Faith Lenshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/March 15, 2015 Sight LinesBrian Hiortdahl, Overland Park, KShttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286<div class="ExternalClass1646CA0CE18C43908C310E4A1CD9D045"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>What color is the dress?</p><p><strong>Sight Lines<br></strong></p> <p>A photo of a blue and black dress (or is it white and gold?) went viral recently, launching a widespread color debate that captivated the internet.&#160; </p><p><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/28dress1-web-blog427.jpg" alt="28dress1-web-blog427.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /></p><p>(<span class="caption-text">photo from Caitlin McNeill’s Tumblr site.</span>)<br></p><p>Celebrities and scientists were among the millions who weighed in and the&#160;<a href="http&#58;//www.nytimes.com/2015/02/28/business/a-simple-question-about-a-dress-and-the-world-weighs-in.html?_r=0">New York Times took up the question</a>.&#160; The<a href="http&#58;//www.rit.edu/news/story.php?id=51266"> science</a> suggests that&#160; it has something to do with light and how human eyes receive it.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Why do you think the debate about the dress colors was so intense?<span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;book antiqua&quot;;"></span><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;book antiqua&quot;;"></span></li><li><p>How many other examples can you list of people seeing the same thing differently—and passionately arguing (or even fighting) about it?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Fourth Sunday in Lent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=292420282">Numbers 21&#58;4-9</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=292420366">Ephesians 2&#58;1-10</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=292420404">John 3&#58;14-21 </a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. 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 <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>Presenting his gospel like a stage play director, John has turned down the lights.&#160; Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night because John wants us to see that he is in the dark, in sharp contrast to Jesus, the light of the world (see also John 1&#58;9, 8&#58;12, 9&#58;5). <br></p><p>In their conversation, Jesus is trying to get Nicodemus to see things in a different way, but with limited success.&#160; Their disconnect mirrors a passionate divide that runs throughout John's gospel between those who accept Jesus and those who reject him.&#160; Those who accept him believe, and those who do not &quot;are condemned already&quot; as they shun the light in favor of darkness. <br></p><p>Jesus is like the dress&#58;&#160; the same phenomenon seen very differently, but always sparking a strong reaction. <br></p><p>But John, seeing him differently, would say that Jesus is the light.&#160; The world is the dress.&#160; (The Greek word for world is <em>cosmos</em>, which has various shades of meaning itself—humanity, &quot;the way things are,&quot; the powers that resist God, all of creation.&#160; John, whose writing covers many levels at once, probably intends all of these simultaneously.)&#160; Jesus the light shines upon the world and reveals its true colors. <br></p><p>But Jesus also reveals to us the true colors of God's heart&#58;&#160; <em>God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.</em><em>&#160; </em><em>Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.</em><em>&#160; </em>God loyally loves the fickle world.&#160; The designer's eyes consistently see the world as worth saving. <br></p><p>The price tag attached is steep&#58;&#160; Jesus will end up black and blue on the cross. &#160;Yet the colors of Easter are white and gold.&#160; The Light changes everything.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>&#160;How do you see Jesus?&#160; How is your view different from how others see Jesus?&#160; Does he bring love or judgment…or both?</p></li><li><p>&#160;How do you see the world?&#160; Is it good or evil…or both?&#160; If the world were two colors, what would they be?</p></li><li><p>Are there things in your life you keep in the dark because you are afraid they will be exposed?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p> <ul><li><p>Review the colors of the church year.&#160; What do those seasonal color choices reveal about about God’s love and our lives?</p></li><li><p>Interview someone who is blind, or colorblind.&#160; How do they “see” (receive and process what is happening around them in) the world?&#160; What do they notice that people with sight do not? <br></p></li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>Light of the world, shine God’s love into our lives.&#160; Train our eyes to see your truth, and transform our works into bright witnesses to God’s beautiful grace, in order that those who see us would be drawn not toward death but into life.&#160; Amen</p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>03/10/2015March 8, 2015-- Rebuilding DetroitEllen Rothweiller--Ames, IAhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/285http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/285<div class="ExternalClass97F1E7CA4E1F40A0B5B6660052E1AFFD"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>Have you ever experienced the destruction of a place that held emotional significance for you; A home, church, school or city? What was that like and how was it different than the loss of a person?</p><br> <p><strong>Rebuilding Detroit<br></strong></p> <p>The city of Detroit, MI is being rebuilt. Many new businesses are popping up in the downtown area and there are plans for a new streetcar line that will transport people from Downtown to Midtown.&#160; Some who fled the city are returning to be a part of the rebuilding of this great American city. There are signs of new life in Downtown Detroit, but areas outside the city center are still in decline. Housing is crumbling with many vacant buildings and lots. One part of the city booms while the rest continues to decline, making the chasm between rich and poor grow. </p><p class="MsoNormal"><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_176591078edit.jpg" alt="shutterstock_176591078edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>Residents of these outlying areas argue that it will take more than just an infusion of money and industry in one part of Detroit to rebuild this city. Jocelyn Harris has lived in one of those “challenged” outer Detroit neighborhoods, about six miles east of downtown, all her life. “We used to have everything&#58; department stores, grocery stores, all of it,” Harris said. “Now the sewage backs up, the park is locked, the school is closed. If we only had more repair dollars, people could have stayed here. It’s been a lot of fighting just to keep it like this.”</p><p>Developer Dan Gilbert has bought up more than 60 buildings in downtown Detroit and has been called everything from a missionary to a super hero-despite the fact that his company has been accused of aggressive sales practice. He and others insist that these pockets of wealth will succeed in rescuing the city and that this boom in economics will have a trickle-down effect on the more challenged areas of the city. </p><p>Many who care about the future of this city are working to rebuild it, but not all are in agreement on how that should happen. The decline of this city did not happen overnight, and neither will its rebirth.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>What do you know about the decline of the city of Detroit? How did it happen?</li><li>Do you agree more with Gilbert or Harris about the best way to rebuild Detroit?</li><li>How does greed play a role in this situation? </li><li>How does hope play a role in this situation? </li></ul><p><strong>Third Sunday in Lent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291877142">Exodus 20&#58;1-17</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291877178">1 Corinthians 1&#58;18-25</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291877213">John 2&#58;13-22</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. 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 <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>&#160;</p> <p>This event, often described as Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, is included in all four Gospels so it is safe for us to assume that this is a key moment in Jesus’ ministry.&#160; The temple was a place of worship and also where the community gathered. It was the hub of the Jewish culture at that time with significant spiritual and emotional ties for many. The temple where this story takes place is the second temple. The first was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. This second temple, constructed after the Jews returned to their land from exile in Babylonia in 539 B.C.E. was leveled by the Romans in 70 C. E. and never rebuilt.</p><p>We know that Jesus was not referring to the physical temple building, but his body in John 2&#58;19-21, but those who heard his words that day may have felt that he was threatening to destroy this holy and significant place once again, just to prove a point! </p><p>Just as the Jews had suffered the loss of their temple and homeland, many in Detroit are feeling the loss of their city. Jesus’ claim that he could rebuild the temple in three days may have been received with the same offense that many are taking from the “trickle-down” economics being applied in Detroit. It was in part greed that got Jesus so mad about the money changers in the temple. Greed can be a powerful force in a culture and in a city and can play a part in the destruction and rebuilding of temples old and new. Ultimately this story ends with the destruction and resurrection of the temple of Jesus’ body. That is where we must place our hope and trust.</p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>What are some current examples of temples that have been destroyed? (twin towers, etc.)</p></li><li><p>Why might it be important to rebuild those temples?</p></li><li><p>How might it be idolatrous to be so bound to a physical place?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p> <ul><li><p>Google two sides of this story&#58; “rebuilding Detroit” and “decline of Detroit”. Compare and contrast the stories told.</p></li><li><p>Brainstorm buildings or neighborhoods in your area that are being rebuilt. Talk to someone involved in that process and see what you can learn about that process. Was there a meeting of social and economic resources for this project? How is that working?</p></li></ul> <p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Dear Lord, we thank you for your church, a place where we can gather in community. We pray for this community and for the community of Detroit. Heal what is broken in these places and people. Give us the courage to put our hope and trust in you, and not in the physical things of this world. Amen</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>03/03/2015March 1, 2015--Losing to GainBob Chell--Sioux Falls, SDhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/284http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/284<div class="ExternalClass05D4AFECC3CD490F9F763890F6A9FCC3"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>What has been the happiest day of your life? What made it so? Does it give you any insight into how to achieve happiness in the future? Is happiness the goal or key to a fulfilling life? If not, what is?</p><p><strong>Losing to Gain<br></strong></p><p>Paul Dolan, a professor who studies happiness suggests there is a disconnect between what we think and how we feel. Sometimes the things we think will make us happy do not. Perhaps the person you've crushed on for months has returned your interest but over time you realize you miss other friends, hobbies or even your 'old self.' Dolan suggests we pay attention to what makes us happy on a daily basis. His formula for happiness suggests we organize our lives around those things which give us pleasure and purpose. <br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>&#160;How would you rate the following in their ability to provide pleasure and purpose to your life;</li></ul><ol><ol><li>Things</li><li>Experiences</li><li>Relationships</li><li>Faith</li></ol></ol><ul><li>Does the time and energy you spend focusing on these areas reflect which you value most and which you value least?</li><li>What is it that gives meaning to life? Happiness, Peace, Power, Faith, Love, Work, something else? Why?</li><li>Professor Dolan doesn't mention faith in this article on achieving happiness. Does meaning come from deep within ourselves or from something outside and beyond ourselves?</li></ul><p><strong>Second Sunday in Lent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291192983">Genesis 17&#58;1-7, 15-16</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291193019">Romans 4&#58;13-25</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291193053">Mark 8&#58;31-38</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. 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 <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>He was 30 years old when he came into the prison where I am pastor. He will become eligible for parole when he is 65. He will complete his sentence when he is 100 years old. One could easily say he has 'lost his life.' His life is routine and regimented, each day much like the last. On holidays he, like everyone else, is locked in his cell all day because shops are closed and so more staff can have the holiday off. He earns 25¢ an hour at his prison job. There are four men for every job, so he is happy to be working. The money can only be spent at the prison commissary where prices are high and selection is severely limited. One popular item, Ramen noodles, costs 37¢ each. </p><p><img alt="shutterstock_191337131edit.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_191337131edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>Here is what he has told me about coming to prison. </p><p>&quot;This is the best thing that ever happened to me.&quot; </p><p>&quot;Coming to prison saved my life.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I lost everything to gain everything.&quot;</p><p>&#160;If you are skeptical about this I don't blame you. I would be too if I didn't see his smile when he says these things. If I didn't witness how he lives his life day to day. He came into the prison unfamiliar with the Christian faith. He was baptized a year ago and serves on the church council for our prison congregation now. His faith dwarfs my own and his sense of inner peace is astounding to me.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>This man lost his life because of his crime not for Jesus' sake, do these verses about losing your life to save it apply to him?</li><li>Is a cross something we freely choose or something that happens to us?</li><li>What is the cross in your life today? Are you carrying it or nailed to it? Explain.</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><ul><li>&#160;Ask someone you trust and respect what gives meaning and purpose to their life? What is one piece of advice they would give to someone looking for meaning purpose and happiness in life.</li><li>Imagine the prisoner described above could have lived one hour of your life last week.&#160; What hour would he choose? (My answer is below. Read it after you decide on your answer.)</li><li>How would you answer someone younger who asked you the key to happinessn life, success in High School, or inner peace?<p><em>My answer&#58; As a prison pastor I've come to realize I know 700 plus men who would relish the day to day tasks I dislike. I thought of it this week when, running late, I realized I had snow to shovel before leaving home. To me, an hour of cold, hard work and inconvenience. To the men I serve; an hour outdoors, an hour alone, an hour of quiet and peace, an hour to relish the beauty of gently falling snow, cold wind on their cheeks and the tired feeling of well used muscles. </em><em>&#160;</em></p> </li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p><p>Jesus, open our eyes to the hiddenness of your kingdom. To joy in hard work, meaning in loss and peace in the midst of turmoil.&#160; Amen. <br><strong></strong></p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>02/24/2015February 22, 2015--Three Days in the WildernessJohn Wertz--Blacksburg, VAhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/283http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/283<div class="ExternalClassABAAE2FFA578470E87B1AB0775998BB6"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>&#160;Have you ever lost a book, or your phone or one of your favorite possession?&#160; What did you lose?&#160; How did losing the item make you feel? </p><p><strong>Three Days in the Wilderness<br></strong></p><p>On a Wednesday morning in late January, Julie Abrahamsen, a 20 year old Norwegian native, set out for a day of snowboarding in mountains of British Columbia.&#160; Intent upon exploring some of the wilderness areas around her resort, Ms. Abrahamsen decided to leave the marked trails and ski out of bounds. &#160;Initially, Ms. Abrahamsen connected with a group of backpackers, but she quickly became separated from that group and found herself lost and alone in the wilderness.&#160; &#160;&#160; </p><p><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_108248291edit.gif" alt="shutterstock_108248291edit.gif" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>Since Ms. Abrahamsen had only intended to be gone for a short time, she wasn't carrying an emergency beacon, she didn't have any extra dry clothing and she only had a small packet of noodles to eat.&#160; While it would have been easy for Ms. Abrahamsen to panic, she stayed calm and made it her mission to get out alive.&#160; During the day, she hiked through the deep snow looking for signs of civilization.&#160; At night, she found cover under rock overhangs and used fir branches for ground cover.&#160; On her third day in the wilderness, Ms. Abrahamsen tried unsuccessfully to hike through a creek which left her soaking wet. <br></p><p>Meanwhile, Ms. Abrahamsen's father became concerned when she didn't call him on Wednesday night.&#160; He reached out to people in the area where she was staying.&#160; By Thursday, local officials and her housemates began to search for her.&#160; After two days of unsuccessful searching, people began to worry that they might not find her alive. <br></p><p>Thankfully, after 72 hours alone in the cold Canadian mountains, Ms. Abrahamsen's tracks were spotted by a rescue helicopter and she was plucked from the wilderness and returned to safety. &#160;&#160;&#160;</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Whhat do you think was the key to Ms. Abrahamsen's survival in the wilderness?&#160; Do you think she would have made it home without the help of the rescuers?</li><li>What do you think Ms. Abrahamsen learned from her experience?&#160; What can we learn from her experience that could help us in the event that we ever get lost?</li><li>What do you think it felt like to be one of the searchers when she was still missing after two days?&#160; How would you feel if you had been the one to spot her tracks and help bring her home?</li></ul><p><strong>First Sunday in Lent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=290582275">Genesis 9&#58;8-17</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=290582309">1 Peter 3&#58;18-22</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=290582343">Mark 1&#58;9-15</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. 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 <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal">Can you imagine spending 40 days in the wilderness?<span>&#160; </span>Can you imagine spending 40 days with the wild animals away from the comforts of home?<span>&#160; </span>Can you imagine spending 40 days being tired, hungry and uncomfortable plus facing temptation by Satan?<span>&#160; </span>The 40 days in the wilderness following Jesus' baptism, couldn’t have been much fun.<span>&#160; </span>It would have been easy for Jesus to get discouraged, scared, or feel run down by the experience.<span>&#160; </span>With the help of God, with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and with the assistance of the angels, however, Jesus not only survives his forty days in the wilderness, but he emerges from the wilderness immediately begins to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom to the world.<span> <br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Hopefully, you won’t every be physically lost in the wilderness, but chances are that someday, you will face a wilderness time in your life - a time when you feel alone, uncomfortable or unsure about what to do next.<span>&#160; </span>The wilderness you face might come from a problem with a family member or friend.<span>&#160; </span>It might come from an issue at school or at work.<span>&#160; </span>Your wilderness time might be the result of a poor decision or an illness. Wilderness moments can pop up in an instant and, in some cases, it can feel like you will never find your way out.<span>&#160; </span>Thankfully, as Jesus' experience reminds us, with God's help, it is possible make it through the wilderness. <br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we can find hope in the good news that Jesus has gone to the wilderness before us and overcome the temptation and confusion that wilderness can bring. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we can find comfort in the knowledge that God will be with us, just as God, through the angels, was with Jesus.<span>&#160; </span><span>&#160;</span>When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we can find encouragement in the knowledge that when Jesus left the wilderness, he was more fully prepared for the life and ministry that was before him.<span>&#160; </span>Just like Jesus, when we face and overcome difficult times, we can emerge stronger, more confident and more connected to God. </span></p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Why do you think the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness following his baptism instead of sending Jesus to immediately begin preaching and teaching?</li><li>What is one lesson you have learned from going through a difficult time?</li><li>While Jesus is in the wilderness, the Gospel of Mark says that the angels waited on Jesus.&#160; Who helps and supports you when you face difficult times? &#160;</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><ul><li>Work together to make a list of resources that God has given you to help you when you face wilderness times.&#160; Be specific.&#160; Include resources like the names of individuals who can help, cite specific passages from the Bible that offer hope and list local community agencies that can help in times of crisis.</li><li>Jesus emerged from the wilderness and began proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.&#160; Create a series of tweets, Facebook posts or images for Instagram that you or your congregation could use to proclaim the kingdom of God to the world. <br></li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p><p>Jesus, our good shepherd, you are present with us in our times of need.&#160; Help us to know that nothing will ever be able to separate us from your love. Guide us through the wilderness times in our lives and help us to proclaim your Word to a hurting world.&#160; In your name we pray.&#160; Amen. <br><strong></strong></p></div>02/17/2015February 15, 2015--Ending LeprosyErik Ullestad--West Des Moines, IAhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/282http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/282<div class="ExternalClassC4ECE8E77D3D4F0EAFD8E86E9A632832"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal">What’s the sickest you’ve ever been?<span>&#160; </span>How were you treated for your illness?</p> <p><strong>Ending Leprosy<br></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">World Leprosy Day was recently observed on Sunday, January 25.<span>&#160; </span>Though this disease has a known cure, over 200,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.<span>&#160; </span>Many people are not able to access the multi-drug therapy required to treat leprosy. </p><p class="MsoNormal"><img alt="shutterstock_112584377edit.gif" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/Browse/shutterstock_112584377edit.gif" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p class="MsoNormal">Leprosy, also called Hansen’s disease, is caused by slow-multiplying bacteria that incubate for up to five years.<span>&#160; </span>Symptoms of leprosy include painful skin lesions and growths; thick, stiff, or dry skin; muscle weakness and paralysis; enlarged nerves; eye problems; and ulcers on the bottom of feet.<span>&#160; </span>Complications can arise that result in other physical deformities such as the loss of fingers and toes. <br></p><p class="MsoNormal">The majority of people afflicted with leprosy live in places that have enacted laws which discriminate against people with the disease.<span>&#160; </span>In India, for example, there are fifteen laws that target people with leprosy – including preventing them from holding public office or obtaining a driver’s license.<span>&#160; </span>Laws in Thailand and Nepal place restrictions on employment and marriage for people with leprosy.<span>&#160; </span>Through the efforts of World Leprosy Day, the World Health Organization hopes to remove the social stigmas associated with this disease in order that more people will be diagnosed and cured.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Did you know what leprosy was before reading the article?</li><li>How might this illness affect a person's ability to live a normal life?</li><li>Why do you think leprosy continues to spread even though it's completely curable?</li><li>If you were to get sick with something like leprosy, how would you go about being treated?</li></ul><p><strong>Sixth Sunday after Epiphany</strong></p><p>(Editor's note--This week we depart from the lectionary's observance of Transfiguration.)<br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=290170213">2&#160;Kings&#160;5&#58;1-14</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=290170275">1 Corinthians&#160;9&#58;24-27</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=290170317">Mark&#160;1&#58;40-45 </a><br></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. 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 <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong> <br></p><p>The second half of Mark's first chapter is all about healing.&#160; Early on we see that Jesus has both the power <em>and</em> the ability to make people whole.&#160; These miracles not only gave hope to the people who were healed, it also put Jesus in the precarious position of being in the spotlight. <br></p><p>In today's story of the cleansing of the leper, we see that it is the man's faith in Jesus that opens the door to his healing.&#160; Yet it is Jesus who chooses to cleanse the man of leprosy.&#160; By removing the leprosy, Jesus also removes the social stigma that came with it.&#160; Leprosy is a highly contagious disease.&#160; In those days the only way to prevent the spread of leprosy was to isolate people with the disease.&#160; They were cast off from their friends, family, and religious community.&#160; A leper lived a painful, shameful, and lonely life.&#160; Imagine the immense joy felt by this man who was healed by Jesus.</p><p>Jesus instructed the cleansed leper to do two things – (1) don't tell anyone, and (2) present yourself to the priest.&#160; At this point in time Jesus was already starting to become overwhelmed with the crowds that were following him.&#160; These large gatherings may have been somewhat inconvenient, but they also presented a security risk for Jesus.&#160; The more his popularity grew, the more likely it was that government and religious leaders would see him as a threat.&#160; Jesus was attempting to keep the crowds small while also telling the religious leaders that he comes in the name of the same God they believe in. <br></p><p>It's not surprising to read that the man couldn't keep this news to himself.&#160; How can someone keep quiet when their life has been forever changed?!&#160; The man told everyone who would hear, which made life more difficult for Jesus.&#160; He would continue his ministry of healing and teaching, but it was a very different existence from then on.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Have you ever seen a miracle happen to someone?</li><li>When have you felt desperate for healing or change in your life?&#160; </li><li>How would you respond to Jesus' healing if you were a leper?</li><li>Why do you think Jesus wanted the man to not tell anyone?</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Hospitals and nursing homes are filled with people in need of healing – and not just the kind of healing that comes from doctors and medicine.<span>&#160; </span>Contact a local residential care facility and ask how your group might help bring hope to their residents.<span>&#160; </span>This might be a musical performance, a skit, a worship service, Bible study, or playing board games.<span>&#160; </span>Be sure to talk with your group before your outing about how to appropriately interact with aging, ill, or disabled people.<span>&#160; </span>Encourage them to be agents of Christ’s love through their words and actions.</p> <p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>God of hope, help us trust in your power to heal us.<span>&#160; </span>Give us confidence to show your love and compassion to those in need.<span>&#160; </span>Amen. <br><strong></strong></p></div>02/10/2015February 8, 2015--Too Tired to CareDavid Delaney, Salem, VAhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/281http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/281<div class="ExternalClassB96C40B9F5604BA4BE97F63E1206F07B"><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Set up an imaginary scale across the room where you are meeting, ranging from 0 to 10.<span>&#160; </span>Ask people to stand in various places on the imaginary scale based on this series of questions&#58;&#160; 1. How tired are you right now, today?<span> </span>(0 = exhausted, need to go back to bed for a whole day;<span>&#160; </span>10 = most energetic ever) 2. How tired are you usually, on average?<span>&#160; </span>(same scale) 3. How confident are you that when you are stressed or exhausted that you will be able to set aside time to get the rest you need?<span>&#160; </span>(0 = can’t count on that at all, it’s out of my control;<span>&#160; </span>10 = I can rest whenever I need to)</li><li>How important do you think rest is to doing well in school, family, work, other relationships, life in general?</li><li>Finally, an opinion question&#58;<span>&#160; </span>Of the ten commandments (can anyone name them, by the way?) a number of them are commands that involve ways we contribute to our own communities and the world around us, but only the third commandment (by the Roman Catholic and Lutheran numbering;<span>&#160; </span>it’s number 4 in Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, and other Protestant traditions) commands us to observe a Sabbath rest.<span>&#160; </span>If there doesn’t seem to be enough time in life to honor both aspects of the commandments, should one be sacrificed in favor of the other?<span>&#160; </span>Does God consider one to be more important than<span>&#160; </span>the other?<span>&#160; </span></li></ul> <p><strong>Too Tired to Care?<br></strong></p><p>The January 15, 2015 issue of the <em>Journal of Emergency Medical Services</em> carried an in-depth article on the potentially dangerous effects of fatigue on those who work in emergency services. For decades, the 24-hour work shift (2-3 times a week) has been the norm in the industry of emergency medicine and other emergency response professions such as firefighting, so that it is common for everyone from ER doctors and surgeons to ambulance drivers to pharmacists to work shifts that start at 6am one day and do not end until 6am the next day.&#160; </p><p><img alt="shutterstock_202169833edit.gif" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_202169833edit.gif" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>This pattern persists largely because it is believed that giving people a full day's break between the strains of trauma response is better for them, plus it's also apparently cost-effective.&#160; It's also simply the way things have been for a while and it would be a lot of work to change them.&#160; However, experts in the field of emergency medical care as well as those who are responsible for oversight and evaluation of the medical providers – insurance and government entities especially – are starting to pay attention to the risks that are present when someone who has had no sleep for nearly a whole day is trying to make complex decisions about things like evaluating patient vital signs or measuring dosages of medicine.&#160; </p><p>The phenomenon of &quot;burnout,&quot; where people in caregiving professions work so hard and absorb so many emotional demands that they run out of energy and lose their ability to perform effectively, has led to frequent early resignations among emergency care workers.&#160; This has long been recognized and has for many years been attributed to the stress of dealing with injury and death on a regular basis.&#160; But now fresh studies are starting to reveal what must surely be obvious to many people outside the medical profession – that simply being awake for a straight 24 hours with no attention to mental rejuvenation, let alone physical rejuvenation, may be the real culprit in early burnout, not to mention increasing the risk of some very serious errors in emergency treatment.&#160; As a result, emergency care providers are rethinking the risks involved with long shifts of caregiving to the point of exhaustion.<br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>What are some of the strains on caregivers that might be associated with long shifts or lack of rest in general?<span> </span></li><li>How does lack of rest or too much mental/emotional strain affect you personally?<span>&#160; </span>If you are a student, what effect does being tired or overstressed have on the quality of your school work or your relationships?</li><li>Many people, when they hear for the first time about 24-hour shifts, are shocked and can’t imagine how anyone does this, but others say that you’re just cut out for it or you’re not.<span>&#160; </span>Do you think you could be one of those emergency workers who works on a schedule like that?<span>&#160; </span>Or do you need your sleep on a really regular schedule?</li></ul> <p><strong>Fifth Sunday after Epiphany<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=289375621">Isaiah 40&#58;21-31</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=289375654">1 Corinthians 9&#58;16-23</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=289375689">Mark 1&#58;29-39</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. 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 <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">For a long time, commentators on Mark’s gospel have noticed that Jesus’ work in the first half of the gospel is characterized by three major activities that signal the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God&#58;<span>&#160; </span>preaching, teaching, and healing.<span>&#160; </span>In this story we are still in the very first chapter Mark, near the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, but already we see all three of these activities represented, with Jesus emerging from teaching in the synagogue (vs. 29), healing Simon’s mother-in-law (vs. 31), and moving on to preach in the rest of Galilee (vs. 39).<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">The fourth activity represented here that is often overlooked as a “kingdom-oriented” activity is that of resting and praying.<span>&#160; </span>It is mentioned specifically again with respect to Jesus and his disciples in chapter 6 and hinted at in many other places all the way through Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane in chapter 14.<span>&#160; </span>In several other places we are told that Jesus was overwhelmed by the size and volume of the crowd that was facing him, sometimes even asking his disciples to plan an escape route (3&#58;9).<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">We should not fail to notice that even Jesus rested and took time for private prayer and communion with God.<span>&#160; </span>Particularly in Mark, where so much happens so fast and the word “immediately” appears more than 40 times, it is refreshing to see Jesus take time out to care for his human capacity for fatigue.<span>&#160; </span>We should also note that this attentiveness to resting when tired or overburdened was connected not only to his physical or emotional needs, but just as much to the life of the spirit.<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">Another dimension of life in the Kingdom of God is illustrated by the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law.<span>&#160; </span>As with so many characters in Mark’s gospel, she receives Jesus’ miraculous grace and then at once starts engaging in the very activities to which Jesus’ followers are called as they take their places as ministers of God’s kingdom.<span>&#160; </span>In this case, she begins serving them.<span>&#160; </span>On one level, it could just mean that she brings them snacks, but the deeper meaning is that she now becomes a servant to others, which is what we are all called to do, just as the man delivered of a demon in chapter 5 will immediately become a witness and Bartimaeus in chapter 9 will immediately become a disciple after being healed of blindness.<span>&#160;&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">The command to the demons that they should be silent may come as a puzzling feature in this passage.<span>&#160; </span>One of the interesting literary tricks in Mark is that the very ones who are religious insiders (including the disciples!) tend not to recognize who Jesus is, or at least they can’t seem to figure him out; only those who are on the fringe or outsiders (the physically injured, unclean spirits, the Roman centurion) know him for who he is – the Son of God.<span>&#160; </span>As we read along, it’s as if Mark wants the disciples and other onlookers to recognize Jesus’ divine identity because of what’s happening and not because they heard someone (even a demonic spirit) say so.<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">We’re supposed to get frustrated with those who should be catching on to this immediately and then should be actively, excitedly proclaiming this truth.<span>&#160; </span>But then, Mark perhaps wants us to wonder, why do we ourselves not do that?<span>&#160; </span>So the frustration we might experience because of the characters in the gospel can be turned back on ourselves and transformed into inspiration for us to notice when Jesus is present in our own lives but we do not recognize him because we aren’t paying attention or we’re looking for something different.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><br></p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Dealing with people in Mark’s gospel seems to wear Jesus out.<span>&#160; </span>This may be one of the most honest and authentic aspects of Jesus’ human nature.<span>&#160; </span>Even the disciples exasperate him on occasion (8&#58;21;<span>&#160; </span>8&#58;23; 9&#58;19;<span>&#160; </span>14&#58;37).</li><li>In response, Jesus devotes himself to prayer and, when necessary, solitude.<span>&#160; </span>How do we take care of our whole selves, not just the body and the mind, but also the spirit?</li><li>Many people find that a routine of prayer, possibly including simple quiet meditation, is an essential piece of self-care that not only allows them to be good stewards of their own lives, but also connects rest with growth in discerning God’s presence and purposes.<span>&#160; </span>What are the faith practices represented in our own group that combine rest and self-care with nurturing faith?</li><li>Other people find that separating the work of restful prayer from the rest of life is an artificial division that does not leave them refreshed, so they practice what is sometimes called “noisy contemplation,” or prayer in the midst of activity.<span>&#160; </span>We might imagine Simon’s mother-in-law, surely filled with heart-felt thanks for being healed (and maybe still even recovering from sickness?), nevertheless moving forward immediately into acts of service and finding her energy for loving and communing with God there.<span>&#160; </span>What are some good examples of quick on-the-run prayers or opportunities for prayer that we can practice?<span>&#160; </span> </li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Make a covenant as a group to keep a Sabbath day.<span>&#160; </span>Identify a day –<span>&#160; </span>either Saturday or Sunday may be a good choice – where you set aside as many of the things you do just by habit as possible and rest.<span>&#160; </span>You might even try it for just a six-hour stretch.<span>&#160; </span>(It might also be a good activity for a retreat or lock-in).<span>&#160; </span>Start by turning off your cell phone and computer and staying away from radio and television.<span>&#160; </span>As a group, come up with a set of prayers that you can say on each hour while you’re letting your mind settle down.<span>&#160; </span>Then keep a brief journal of how you feel – physically, spiritually, mentally – as the time passes.<span>&#160; </span>When you next re-gather as a group, share your experiences and journal notes.</li><li>Identify medical care givers or emergency responders in your congregation and either invite them to talk with you about how they care for themselves or what their prayer and worship lives are like, given that they often spend time with many people who are victims of injury or tragedy.</li></ul> <p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">Loving God, we give you thanks for providing us with times for renewal, even as you also give us work to carry out in your kingdom.<span>&#160; </span>We pray that you would reveal your Son Jesus to us in all that we do, whether we are alone or with others, whether we are overwhelmed or at rest.<span>&#160; </span>And in all things, we pray that you would make us good witnesses to the healing grace that you have given to us and to the world in which we live. In Jesus’ name we pray.</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p><p>​</p></div>02/03/2015