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, January 19, 2021

January 24, 2021–Inviting Not Selling

Heather Hansen, San Antonio, TX

Warm-up Question

When have you had success getting someone to change their mind, selling them something, or convincing them of a new concept.  What helped you do it?

Inviting Not Selling

Relevant Magazine online recently reported a list of 11 statistics that paint a striking picture of US consumerism.  Here are a few of the 11, but to find the whole list, you can use this link:

1.  Nearly 40% of food in America goes to waste.

2. Nearly half the world’s toys are in America.

3. The average American household has more than $7,500 in consumer debt while the median household

income in the global population is just over $9,700 (as of 2013, according to Gallup).

In a 2008 video called “The Virtue of Kindness,”  one of the narrators shares a statistic which remains fairly unchanged 12 years later:  The US is 6% of the world’s population and we use about 23% of the world’s resources.

Just coming out of the Christmas season, how do you feel about consumerism?  Has Christmas become primarily a consumer cultural?  Is it hard to stay focused amidst all the advertisements and marketing?  I noticed this year that many commercials are about treating yourself, or at least treating yourself after you treat others.  But isn’t giving someone a gift at Christmas supposed to be a meaningful show of love, like God’s gift of Jesus to us or the wisemen’s gifts to Jesus?

In 2018, the top 200 advertisers spent a collective $163,000,000,000 on marketing, according to businessinsider.com.  Yes, you read that right.  One-hundred-sixty-three BILLION dollars on marketing in ONE year.  It’s no wonder we are such consumers.  We are bombarded with verbal and visual ads everywhere we look— social media, TV, radio, billboards, and print.  Consider what we could do with billions of dollars to care for the poor, the sick, or the stranger.  We could develop better care and programs for the mentally ill or persons with disabilities, or boost education…the list goes on and on.

Because of our consumer culture, it’s not surprising that many people look at participation in a faith community or church the same way:

-Which church fits MY needs or the needs of my family?

-Which church has a coffee bar?

-Does my church worship at a time that I would like to worship, or should I find a new one that does?

-We are “church shopping.”

Of course, none of these things are necessarily bad.   But how can we also make sure we aren’t merely “consuming” faith too?  How can we be sure that our churches are not “selling us” an experience, rather than inviting us to be disciples?  What does it mean to be a disciple?  How do WE invite others into a relationship with God and with our neighbors without manipulation or a sales pitch?  Because ultimately, Jesus isn’t for sale, and neither are our relationships.

Discussion Questions

  • Based on these statistics, how do you feel about consumerism in America?
  • Given what Jesus says in Luke 12:34 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” what is God teaching us about consumerism?
  • When is going to church a faith practice and when is it consuming?  In other words, how is participating in a faith community or church more than just filling satisfying our wants.  Is there a difference between what we want and what we truly need?  Is that difference important?

Third Sunday after Epiphany

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Mark 1:14-20

(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 B at Lectionary Readings.)

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

Gospel Reflection

In Mark 1:14-20, Jesus calls and gathers his first disciples.   Jesus tells these men, who are fishermen by trade, that he will make them “fishers of men,” or in other words, “fishers of people.”  It seems like a relatively straightforward deal; I call you to follow me, and you call others to follow me (meaning Jesus).  We use this story as a reference to how God wants us to invite and welcome people into our communities of faith.  We use this story to understand part of the work of being a disciple of Christ.

However, isn’t it a little more complicated than what we hear in the gospel?  Jesus walks up to these fishermen, calls out, “Follow me.”  They lay down their nets and follow.  But WHY?!?!?!  If you were to walk up to someone in today’s world and tell them to just drop what they are doing and follow you, they would probably think you are crazy!  Even if they didn’t think you were crazy, they would not likely follow.  Moreover, in today’s cultural climate of marketing and consumerism, we’ve become particularly tuned in to wondering what people are trying to “sell” us and what’s in it for them.  “Why should I follow you?  What’s the catch?  What’s in it for me?  What’s in it for you?”

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years inviting young people who do not go to church or have an interest in church to come.  I’ve often heard that they just don’t see the point.  These are exactly the people I feel God is calling me to invite into a faith community.  However, finding ways to invite them and not make it “too churchy” or sound like a sales pitch has proven hard.  Simply asking them to “follow me” doesn’t seem realistic either.

So I look to the gospel story and wonder, what does it mean to be a fisher of people?  And how can I be a fisher of people without becoming a salesperson?  A few things come to mind:

1. Jesus invites the disciples to follow AND tells them he will make them fishers of people.  When we invite someone to come to church, we should be clear about what we are inviting them to and why.  When you want to ask someone to share a special thing in your life, how do you ask them?  What do you say?  Developing a relationship with God different than just coming to church–and people need to know why.

2. The story doesn’t tell us is why these men just dropped their nets to follow.  Did they KNOW Jesus?  Was he an acquaintance?  A stranger?  Did they hate their jobs and see that Jesus offered something better?  Had they heard that Jesus was proclaiming the good news of God?  What would make someone in today’s world hear that the gospel is good news?  Does knowing a person and hearing about what they are doing that is unique or special make a difference in whether someone follows?

3. Jesus doesn’t make a big fuss or spend a lot of time on the invitation.  It’s simply an invitation.  Sometimes, when we work too hard to convince someone, we begin to sound like a salesperson trying to sell something instead of simply inviting.  Keep it simple.  Just invite.

4. Finally, a fisherman knows that some days you catch a bunch of fish, and some days you don’t.  And when you pull in the nets, some get away or never get caught in the first place.  If we apply this to fishing for people, we remember that fishing for people isn’t about catching everyone or catching anyone in particular.  It’s about the fishing itself, the inviting. God asks us to be faithful disciples and  fish, but God doesn’t expect us to always make a catch.  Additionally, if we get too caught up in trying to catch the fish we missed, we lose sight of those we’ve caught—and they may then slip away.  Fishing for people is not about making a catch or a sale.  It’s about  extending an invitation to something which is life-giving, nourishing, sustaining, and filling.  It’s about inviting someone deeper into a relationship.  It’s about sharing the opportunity to experience God’s love with others.

Fishing for people is not about selling something.  It’s not even about making a catch.  The point of fishing for people is to throw out the net and gather people in who want to know how God is part of our lives.  It’s about inviting people into hard, beautiful, merciful, forgiving, filling, comforting, beloved relationships; the things that being a disciple are all about.  In our consumer world, fishing for people can sometimes feel like just another marketing scheme, but it doesn’t have to be that.  After all, an invitation to a party is way better than an ad for another thing to buy.

Discussion Questions

  • What’s the difference between inviting someone to follow Jesus and marketing your church or faith community?
  • In today’s consumer society, why is it important to invite someone into a relationship with Jesus rather than “sell them Jesus”?
  • What does it mean to you to be a fisher of people and why does God call disciples to be fishers of people?
  • What are some ways you could fish for people rather than “sell them Jesus”?

Activity Suggestion

Role play a way you might “fish for people.”

If you need assistance, follow these steps:

a.  Determine why your faith or your relationship with Jesus is important to you.

b.  Think about a story you could share with others that describes why your faith or relationship with Jesus is special to you.

c.  Practice sharing your story with a partner.

OR

After answering the discussion questions above, you may have come up with some different ways to fish for people yourself.  Try these out in your role play. When you are finished with your role play, have your partner help you fine tune your invitation and explore other ways you might “fish for people.”

Closing Prayer

Jesus, our teacher, You have called us to follow you and made us fishers of people.  Give us the courage to become the fishermen you ask us to be, and the faith to know how to share your love rather than sell someone on why they should believe in you.  Equip us with the tools we need to extend your forgiveness, mercy and compassion to others, and gather in all those who are drawn to you.  Amen.

 

The post January 24, 2021–Inviting Not Selling appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

January 17, 2021–Come and See

Tim Jacobsen, West Des Moines, IA

Warm-up Question

What is a food that you thought would be disgusting, but was actually really good?

Come and See

This weekend we celebrate and remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all that he accomplished through the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.  We still feel Dr. King’s impact today. Dr. King sought equal rights for African Americans and all who are oppressed by the systems in the United States. As many experienced in the summer of 2020, with civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, there is still work to be done confronting systemic racism in our country. Yet Dr. King’s legacy lives on, empowering a new generation to work for equality in our country and world. 

It is part of our human condition to make judgements and seek power; this is part of our brokenness. We often judge others on how they look, talk, dress, think, or act. When we make such judgements, we diminish others in our minds, whether we express that judgment out loud or act on it. 

In Dr. Kings famous “I have a dream speech” he says, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

Discussion Questions

  • What have you learned about the Civil Rights Movement?
  • What work still needs to be done to fight injustice?
  • How can we judge people by character only?

Second Sunday after Epiphany

1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1:43-51

(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 B at Lectionary Readings.)

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

Gospel Reflection

When the ELCA Youth Gathering was in Detroit in 2015, I remember a lot of attendees asking “Is there anything good in Detroit, has anything good come from there?” There were many layers to this question.  One concerned race and judgements made about those who lived in Detroit. Another reflected how Detroit was going through changes, as manufacturing declined and left people without jobs. Detroit is a very storied city, which one needs to go and see to appreciate. I loved our time in Detroit, getting a chance to accompany our neighbors there and to let them know we see them. 

In the gospel for today, Phillip finds Nathanael and brings him to Jesus. After asking, “Does anything good come from Nazareth?”, Phillip invites Nathanael to “come and see.” Phillip calls Nathanael on his judgment of Nazareth and invites him to come and see. So often we make judgements about people, locations, churches, or cultures without ever going to see. 

Going and seeing, being with our neighbor (the other) gives us a new perspective. This new perspective shows us the greatness of God’s creation. As Dr. King pointed out through his work in the leading the Civil Rights movement, we are all children of God, we are all more than just how we look or where we live. Jesus knew Nathanael;  after this interaction, Nathanael knew Jesus . 

Jesus knows us and our neighbor. He is present with us all, even in those people we don’t like. What would it look like if we were, like Phillip, inviting people into our community, to know Jesus regardless of who they are. We are not God, so it is not our job to judge. We are free from the burden of judgement to serve and love our neighbor as Jesus loved and served his neighbors. 

Discussion Questions

  • Have you made judgements about people or places and then realized you were wrong?
  • Have you felt like God didn’t know you or wasn’t with you?
  • When have you been called to go and see and had your view changed?
  • How have you seen God through community?
  • What would it look like to see your neighbor through Jesus’ eyes?

Activity Suggestions

Talk about discipleship and what it looks like to be a disciple who invites others on this faith journey. Have your group think about friends they could invite to church and what it would look like for your youth group to be invitational. 

Closing Prayer

Good and Gracious God, we thank you for your presence with us and love that you have for us. We ask that you open our eyes to those around us who need to feel your love. Work through us as we go out and see our neighbors. We have been blessed with much and long for much.  Help us to be content and willing to share our blessings with others.  Amen

 

The post January 17, 2021–Come and See appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

January 10, 2021–It Works!

Chris Heavner, Clemson, SC

Warm-up Question

How does the COVID vaccine work?

It Works!

Like most of you, I am eager to for my turn to come.  When either of the approved vaccines becomes available, my sleeve will be rolled up and ready.  These months have been lonely and life has been devoid of so many of the small experiences which make life such a joy.  

But, I have to admit that I really don’t know how the vaccine does what it is supposed to do.  Someone told me it gives me a mild case of COVID which allows my body to build up its own antibodies. (I am not really sure what antibodies are either.)  Seems I heard that the RNA of the virus tells my DNA what to do.  

What I do know is that getting the flu vaccine has protected me for years.  I remember making a trip to the school building for my polio vaccine (it was administered on a cube of sugar!)  So when the vaccine is finally offered – I will be ready to take it.

You might want to do some research.  Dr Cheryl Smith is a member of my home congregation.  She taught me to look for information in the right places.  I would suggest this one from the Center for Disease Control.  I also found it helpful to ask someone I trusted.  Christine worked in one of the university labs and she is great at helping me understand what I read in those journals.  

It is good for us to have some level of understanding; but in the end we may decide to take the vaccine based on the advice and recommendations of those whom we trust.  I trust Anthony Fauci.

Discussion Questions

  • Will you take the COVID vaccine when it is available?

  • Why do you think some folks have decided not to take the vaccine?

  • Name one thing which you do even though you don’t understand how it accomplishes what you have been told it will accomplish

  • Have you been baptized?  How does baptism work?

Baptism of our Lord 

Genesis 1:1-5

Acts 19:1-7

Mark 1:4-11

Epiphany of our Lord (alternate)

Isaiah 60:1-6

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

(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 B at Lectionary Readings.)

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

Gospel Reflection

The practice of baptism began before the start of the Christian Church.  Hindu practice includes a ritual similar to the ceremonial washing experienced at the Jordan River by those who went out to experience John the Baptizer.  John invited his hearers to cleanse their bodies as an indication of the cleansing of their inner moral selves.  Some may have entered the waters without having first examined their hearts.  It is likely that some left convinced that their “bath” had made them clean.

Early leaders of The Way (what Christians were first called) continued the practice of baptism as an external mark of an internal alteration.  Our church believes and teaches that the water alone can do nothing, but when the water is combined with the Word we are truly made new.  The baptism event is important, it is sacred.  Even more significant is the way it acknowledges our identity and our relationship with God.  A Christian baptism is a baptism into the death and resurrection of Our Lord.

Those who are baptized by John may not fully comprehend the ways in which their lives are being transformed.  Yet, John is preparing them for the One who will come after him.  Other fiery preachers along the Jordan River spoke of the dangers of sin and sinfulness.  John’s ritual  offers more; it cracks open the gates through which the Messiah will enter.  John’s testimony is true, even if those who hear it may not completely understand how it all works.  “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  John does a wonderful thing for those who come out to see him.  But something much, much, much better lies ahead.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you find it frustrating when adults say to you, “I don’t know why it is that way, it just is.”?  Have you ever thought, “Maybe they don’t have a good answer?”  Maybe all they have is a feeling deep within their hearts that this is indeed true, truer than anything they can explain.  How do you decide whether you can trust such feelings?

  • Share an experience in which you were totally unable to convince someone of something you believe (we might even say which you KNOW) to be true.

  • What is the process at your congregation for those who would be baptized?  Is there an instructional class?  Does the pastor make a visit?

  • Our tradition welcomes infants to the baptismal font.  This is to remind us that God is the one who acts; we respond.  Do you have friends or family members who insist that only adults be baptized?  What do  you think they understand baptism to be?

Activity Suggestions

Pull out a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism and read the section on baptism.  Ask questions!  And remember that you get the best answers from those who don’t have all the answers.  After you have read the Small Catechism, look at the baptismal liturgy in the hymnal.  Take notice that there is very little for the one being baptized to say or do.  This is true even when the one being baptized is an adult.

Closing Prayer

Help us, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting.  Amen.  (From the funeral liturgy in Evangelical Lutheran Worship)

 

The post January 10, 2021–It Works! appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

January 3, 2021–Whose Word Do We Believe?

John Wertz–Blacksburg, VA

Warm-up

Invite the group to join you in the game, “Two Truths and a Lie.” 

Tell the group that each member of the group needs to come up with two truths and one lie about themselves. Try to come up with specific statements about yourself.  Avoid general statements that could easily apply to anyone like “I love pizza.” When it is your turn, you share your two truths and a lie in any order. The object of the game is for everyone else to determine which statements are true and which one is false.

Whose Word Do We Believe?

Do a quick search for conspiracy theories and Google will give you over 100,000,000 results to explore. Conspiracy theories used to be confined to rumors and small groups of ardent believers.  The internet and social media have given conspiracy theories like QAnon and those who believe them a feeling of credibility and a highly effective way to broadcast their beliefs to a larger audience. Thankfully, the internet also provides easy access to fact checking sites. For example, Snopes.com and FactCheck.org allow you to quickly learn the facts around common conspiracy theories.

While some conspiracy theories seem relatively harmless, like the belief that the National Basketball Association rigged its 1985 draft lottery by freezing an envelope to ensure that the commissioner gave the New York Knicks the first pick in the draft. Many conspiracy theories promote ideas which endanger others, like the conspiracy theories around vaccines which impede our ability to stop the spread of dangerous diseases.

When individuals are wrapped up in a conspiracy theory, the word of an expert in a field or the facts presented in a peer reviewed paper have no impact on what they believe. One of the great difficulties in addressing conspiracy theories is that “conspiracy theories are essentially irrefutable: logical contradictions, evidence showing the opposite, even the complete absence of proof have no bearing on the conspiratorial explanation because they can always be accounted for in terms of the conspiracy”

Sadly, conspiracy theories  create division, alienation, and conflict when family members and friends embrace them. So how do you help someone else to recognize and reject a conspiracy theory? Here are six suggestions from Dr. Jovan Byford, a conspiracy theory researcher.

  1. Acknowledge the scale of the task – Be patient and be prepared to fail.
  2. Recognize the emotional dimension – Be prepared for the conversation to get emotional and be prepared to de-escalate the situation if needed.
  3. Find out what they actually believe – Don’t assume you know the details and depth of their belief. Ask questions and do research so you can discuss intelligently.
  4. Establish common ground – Find points you can agree upon to build trust and relationship.
  5. Challenge the facts, value their argument – Present appropriate facts to disprove the theory, but don’t demean the individual in the process.
  6. Be realistic – Helping someone abandon a conspiracy theory can be extremely difficult. Often, the best outcome you can achieve may be to sow seeds of doubt about the theory.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think people believe conspiracy theories even when there are clear facts that show the theory is incorrect?
  • What processes do you use to verify that the information you see online or hear from friends is actually true?

Second Sunday of Christmas

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Ephesians 1:3-14

John 1:(1-9), 10-18

(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 B at Lectionary Readings.)

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

Gospel Reflection

In a world filled with conspiracy theories, it can be difficult at times to know what to believe. Someone may say to you, “I give you my word that what I’m telling you is true.” Whether you believe them or not probably depends on how well you know the person involved, how much experience you have with them, how much of their story you know, and what you know of their character. In many places, simply saying “I give you my word” is not enough. In our reading, John reminds us that long before conspiracy theories flourished online, God said, “I give you my Word” and it was enough to bring light, grace, and truth to the world. 

Now to be sure, millions of people today would push back on the claim that God’s Word is enough. A few people would even suggest that God’s Word made flesh in Jesus is a “2000 year long conspiracy theory” since none of us can gave 100% irrefutable scientific proof of the facts of Jesus’ story. Yet, when you dive into the story of God’s Word and God’s relationship with God’s people across the centuries, the light that shines from the words of those stories gives you reason to believe.

“In the beginning” John says, “was the Word” (Jn 1:1) and from the very beginning, God’s story has intertwined with our story: 

  • promising Abram and Sarai that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. (Genesis 15)
  • delivering the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 5-14)
  • providing commandments to help us relate in a healthy way to God and to one another. (Exodus 20)
  • inspiring poets and artists to share their gifts to inspire God’s people and to help them express their sorrow and pain. 
  • remaining faithful to God’s people regardless of how many questions were asked, commandments were broken, or harsh words spoken.
  • giving prophets the voice to call God’s people to turn from their sinfulness and instead to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)
  • sending Jesus, born of Mary, to live and to teach, to love and to care, to die and to rise, that all God’s people might know the promise of eternal life.
  • sending the Spirit to blow through the world as an advocate and a guide to strengthen, support, and inspire God’s people in their lives of faith. (Acts 2)
  • calling countless people across the centuries, including someone in your life, to share the story of God’s Word so that others might know the enduring love of God. 

As compelling as God’s story across the centuries is, ultimately the way in which someone responds to the Good News is not something you or I can control. The best we, who know the grace and truth of the Word made flesh, can do is let our light shine before others.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, those who connect to our story may discover the good news of Jesus, who lived among us to bring grace and truth for all people. 

Discussion Questions

  • How do you find answers to your questions about God?
  • What scripture passage or story is your favorite?
  • Where have you seen God active in your life or your community this week?

Activity Suggestions

  • In-Person, Socially Distanced Option: Gather a random assortment of craft supplies and create a supply box for each of the participants which includes the words to John 1:1-18 printed on a piece of paper. Invite the participants to use their supplies to create an image that represents some portion of the reading from John 1:1-18.  Set a timer for 5 minutes and see what everyone can create.
  • Digital Ministry Option: Use Wordclouds.com to create a Word Cloud using the text of John 1:1-18. Allow the group to try different shapes, fonts, colors, and themes to create the Word Cloud that best visualizes the words of this reading. 

Closing Prayer

O God, you have been present with us since the beginning, We give thanks that in the manager, your Word was born of Mary to bring your love, grace, and truth to all people. Help us to know that in our good days and in our bad days, in our doubts and in our questions, in our sorrows and in our joys, your love for us and your presence with us will never end. Amen.

The post January 3, 2021–Whose Word Do We Believe? appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Christmas Week

 

In this year of…

  • pandemic
  • devastating wildfires
  • upheaval over justice too long denied
  • bitter political division
  • economic anxiety
  • social isolation
  • private pain

 

“…the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The post Christmas Week appeared first on Faith Lens.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

December 20, 2020–Favorite

Ellen Rothweiler, Des Moines, IA

Warm-up Question

Who is the favorite in your family?

Favorite

The holidays expose underlying family dynamics in many families. Time together, gift giving, and special meals can all offer an opportunity for favoritism among siblings and cousins, or at least the illusion of such. Also, you bear a burden if you are the favorite. More is expected of you.  You are the person in the family who is expected to fix things or take care of everyone. 

On the other hand, remember that song from the Sound of Music “My Favorite Things”? Singing about their favorite things made the kids and Maria feel better when they were afraid or worried.  Favorite can be a good thing when we are talking about colors, or foods, or songs. Somehow, when we talk about people it sets up rank in groups. 

Like so many things, the idea of “favorite” has both positive and negative consequences.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you know when something is your favorite?
  • Are you someone’s favorite? How does that feel?
  • Are you not the favorite? How does that feel?
  • Why do you think the idea of favorites in groups of people is divisive?

Fourth Sunday of Advent

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

(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 B at Lectionary Readings.)

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

Gospel Reflection

We hear the story of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary every year during the season of Advent. It is an important part of the story of Jesus coming to Earth to be Emanuel, “God With Us.” The angel greets Mary by saying, “Greetings favored one!” and “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…” Then the angel tells her she is going to have a baby boy, God’s son. Mary says “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

This is a strange thing to happen to God’s favored. Mary’s special treatment includes risking her marriage to Joseph, pregnancy, childbirth, fear, and danger. To this she says, “Here I am!” and agrees to be a part of giving this gift of Christ to the world. God incarnate. The Word made flesh. God chose Mary to bear this gift, and this burden. But Mary does not dwell on the burden of being favored, at least not in the account that Luke offers us. It is human to see the good and the bad in a thing, but Mary accepts this call and says, “let it be with me according to your word.” 

We can all learn something from the way Mary models being favored; Acceptance. Grace. Strength. She does not worry about her way; she goes God’s way and it takes her on quite the adventure to Bethlehem, Egypt and the cross. The angel does not say that since she is favored God has this easy thing for her to do, and she is going to enjoy every minute of it. Sometimes the most important things are the hardest. In these, and all things, God is with us…Emmanuel.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever been asked to do something hard and/or important? How did that feel? 
  • Have you ever said “no” to something because it was too hard or too much? Do you regret it or do you think you made the right choice?
  • How do you make those kinds of decisions? 

Activity Suggestions

Listen to the song “My Favorite Things”. There are many versions of this song out around Christmas. the lyrics to include your group’s favorite things. 

Closing Prayer

God of Love, in our baptism you claimed us and proclaimed us precious.  Give us joy in knowing you  favor us and courage in living out our calling as your servants.  Guide us, that we may go where you send us and be signs to the world that you are indeed Emmanuel, God with us. 

The post December 20, 2020–Favorite appeared first on Faith Lens.



Upcoming Events:

Sunday, January 24
10:00am: Worship
Tuesday, January 26
11:00am: Bible study
Wednesday, January 27
9:00am: Food Pantry
Sunday, January 31
10:00am: Worship

Lectionary Texts:

January 24, 2021 Third Sunday after the Epiphany:
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm: Psalm 62:5-12
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:14-20
January 31, 2021 Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany:
First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm: Psalm 111
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:21-28

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



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