Jesus makes one new household through the cross and we are all part of it.Purpose
To provide participants with a deeper understand of the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering theme, “citizens with the saints.”Supplies Needed
Index cards, writing utensils, bucket, table, small bowl, candle, lighter, Bible, free-standing cross, water, colored dot stickers with sad face or washable markers, baby wipes, newsprint, permanent markers.
The youth leader will simply clap a certain number of times. The participants must then get into groups of that number. So if you clap three times, everyone must get into a group of three. As you play this game, some people will be “leftovers” — you may have one or two students left. These people are then eliminated from the game. Continue to play until only two people remain.
Leader (L.): We are going to play a game that shows off how well you can get yourself into groups. When I clap, you need to count how many times I clapped. That number will be the size of the groups you will then make. For instance, if I clap three times, you will all get into groups of three. If anyone doesn’t make it into a group, that person or persons is out. You will sit down. We will keep on making groups until there are two people left. Those two will be our winners.
When you finish, have everyone sit together in a circle. Discuss the following questions:
- Was it easy to play this game?
- How did you choose the people to be in your group?
- For those of you that were eliminated, how did it feel when you found yourself on the outside?
- Did your feelings change about being on the outside as more people were eliminated?
- For those of you that were left at the end, how did it feel to be the last people playing?
- Was it different playing the game as fewer people were left on the floor?
- Do we ever make groups in the church or in our daily lives that leave people out? Can you give examples of a time when you’ve left someone out? Can you give an example of a time when you have been left out?
- How does Jesus treat people who have been left out?
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 them 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. Also, share one prayer request that we can carry with us this week. Before we get started, take a second to write your name and prayer request 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 exchange cards with someone whom you haven’t had the chance to pray for yet. Make sure that you know the name of the person! 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 thanksgiving for the communion of saints. Would anyone like me to pray for something in particular for the communion of saints that surrounds us?
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 allowing us to be surrounded by a communion of saints who have gone before us and stand as a reminder of how your mission in the world has been advanced by our ancestors. Send us your Holy Spirit to give us the gift of memory that we will know we are never alone in our struggles and our joys. We especially lift up to you… (insert the petitions that the group suggested here).
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.
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.
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.
Have the participants put their cards in a bucket on a table near the door to the room.
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: When people are baptized, the pastor reminds them that God has claimed them and marked them as God’s forever. But we also mark each other with things that keep us apart. These things have nothing to do with God.
Use colored dot stickers or washable markers to mark each person with a sad face on the forehead.
L: The marks cover up the fact that God has marked each of us as God’s own. We can convince ourselves that we aren’t like the person we mark. But that isn’t the truth.
Give each person a wipe and let them help take the sad face off the person next to them.
L: The truth is that we are all children of God. Our marks come off. But God’s mark on us in baptism doesn’t. We help each other remember how Jesus loves us and gives us the grace to love others.
Have them mark the cross on each other’s foreheads.
L: We thank you, God, for Jesus who breaks down the barriers between us and makes us all members of God’s one household. Amen.
L: There is an ELCA-wide effort to help congregations learn how to study the Bible together. This initiative is called the Book of Faith Initiative, because we believe the Bible is the book through which we learn about God and build our faith.
There are many ways to read and study the Bible. The Book of Faith Initiative focuses on four specific ways to help get believers started digging into God’s word. We have spent time in previous Bible studies looking at the history of our theme Scripture from Ephesians. That type of reading was historical reading.
We’ve also spent time trying to bring what we read in Ephesians and other Scripture into our own lives and reflect on what God is saying to us today. That’s called devotional reading.
When we watched the monologue about the woman at the well and talked about what her character’s story was, we were doing a literary reading that looked at the story, the characters and the plot.
Today, we are going to read our theme Scripture with specifically Lutheran glasses on our eyes. This means we are going to look for some ideas that Lutherans particularly think God is highlighting for us.
Read Ephesians 2:14-20.
L: We are going to read through this again in small pieces. After each piece, we as a group are going to write in our own words what the verse said. What we are doing is something called “getting at the plain meaning of the text.” The plain meaning is what’s there on the surface. It’s the simplest, most obvious way of understand what you are reading based on what is on the page.
When you are done, post the group’s paraphrase on the wall somewhere prominent.
Read the official Gathering paraphrase to the group: “Jesus is our peace. In his life and death on the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing walls so that we are no longer strangers and outsiders, but we are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. The foundation of God’s house was built of apostles and prophets, and Jesus, the cornerstone, holds it all together.” Post this paraphrase near your group’s own paraphrase.
L: Are there any big differences between our version of the Scripture and the Gathering paraphrase? If there are, why do you think they are different? Can one person’s plain meaning be different from someone else’s plain meaning? Why or why not?
L: The next question we want to look at today is how this Scripture points to Jesus. Please open a Bible to our Scripture: Ephesians 2:14-20. We can also use our paraphrase and the Gathering paraphrase. How does this Scripture teach us something about Jesus and who he is?
L: Imagine you had never heard of Jesus. You just read this Scripture for the first time. What would you tell someone who asked you who Jesus is?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.
L: We want to look to see if other Scripture readings can help us understand our theme Scripture better. In 1 Corinthians, Paul explains what it means to be members of the body of Christ, which is another way to say members of the household of God.
- What do these verses say about the importance of each member of the body?
- How are the members of the body to treat one another?
- How do positive and negative things that happen to one part of the body affect the other
- What can we learn about living in our community from these verses?
- Going back to Ephesians, how does what we have learned about the body of Christ help us understand being citizens with the saints?
L: The last question we need to look at is whether what we think we are hearing God say in our theme Scripture is something anyone could hear from this Scripture if they used the same tools we did. It can be helpful to test our understanding out by applying it to a real world situation and comparing what we think the Scripture tells us to do and what we believe Jesus would do in that situation.
Bullying is a huge problem in our schools and communities. It tears apart relationships. It makes people forget who God thinks they are. This seems like a perfect situation to try out our understanding of our theme text.
- In what ways have you experienced bullying? Were you bullied? Did you watch someone else get bullied? Were you the bully?
- How does bullying affect people in your life at school or church or at home?
- Does bullying affect how you see God?
- How would we deal with bullying if we treated everyone as if we were all a part of the same body with different jobs that were all important?
- How does Jesus’ reconciling us to each other suggest we should see bullies?
- How does seeing God in your neighbor, friend or stranger affect how you treat them? How you listen to them? How you advocate for them? This could be a person who has been bullied, someone who witnessed bullying, or a bully.
- Would anyone reading the Scriptures or the paraphrases we came up with see God saying the same things? Are you pointing to Jesus in this situation?
Another way of studying the Bible is action-oriented. This type of Bible study looks to take what we believe God is saying to us in Scripture and apply it the way God would want us to in our lives. We especially do this kind of Bible study when we are trying to figure out how to deal with difficult issues.
- What ideas do you have based on our Bible study today to lift up the positive ways we treat each other in this community so that we build up the body instead of tearing it down?
- Part of being citizens with the saints is loving like Jesus through practicing discipleship that works for peace through justice. How does living out our call to discipleship by working toward peace through justice build up the household of God?
Each part of the body of Christ has a part to play in making the world more peaceful and just. What is your part? What ministries in your congregation can you support? Sometimes the things that create peace and justice are small — like making age-appropriate children’s bags for worship or making sure that everyone has a safe way to get from their home into the sanctuary for worship.
Your church, the ELCA, also works globally with companion synods to eliminate hunger and poverty. Find out more about your companion synod at www.elca.org/companionsynods and see how you can engage global anti-poverty work.
To be of service to each other in community is a call to hospitality and a call to community building. Both of these calls have a home in our theme Scripture. Covenant-writing is a method of intentionally naming those ways in which your group will be in service to one another up to, during, and through the Gathering. If you haven’t already created a document that sets up the way in which your group has committed to treat others in the group and at the Gathering, do so as part of this session. Consider first and foremost the answer to this question: How do we need to act so that it is evident that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves?
Have everyone sign this document and keep a copy prominently displayed wherever your group gathers to prepare. Review it often and check for needed changes. Finally, commit to hold each other accountable.
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!