Jesus makes peace and calls us to see each other as God sees us.Purpose
To introduce participants to the Practice Peacemaking day.Supplies Needed
Index cards, writing utensils, table, small bowl, candle, Bible, free-standing cross, lighter, water, slips of paper, paper shredder, short pieces of thread, flat flower seeds, dried flowers, deckle frame, basin, old newspaper, rags, picture of three friends, small brown paper bags.Where can I find these supplies?
For more information on plantable paper making and deckle frame creation, see http://www.ehow.com/how_6733325_make-plantable-paper.html
. To find flat seeds for your area of the country, try http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Outdoors/Archives/2011/Homemade-Paper.aspx#seeds
“The Human Knot”
You will want to get your participants into groups of approximately ten people. If you have never facilitated “The Human Knot” before this, you need to know that having too few or too many people in a group can make this process unnecessarily difficult. Do not use groups of under seven people or over 14 people.
Leader (L.): We are going to work on improving our knowledge of each other’s names today. First, I want your groups to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. It should feel kind of tight in your circle. Now each of you should put one hand in the middle of the circle. Shake the hand of someone across from you and don’t let go. Introduce yourself to the person whose hand you are shaking.
While still shaking hands with this person, I want you to put your other hands in the center of the circle. Now use this hand to grasp the hand of another person across from you. Introduce yourself to the new person whose hand you are shaking. Do not let go of either hand.
Do you remember both names of the people whose hands you are holding? Excellent. You will now continue to hold each other’s hands until I tell you to drop them. As a group, you will now unknot yourself into a circle.
This is not a contest. You do not need to rush through it. As a group, figure it out. There are only three rules to this puzzle. One, do not let go of each other’s hands. Two, do not injure any member of your group. Three, when you talk to each other, you must start the conversation with the first name of the person you are addressing. If you break any of these rules, you will be forced to start over from the beginning. Good luck!
Continue the game as long as you feel the experience is fruitful. You can gain a fair amount of information from ten minutes of struggling, even if the group does not get untangled. When they are done, have all participants sit in a circle and answer the following questions:
- In two or three words, how do you feel right now?
- When did you feel most successful during this challenge?
- When did you feel most frustrated?
- Did you experience any conflict during this challenge? What kind?
- What contributed to your group working well together?
- What triggered your group to not work at all?
- How do you feel about the people in your group right now?
- If your primary goal for the challenge was not to unravel the knot and was instead to promote peace in your group while unraveling the knot, might you have made different choices? How and why?
Encourage and Prayer
L: In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says, “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Let us offer peace to one another before we come to offer our prayers to God. The Lord be with you.
Group (G.): And also with you.
L: Share the peace of Christ with one another.
Once everyone has passed the peace, ask everyone to sit in a circle. Pass around index cards and writing utensils. Each person should take one index card and one writing utensil.
L: Let’s take some time to touch base with each other. We will go around the circle and share one high from the past week and one low from this past week. Before we start, take a second and write a prayer request on one of the index cards.
When everyone is ready, go around the circle allowing everyone an opportunity to share.
L: This week exchange cards with someone in the room. Then, exchange cards two more times without receiving your own card the final time. You will pray for the person whose card you received in the third round from the requests on his or her card.
Again, I will open with prayer this week. I’m also going to add to our prayer some requests for those who work for peace globally. Would anyone like me to pray for something in particular for those who work for peace globally?
When I say “We pray for…”, it will be your turn to pray out loud. We will start with the person to my right and go around the circle. When we are done, I will close the prayer.
L: Thank you, Lord, for those people who work for peace throughout the world. Send us your Holy Spirit to give us the kindness and patience to join them in their work. We especially lift up… (insert the petitions that the group suggested here.)
Thank you, Lord, for our faith community and your church throughout the world. Send us your Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom to know when you want us to act and the compassion to love all your children.
Merciful God, we thank you that we can come to you with our hearts’ desires and joys. Hear us now as we lift up to you what is on the hearts of our sisters and brothers in Christ this week. We pray for:
After everyone is finished around the circle, close the prayer.
L: We bring all these things to you, Lord, believing in your faithfulness and in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Place a table in the center of the room. On that table, place a small bowl, a candle, a Bible and a cross. The candle should be next to the Bible.
L: Please gather around the table. (When everyone is in place, continue.) I welcome you in the name of Jesus Christ. (Light the candle.) We gather around the word of God that lights our way. (Add water to the bowl.) In the water of baptism, Jesus makes us all one people. (Lift the cross as you say the next sentence.) Jesus makes people from different nations, different cultures and different ways of life into citizens and saints through his death on the cross.
You may sing a song here. “Sanctuary” or “Jesus, Remember Me” would be appropriate.
Another leader reads Ephesians 2:14-20.
Hand each person a slip of paper and let them get their writing utensils.
Write down a conflict on your piece of paper that you are having with another person or with yourself or with God that is making it difficult to love like Jesus. Don’t worry about confidentiality. No one else will see them. Next, put the slips of paper in this shredder. As they are being shredded, silently give these conflicts to Jesus. Ask Jesus to help you make peace where you have conflict. After all the papers are shredded, pray a prayer like the following:
Thank you, Jesus, for being our peace. We also thank you for making peace between all people, and between humanity and God. Help us to transform our negative experiences into means of grace for others. In your holy name, Amen.
As you transition into the Bible study, have someone place the shredded paper in the bowl of warm water to soak for the papermaking activity. You’ll need about 30 minutes soaking time, so plan the rest of your lesson time accordingly if you are altering the curriculum for this session.
Have everyone find a comfortable place to sit or lie down for this guided meditation. Guided meditation requires speech patterns that take into account a steady rhythm of diction and 20- to 30-second pauses between phrases or sentences. If you tend to rush, consider using a watch or cell phone to keep track of time.
L: Close your eyes.
Focus your mind on the muscles in your face and head. Tighten those muscles. Now release them slowly, letting the tension slip away.
Focus now on your neck and shoulders. Tighten your neck and shoulder muscles. Now release them slowly. Feel your shoulders sinking away from your ears. Your neck is relaxed.
Focus on your upper body: your chest, your stomach, your arms. Tighten your upper body. Hold it, and slowly release your muscles.
Focus on your lower body: your hips, your glutes, your legs. Tighten your lower body. Hold it for a moment, and slowly release your muscles.
Focus on your hands and feet. Tighten them. Now gently, slowly, release them. Let your arms hang loosely with your hands on your stomach.
Focus on your hands. Feel them rising and falling as you take deep, relaxing breaths. Breathe in, two, three, four. Breathe out, two, three, four, five, six. Breathe in, two, three, four. Breathe out, two, three, four, five, six.
In your mind, picture a time when everything was right in your life. Maybe this was just a brief moment in time. Maybe it was a whole day, week or year.
Imagine yourself in that time and place. Take a moment to look around. What is in front of you? Look to your left and now to your right. What do you see there?
Take a deep breath in through your nose. What do you smell there?
Listen to your surroundings. Is it noisy or quiet, bustling or tranquil?
Are you alone or do you have someone with you?
How do you feel here? Take a few moments to rest in this place, your place.
Give them 15 more seconds and then instruct them to open their eyes. Then take time to discuss the following questions in small groups:
- As you ease your way back to our gathering, find a small group of two or three other people. We’re going to spend some time talking about what we just experienced in these groups. First, share what you saw and felt during the meditation. Choose two or three words to express the prevailing feeling you had in your special time and place.
- Would you describe the moment you experienced as peaceful? Why? Why not?
- How would you define peace?
Have someone pre-selected to stand up and call everyone back to the large group with a reading of Ephesians 2:1-3.
Read Ephesians 2:4-10, 14. These passages from Ephesians refer to Jesus as our peace. What is peace? What were some of the words your groups used to describe peace?
In Matthew 5:9, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” What do peacemakers do? Is there a person who comes to mind when you think of a peacemaker?
What usually needs to happen for countries that are at war to re-enter a state of peacetime? Let’s look at a stereotypical 20th-century war: World War II. There were two sides in the war: the Allies (the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and their friends) and the Axis (Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan). What happened in 1945 that ended the war and brought peace to the countries involved? (The Axis powers were defeated and signed papers of surrender.)
Is this the same kind of peace Paul says Jesus brings the Jews and Gentiles? Remember the Jews and the Gentiles were extremely hostile toward one another within the larger Christian community. Can anyone remember why there was hostility between the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians?
Paul says that Jesus ended the hostility between them. Did Jesus negotiate a treaty between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians?
No. Jesus’ peace is a new kind of peace. For example, here is a picture of three friends. A kind of love brought them together in this picture, right? Now let’s inject some sin, fighting and conflict into this friendship. What happens next if the friends allow that hostility to control their friendship? The friendship starts to fracture. (Tear one friend off the picture.) The relationship ultimately falls apart. (Tear another friend off the picture.)
Even if these friends end their fight, what’s still going on here? Can we just glue the picture back together again and have it be good as new? Will that work with the friendship either? Will they be just the way they were before the fight? It won’t work any more than trying to remake the papers that we shredded earlier.
This is why Jesus’ peace is radical. When Jesus died on the cross, the power of sin was broken. When Jesus was raised from the dead, death was defeated. None of the destructive powers that we allow to break up our lives and our relationships can do anything in the face of Jesus and the power of his blood. Jesus can take the pieces of our broken relationships and transform them into new relationships that are better than their originals.
To help us remember what Jesus’ peacemaking looks like, we’re going to take the shredded paper and make it into something new: plantable paper.
Instructions for making paper:
- Fill a blender halfway with warm water. Add the shredded paper that has been soaking. At this point, you can add construction paper, very short pieces of thread, or dried flowers for extra flair or to make sure that you have enough fibrous material for everyone to have a piece of finished paper. Do make sure that the construction paper has been thoroughly soaked first.
- With the blender lid on tightly, blend the mixture on medium speed until the paper pieces disappear in the soupy substance in the blender. The thread and dried flowers will retain some of their shape.
- Gently mix in a packet of seeds. (Flat seeds are going to work best.)
- Put the soupy mixture into a large basin. Mix in enough warm water to evenly distribute all the elements of the pulp.
- Take the deckle frame and slide it into and under the mixture, letting some of the pulp settle on the screen.
- With the frame still in the water, gently shake the frame side-to-side to get an even layer of fibers on the screen.
- Lift the frame out of the water carefully; making sure that the frame stays flat. Keep the frame over the basin until most of the water has drained from the fibers. The fiber layer should be uniform. Gently press down on the fiber layer to get any of the remaining water out. Soak up water from the underside of the frame with a sponge.
- Put out several layers of newspaper on a table. Place the frame paper-side down on the newspaper. Lift the frame up gently to leave the paper behind on the newspaper.
- Place another layer of newspaper or a cloth on top of the new paper. Using a rolling pin to force any remaining moisture out of the pulp.
- Place the finished paper aside to dry overnight.
- Repeat this multiple times until all your pulp is used up.
Once the paper is dry (in about 24 hours), you can use it to write notes to someone who needs to be comforted. Make sure that you include information on your note explaining that this paper can be torn up and sown directly in soil.
Bag of Peace: Give each person a small brown paper bag to decorate. Make sure that the person’s name is prominently displayed on the bag. Place them in your meeting space. Encourage your group to write “pieces of peace” about others in the group. The “pieces of peace” are images and words that reflect how the Holy Spirit uses the bag’s owner to build peace in the world.
Some questions to get participants thinking:
- What words have you seen your friend use that showed peace?
- What physical actions have you seen your friend use that showed peace?
- How is peace present in your friend’s life?
- What is your peace prayer for your friend?
The biblical idea of peace is more than just the absence of strife, it is wholeness and health. When we think about peacemaking holistically, hunger is one of the major barriers to wholeness and health. Globally, about 925 million people are hungry. That is about one in seven people. Hunger is not limited to other countries, though. Here in the United States, 46 million people are food insecure, and 16 million of them are children. Have you seen hunger in your community? What can you do to help? Is there a soup kitchen or pantry where you can volunteer to serve? Is there a “meals on wheels” program that you can participate in? Perhaps you would like to organize a food drive in your congregation. The ELCA is engaged in anti-hunger work all around the globe. You can support that work with gifts to ELCA World Hunger.
L: Quickly find someone with whom you have not been partnered and partner up with him or her. Make the sign of the cross on your partner’s forehead as I say these words: Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Amen.
L: Citizens with the saints, children of God, go love like Jesus in the world.
G: Thanks be to God!