves you.”  “You are forgiven.” “Peace be with you.”

It’s not that Jesus had magical words that transformed people.  This peace that Jesus talks about, the peace not like the world gives, which untangles your troubles and wards off fear, doesn’t come from magic words, but from a relationship.  It comes from love. Think about how it completely changes the words “peace” or “I love you” or “you’ve got this,” depending on who it comes from.  

It’s the relationship that makes the words ring in your ears, long after the person is gone.  The relationship makes the words matter.  When you can feel that the person giving the encouragement really means it, really believes in you, it makes a difference.  

This is Jesus’ pep talk.  Jesus is saying that when he leaves them, he won’t leave them orphaned.  He encourages them – and us – “you can do it, and you won’t be alone.”  Jesus promises the presence of the Advocate,  the Holy Spirit,  as a kind of permanent cheerleader, encourager, pep talker, for us.  Jesus also promises the gift of peace.

That peace – you don’t find it, earn it, or understand it.  Jesus just gives it.  It comes, not through magic words, but through the love and authentic encouragement of a relationship.  When someone you trust says “you can do it” or “it’s going to be ok” – you feel a sense of peace and believe that it will indeed be okay.  This is one way the Holy Spirit works, ever on the sidelines encouraging us and offering Jesus’ peace.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever gotten a pep talk from scripture, a hymn, or an experience in worship?
  • Are there any of Jesus’ words, in today’s passage or elsewhere, which are encouraging to you and give you peace?
  • Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”  Be honest – how does that make you feel?

Activity Suggestions

  • Watch a couple of Jerry Harris’ “mat talks” or other pep talks.  Write a pep talk for someone who needs it -perhaps even yourself.  If able, record it as a video to hype the person up and send it to them – or save it to remind yourself.
  • What is the pep talk that the world needs right now?  Write and record a pep talk for the world.  Do you find yourself using any of the same words or themes that Jesus does in the gospel?

Closing Prayer

Encouraging God, bring your peace.  Help us feel that peace in all the places where we feel afraid.  Thank you for giving us people in our lives who cheer us on and advocate for us.  Help us to be an advocate for the voiceless and a cheerleader for those who are struggling, strengthened by your promise to never leave us.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


The post May 17, 2020–“Mat Talk” for the World appeared first on Faith Lens.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

May 10, 2020–Many Dwelling Places

Jason Fisher, Champaign, IL

Warm-up Question

Not everyone has a room of their own. Where would you go if you didn’t have a place to live?

Many Dwelling Places

With many people’s travel plans on hold across the country, the hospitality industry has been left with millions of empty hotel rooms. Many are concerned that the spread of the corona virus poses an inherent danger to the homeless, who stay in cramped shelters. Many immigrants who are seeking asylum or citizenship in the United States have been put in detention centers and are also in danger of contracting the corona virus, by simply being placed in close proximity to others who are detained. Large cities are finding creative ways to use these empty hotel rooms to house the homeless or those recovering from corona virus. 

Despite protests from locals in the area, a judge in California allowed a 76 room hotel to be converted into a shelter for the homeless. It will temporarily house those without an address and who are more susceptible to contracting the corona virus. Numerous elderly already living in the community raises a question: Whose safety is more important, those who already have a room, or those who still need one?

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you need to feel safe and free from worry where they live?
  • What would it be like to be in another country, unable to speak the language, and looking for a place to live?
  • Would your family open your home to someone who needs a place to live? Why or why not?

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 7:55-60

1 Peter 2:2-10

John 14:1-14

(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

In the passage right before this one, Peter asks Jesus where he is going. Jesus responds by telling Peter that he cannot follow Jesus at this time. Peter wants to know why he cannot follow Jesus and insists that he is ready to die for Jesus. That is when Jesus tells Peter that he will deny that he knows Jesus and turn his back on him in his hour of greatest need. Then  Jesus says, in John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” In another translation it says “Do not be worried or upset.” We can assume that after Peter heard Jesus say he would deny him, Peter was pretty worried and upset. We can also see from these passages that there is a connection between following Jesus and knowing Jesus.  With this temporary separation coming near, Jesus tries to reassure them of his presence.

Jesus tries to comfort them by saying that in his Father’s house there are many rooms or dwelling places, and that he goes to prepare a place for them. We often hear this text at funerals.  People begin to get visions of having their own lavish mansion in heaven when they die. In many ways that understanding misses the point that a dwelling place is truly home only when it is with God. As St. Augustine writes in his Confessions, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Having a room to ourselves is nice, but God making room for us to be in the Triune presence is even better.

Pretty soon the disciples enter into a time when they do not know where things are headed, similar to the temporary separation we are experiencing now from friends and loved ones.  Such separation can cause us to rethink our relationships and goals. We begin to ponder where we think we should be, and where we think God should be. 

Jesus says, “you know the way to where I am going.” Their trusted teacher, on whom they have relied to not only teach them how to live out the scriptures, but also who has also given them life and hope, will no longer be with them in the same way. Thomas echoes some of the same concerns we may have when he says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Unable to learn from our favorite teachers or coaches we too may feel ourselves wandering or fear we have lost our way. Everything had been planned out for us by someone else,  and now our work, sports, and school schedules are out the window. 

Jesus responds, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  This passage can be divisive, used to separate people into categories of saved or condemned. Jesus meant these words to be a message of hope. The disciples can take comfort, not condemnation, from the knowledge that they have known Jesus, and because they have known Jesus, they have known God the Father. Jesus is the way to whom? Jesus is the truth about what? Jesus is what kind of life? Remember that everything Jesus said about himself and did in his earthly ministry pointed people to what God the Father was like and was doing.

Philip just wants things to be simplified. “Just show us the father and we will be satisfied” he says. Philip just wants to get back to basics and know where God is in all this craziness. Jesus points Philip back to the work they did alongside him as they ate with Jesus in peoples homes, healed the sick in numerous houses.  In time they spread the good news while living among people in their dwelling places. Jesus reminds them of all that God has done through them to that point and encourages them that God is going to do even greater things through them. 

It is scary when our teacher leaves us and we must trust our training. But Jesus reminds the disciples and us that, through the Holy Spirit, he is still here guiding us, going ahead of us, and dwelling with us, and making room for us. Like the disciples we yearn to be face to face with our closest friends.  After this struggle we will look back and think, “Jesus was with me and I didn’t even know it.” God is here and knows that we are worried, upset, lost, and wanting to see face to face. This is where faith comes in. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.”

Discussion Questions

  • Do you feel like Peter, who is worried and upset?
  • Do you feel like Thomas, who isn’t sure where to go next?
  • Do you feel like Philip, who is struggling to see where God is right now?  Which of the these three disciples do you most feel like?
  • What things do you want to ask God to do for you in this moment?
  • What would you like God to show you so that you would be satisfied?

Activity Suggestions

The Way Activity – One way to deal with worry is to center ourselves in God through prayer. Use this prayer by Thomas Merton this week: 

O Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going,

I do not see the road ahead of me,

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,

And that fact that I think

I am following Your will

Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe

That the desire to please You

Does in fact please You.

And I hope I have that desire

In all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything

Apart from that desire to please You.

And I know that if I do this

You will lead me by the right road,

Though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always

Though I may seem to be lost

And in the shadow of death.

I will not fear,

For You are ever with me,

And You will never leave me

To make my journey alone.

(Source: Thomas Merton, Pax Christi, Benet Press, Erie, PA.)

The Truth Activity – Much of our worry or sense of feeling lost comes from not believing that God is with us in any given moment or situation. The truth is God is always here with us. One way to remember God’s presence with us is through something called the “Game of Minutes,” created by missionary and  mystic, Frank C. Laubach. The goal is to pick one hour out of your day and bring God to mind once during each minute of that hour. You can then write down your “score” for the percentage of time you were able to remember God.  Thee goal is to improve your “score” each day. Another variation would be to set a timer to remind you each hour during the day to stop wherever you are and remember God’s presence with you in that moment.

The Life Activity – When Jesus talks about leaving the disciples it probably felt to them like their lives were over. Find things this week that bring you life, whether it is a hobby, walking through nature, cooking, music, or art. Before you begin that activity pray a prayer of thanks to God for the life it brings you. After the activity offer up another prayer of thanks for God’s grace that gives you new life in Jesus Christ.

Closing Prayer

God of all troubled hearts, help us to believe in you when we feel worried, upset, lost, and cannot seem to find you. Jesus, remind us each day that through your words and actions you point us to God. May we point others to you, Lord, through the work you have given to us today. Through the Holy Spirit help us make room for you in our homes and our hearts, and to know that wherever we dwell, you are there living in us. Amen.


The post May 10, 2020–Many Dwelling Places appeared first on Faith Lens.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

May 3, 2020–Piper and Shepherd

Dennis Sepper, Rosemount, MN

Warm-up Question

What gifts and/or talents do you have?  What gifts and/or talents have others seen in you?

Piper and Shepherd

Roseville, Minnesota – 12-year-old Abenet Coltvet is a bagpiper.  When the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in St. Paul, Minnesota was cancelled, Abenet was disappointed.  As the “Social Distancing” order went into effect due to the Covid – 19 pandemic, Abenet had an idea.  Donning his kilt and other bagpiper apparel, Abenet made his way to the senior residence complex where his grandparents live and put on a concert.  He’s done that twice now and also has marched through a neighborhood park staying the appropriate 6 feet distance from all others.  The Middle School 7th grader felt he had to bring cheer to others by sharing his passion and his talent.  Read the local news story.

Discussion Questions

  • What have you been disappointed about since the pandemic caused us to change our daily habits?
  • How might you use your talents and gifts to bring cheer and hope to those in your family or, where possible, to your neighborhood for large community
  • What are some other signs of hope that you see in your community that help us get through this time of change?

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:42-47

1 Peter 2:19-25

John 10:1-10

(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

It is a rather strange image Jesus provides us in this week’s reading.  He describes what would have been a familiar sight to the people of his day.  Shepherds would keep the sheep safe overnight by putting them all in a pen and then standing watch so that the sheep wouldn’t be attacked by wolves, coyotes, or by thieves and bandits.  In verses 1-6 Jesus seems to say that he is the shepherd who calls the sheep out of the pen into the pasture (in fact in verse 11, just after our reading ends, Jesus even says directly “I am the good shepherd”).  However, in verse 9 Jesus says “I am the gate for the sheep.”   

So which is it?  Gate or Good Shepherd?  Maybe it doesn’t have to be an “either/or” but a “both/and” kind of image.  Let’s try this, let’s picture the church as the sheepfold or pen.  Inside we sheep are safe and cared for.  We hear God’s word, we join with our fellow sheep in singing hymns and saying prayers and the Good Shepherd provides a meal of bread and wine to strengthen our spirits with his Spirit.  But there comes a time when the Good Shepherd calls us to leave that space and venture out into the world.  Jesus as the door, opens the door and then leads and guides us to our work in the world.

Right now most of us are behind other doors, the doors of our homes where we are safe from the Coronavirus.  However that doesn’t mean that the Good Shepherd isn’t with us.  The resurrected Jesus is with us always, everywhere, every day.  There will come a time when the Shepherd will call us out of our homes and back into the world.  Even under the best conditions that could be a very scary thing but notice how in the 23rd psalm we are promised that even if we walk in the valley of shadows, the Good Shepherd will be there leading us and guiding us in all we do and ultimately leading us through adversity to green pastures and still waters.  That’s the promise made and the promise we hold on to.

Abenet heard the Good Shepherd call him by name to use his talent and his passion to bring some peace to the people living in that senior community.  The Good Shepherd also calls us to serve God and neighbor in the world.  As we answer that call, we discover the abundant life Jesus promises.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel about the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd?  Does the image speak to you in ways that help you feel safe and hopeful?
  • Can you think of other ways to see Jesus as the door to the sheepfold?
  • In the gospel of John there are some seven times that Jesus says “I am”.  Can you think of any of them?  (One is found in John 11:25 where Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life”.)

Activity Suggestions

Remember the gift or talent you identified in the warm-up question.  You can use this time to share that gift or talent.  If your gift is music you can practice your instrument or voice.  If it is art you can continue to draw, paint, and create.  If it’s writing you can journal with the goal of creating a narrative of what it was like to live through a pandemic.

Then think of ways that you can share your gift or talent to bring hope to those around you.  You may need to get creative here and use social media or some other way to get your message of hope out.  Trust me, it will be appreciated by those you share it with.

Closing Prayer

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, in times of uncertainty, be our guard and keep us safe.  When the time is right, call us out of our homes and churches to boldly proclaim the gospel by word and deed and serve you by serving our neighbor.  Thank you for your guiding presence and be with us in all that we do.  In your name we pray, amen.


The post May 3, 2020–Piper and Shepherd appeared first on Faith Lens.

Upcoming Events:

Sunday, July 5
10:00am: Worship
Tuesday, July 7
11:00am: Bible study
Wednesday, July 8
9:00am: Food Pantry
Sunday, July 12
10:00am: Worship

Lectionary Texts:

July 5, 2020 Ordinary 14:
First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm: Psalm 145:8-14
Second Reading: Romans 7:15-25a
Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
July 5, 2020 Ordinary 14 Semicontinuous:
First Reading: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm: Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13
July 12, 2020 Ordinary 15:
First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm: Psalm 65:1-13
Second Reading: Romans 8:1-11
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
July 12, 2020 Ordinary 15 Semicontinuous:
First Reading: Genesis 25:19-34
Psalm: Psalm 119:105-112

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

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