The Work's Not Over Yet!
A Bible Study on Hunger and Faith
Christ is risen! We rejoice and celebrate that God has triumphed over sin and death. So, what now? If Christ has been raised from the dead, everything should be OK, shouldn't it? There shouldn't be any more sin and death and hunger and poverty, right? Apparently things are not 100% OK. Christ has indeed been raised. We have been promised new life through Christ. While we live and breathe and have energy and resources, we have the opportunity to continue Christ's work. This is a work of peace and justice. There are many who Christ calls his own who are still in need. Sometimes, we are those very same people in need. Sometimes, we are the Peters of the world, who Jesus directs to feed and tend and care for others in need.
Throughout 40+ Days of Meditations, you can experience new and sometimes difficult ideas about how you can live out your Christian faith as a response to the injustice of hunger and poverty in the world. You have a chance to "try on" various disciplines of justice. Some were familiar, others brand new. If you participated in this devotional discipline, will you be able to go back to living the way things were before? Is there something that you will take with you as you live your Easter life?
Biblical background: The gospel of John is concerned with the readers seeing things in a new way through Jesus Christ. For John, there is the way of the world and there is God's way in Christ. Story after story show us encounters where someone doesn't quite "get it", but because we have the benefit of John showing us what is "really going on", we do get it. It is about seeing things with eyes of faith. With these eyes of faith, a whole new world opens up for us.
This story is another opportunity for the disciples and for us to see things in a new way. Jesus has been raised and has appeared to the disciples twice already in the locked room. Now, things appear to be back to normal. The disciples are back at work--not doing disciple-like things but fishing and trying to make ends meet financially. Things are radically different now that Christ is alive, and yet their lives look strangely familiar to what it was like before Jesus showed up and started shaking things up. It often takes repeated encounters with Jesus before we really understand the power his life brings to our lives and the lives of those around us. We are a lot like the disciples.
The Bible study
Warm-up questions (5-8 minutes):
(Have at least one copy of the 40+ Days of Meditations scripture texts and their accompanying action steps for the participants to reflect on, if they can't remember them.)
- Which of the previous 40+ Days of Meditations suggested things that you were already doing? What led you to that practice action step prior to the meditations?
- Which of the meditations were totally new ideas for you?
- Which actions did you try? Which actions did you find difficult to do? Which did you shrug off? Why?
- Which actions did you try and like? If you didn't like any of them, which ones did you think were worthwhile and would consider doing?
- Take a couple of minutes and write a simple prayer to encourage yourself to continue with one of the activities you learned about during the 40+ days of meditation. Keep it brief.
Engaging the text John 21:1-19 (7-10 minutes):
(Present the text in a way that makes the best use of the gifts you have and those of the participants: read aloud, read in parts, have one person read it and the others act it out, a puppet show, song, improv comedy, etc.)
- Have you ever experienced a time your parents, teachers, or some other person in authority asked you to do something and after you answered, they asked you again and again as if they really didn't believe you? What was that like?
- In this story in the gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. By the end of their little conversation, it seems like Peter is hurt and frustrated that Jesus keeps asking him the same question over and over again. Could it be that Jesus was asking Peter three times because Peter had three chances to admit that he was one of Jesus disciples and each time he denied Jesus? (See John 18:15-18, 25-27.) In any event, Jesus is satisfied with Peter's answers and after their discussion says to him, "Follow me!"
- How often do we need to be encouraged to do what we know God wants us do? In what forms do God's encouragement and challenges come in?
Prayer icon activity
(25-30 minutes, plus drying time) (An icon is a religious symbol or image painted on a small wooden panel. It often becomes a reminder or center for devotions and prayer.)
- One piece (5"x 7") of inexpensive wood, particleboard, or even thick cardboard for each participant. (The cardboard option is not nearly as sturdy and long lasting.)
- Acrylic paint. You may buy many different colors or you may purchase tubes of white, black, red, yellow, and blue. From those colors, you will be able to mix your own colors. WARNING! Make sure you buy acrylic paint. If you buy oil-based paints, you will need turpentine (paint thinner), plenty of ventilation, and it will take a long time to dry. Acrylic paint is permanent and waterproof once it dries, so be very careful to avoid spills, splashes, or getting paint on clothing, carpets and furniture--unless it's time for an extreme makeover of your youth room.
- Paint brushes of various sizes. Small- and medium-sized brushes will be more flexible. Large brushes can be unwieldy on such a small surface.
- Cups or containers of water to rinse out brushes. Clean things up outside or be sure to clean the sink when you are done… acrylic paint stains.
- Paper towels and wet rags for wiping up spills.
- Newspaper, plastic sheets, large plastic garbage bags, disposable plastic table clothes, or some other material to cover the tables with.
- Tea lights or other small candles. One per participant.
- Matches or a lighter.
Preparation before the Bible study (several days before):
- At least one day ahead of time, paint the icon boards with gesso or matte (flat) white latex paint (one day ahead of time). This will prime the board's surface so that it is easier to paint during the actual activity. You may want to prepare a few extra in case someone really messes his or hers up beyond salvaging.
- Draw a line about 1" from the bottom of the icon where they will write a simple text (step 5 below). (See diagram below)
- Choose an area suitable for an activity that involves painting. The newly carpeted fellowship hall may not be the best choice.
Preparation for the Bible study (day of study):
It is important to have everything ready to go ahead of time in order to get everything done within the allotted time.
- Lay out newspaper, disposable plastic tablecloths, or plastic sheets on the tables or floor where you will be doing the painting.
- Give each person a prepared blank icon (the primed 5x7 piece of board).
- Before the participants begin painting, take a moment and give them a chance to pray the prayer they wrote at the beginning of the class.
- Taking the particular activity that they most resonated with (from warm-up questions above), have the participants paint an image that reminds them of that devotional activity. Encourage them to find simple images and to use no words. Keep the lower portion free for the text that will be added. (They may paint that area a particular color if they would like as long as they leave some space for the text).
- Once they are done with the image portion of their icon, have the participants write one of the following phrases in the free area at the bottom of the icon, "Feed my lambs", "feed my sheep", or "take care of my sheep".
(During the painting of the icons, play some of the music recommended in the first Bible study, Walking Humbly, or any other suitable music.)
- When finished, even if not dry yet, clean up the area, form a circle, and give each participant a tea light or candle. Light the candles for them and create a moment of silence during which they are able to look at their finished icon and are encouraged to pray the prayer that they wrote.
- Invite youth to share their images and their prayers if they are willing.
(The idea is that the icons may be used with the prayers they wrote, but is not necessary. The images themselves are the starting point for their own prayers. When dry, they may take these icons home and place them someplace where they might become a part of their prayer life.)
Contributed by Pastor Scott A. Moore