Jesus makes creation right with God and calls us to live boldly in the face of injustice.Purpose
To introduce participants to the Practice Justice day.Supplies Needed
Newsprint, tape, markers, signs with the numbers “1”, “5”, and “10,” index cards, writing utensils, table, small bowl, candle, Bible, free-standing cross, water.
Things to prepare before the session:
- Ask participants to bring articles from newspapers or news sites about someone suffering from injustice.
Hang a piece or pieces of newsprint on a bulletin board or wall. Write on the top of each paper: “It’s not fair when....”
Ask participants to think about situations they’ve witnessed or experienced that seemed unfair and write them on the newsprint. You might have to give them a starting example. “My parents bought my sister a new car for graduation, and I was given a used car.” “I have to wear jeans from Wal-Mart, and my friend wears jeans from Abercrombie and Fitch.”
When everyone has had a chance to write something on the newsprint, have them sit where they can see the paper. While the students sit, have adult leaders put signs on the wall or floor to signify a continuum from 1 to 10 with 5 in the middle.
Read through the statements on the newsprint with the group. Clarify any that are confusing.
Leader (L.): Everyone will now rate each statement based on how unfair you think each statement is. You’ll rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. If you think the statement is a “1”, you’ll stand by the “1” sign. Same with the “5” sign and the “10” sign.
Here is what each scale means. I’ll read a statement like: “I don’t think it’s fair that only little kids get stickers after getting shots.” If you don’t think a sticker is worth getting worked up about, you’d stand by the “1”. So “1”s are statements that you don’t get worked up about.
If you think the statement is something that is worth working on to fix, but you aren’t going to go out of your way to do it, that statement is a “5”. You would stand by the “5” sign.
If you think the statement is really unfair and you are going to dedicate yourself to making it right, you need to stand by the “10” sign.
If you are in between any of these numbers, then stand somewhere in between the signs.
Let the participants work through a number of statements. If you see something interesting happening, stop them and ask why they chose to stand where they did.
Consider adding some statistics to the list that reflect the disparity between the lives of those in the United States and those in the developing world. For example: “I have a toilet in my house, and in Guatemala, a village has one toilet to share.” “I have the opportunity to eat three meals a day, but children in Somalia might get one meal a week.”
After the group has gone through the list, have them gather in the center of the room to discuss the following questions:
- What were you willing to work hardest to change?
- What were you the least willing to work to change?
- How do you think Jesus would have rated some of the statements?
- If you could add something else to the list now, what might you add?
- If you could take away something you put on the list originally, what would you take away?
- What are some things you might be able to do to help make one item on the list fairer?
Encourage and Prayer
L: 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 out 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 your high and low on your index card.
When everyone is ready, go around the circle allowing everyone an opportunity to share.
L: This week, I would like you to pass your card to the right. Make sure that you know the name of the person on your right. You will pray for that person from their requests on their cards.
Again, I will open with prayer this week. I’m also going to add to our prayer some requests for those who suffer and for all of God’s creation. Would anyone like me to pray for something in particular in regard to those who suffer or for all of God’s creation?
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, God, for giving us all that we have. However, God, we know that there are people in this world who are suffering from hunger, disease, injury and violence. Heal our world, God. Send us your Holy Spirit to give us the right ideas to help those who are weak. We especially lift up… (insert the petitions that the group suggested here).
Thank you, Creator, for making all things good and for making all things new through Jesus Christ. Send us your Holy Spirit to give us the humility to serve all of creation as you intended us to serve. We especially pray for …. (insert the petitions that the group suggested here).
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.
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.
L: Get the article you found about a person facing injustice. We are going to be quiet so you can reflect on how Jesus sees the person in your article. When you feel ready, bring your article forward and set it at the base of the cross. Offer a silent prayer for those involved with the story. When you are done, move away from the table. Remain quiet until I close with prayer.
Consider having soft music playing during this time of prayer, especially if you have a large number of participants.
L: Lord God, we commend all these concerns to you through Jesus, and praise you for calling us to work for justice in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
L: In these two sentences, Paul use the word “reconcile” and its variations (reconciled, reconciling and reconciliation) five times. This word can be one of those “church-y” words that we hear all the time but don't know what it actually means. How would you define “reconcile”? What does it mean that we are given the ministry of reconciliation? How can doing justice be the ministry of reconciliation?
Justice can require us to open our eyes to a new way of seeing the world. Part of justice work is the act of looking at life through someone else’s eyes. The people of New Orleans want us to know about their struggles. They want us to be able to see the world through their eyes for a moment and allow ourselves to be changed by that experience.
This model for Practicing Justice is based on how Jesus interacted with the people he encountered. One such example is from the Gospel of John, where Jesus meets a woman at Jacob's well.
Watch this modern day monologue that retells this story.
At this point, screen this video with the group:
After screening the video, ask the participants the following questions:
- What is your reaction to this video?
- The woman in this video says that “to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known. Otherwise what is the point of doing either one in the first place?” Do you agree with this statement, why or why not?
- How are people who face injustice like the woman at the well? How are they different?
- The woman begins the monologue by saying she is a woman of no distinction and of little importance. How does her encounter with Jesus change her?
L: Many who face injustice in our world are those who seem to be of no distinction or of little importance. They are easily forgotten, overlooked and ignored. But by getting to know people who face injustice, they can begin to have voice again.
Would someone volunteer to read Ephesians 2:17-20? (Have the volunteer read.) These verses claim that through Jesus we can no longer see others as strangers and aliens but rather we are all citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Have the participants break into smaller groups of three or four. Have them discuss the following questions together and brainstorm answers:
- Who in our community faces injustice?
- How can we get to know them so that we see them not as strangers but members of the household of God?
- How will knowing them change how we react to the injustice they face?
Bring the groups back together and have them share what the small groups talked about with all the participants.
Invite a person who works with an issue of injustice in your community to speak with the participants. This person may or may not be a member of the congregation. However, if the speaker is a beneficiary of support from the congregation and has a passion for justice work, the real world connection can be made more clearly for the participants. Frame your guest’s time of sharing as an interview with you or a predetermined participant as the interviewer. Open the interview up to questions from the larger group. Be sure to ask your guest about how the opportunity to share the story of his or her work makes a difference.
Our work for justice necessarily involves addressing those systems and structures that keep people poor and marginalized. One of the important tools we have in the United States is political advocacy. We are blessed to live in a place where we can speak freely about things that we want to see changed. Organize a letter-writing campaign to your congressperson or senators and let them know that injustice in the world is not OK. Visit http://www.elca.org/~/media/Files/Our%20Faith%20in%20Action/ELCA%20World%20Hunger/education%20toolkit/CC_KnowledgeAction.aspx to see how you can write an effective advocacy letter.
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!