Faith Lenshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/Faith Lens Summer HiatusFaith Lens Editorhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/297http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/297<div class="ExternalClassBD2CAD6298E542298FD298DC0B5B58D0"><h4>​Faith Lens is not published during the summer.&#160; The next Faith Lens is scheduled to be posted&#160; September 1, for Sunday, September&#160;6, 2015. </h4><p><br></p><p><img alt="upset_edited-1.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/Browse/upset_edited-1.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p></div>05/26/2015May 24, 2015 Under the RubbleDavid Dodson--Fort Walton Beach, FLhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/296http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/296<div class="ExternalClassD831014B304E495587222BE4091BEEFC"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>Have you ever experienced a natural disaster or severe storm?<span>&#160; </span>Were you frightened?</p><p><br><strong></strong></p><p><strong>Under the Rubble<br></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">On April 25<sup>th</sup>, 2015, a major earthquake rocked the mountainous nation of Nepal.<span>&#160; </span>With a magnitude of 7.8, this earthquake was the most violent natural disaster to hit Nepal in 81 years.<span>&#160; </span>At least 8,259 people died in the quake, and nearly 20,000 people were injured when the buildings around them came crashing down.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_273291338edit.jpg" alt="shutterstock_273291338edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p class="MsoNormal">Australian Camille Thomas was in the village of Langtang when the earthquake began.<span>&#160; </span>When the Australian Associated Press interviewed Camille, she labored to explain how terrifying the experience was.<span>&#160; </span>“It was pretty scary, pretty horrible, nothing you can really explain,” she said. “We ran and hid under some stuff and it all started coming down.<span>&#160; </span>Snow and rocks and houses, everything.<span>&#160; </span>An avalanche.”</p><p class="MsoNormal">Though Camille made it to safety, many others did not.<span>&#160; </span>In the days following the earthquake, Nepalese men and women, with the help of the Nepalese army, began digging through the rubble, hoping desperately to find survivors buried beneath.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Miraculously, a few survivors appeared.<span>&#160; </span>Sonies Aawal, a five-month-old baby, was among the first reported miracle survivors, pulled out of the wreckage 22 hours after the quake to the relief of his parents.<span>&#160; </span>A 15-year-old boy named Pemba was buried in rubble for a full five days before being pulled out.<span>&#160; </span>Astonishingly, Pemba was not the last survivor found.<span>&#160; </span>A 101-year-old man by the name of Funchu Tamang was dug out a week after the earthquake.<span>&#160; </span>Tamang had only suffered minor injuries in the quake.</p><p class="MsoNormal">The survivors are incredibly lucky, but they certainly experienced days of uncertainty and fear, buried in the darkness, unsure if help was coming.<span>&#160; </span>Pemba spent so long in the darkness prior to his rescue that he admitted, “I did not know if I was alive or dead.”</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Have you ever felt helpless in the face of a situation you couldn't control?</li><li>What could someone have said to you or done for you in the midst of that situation in order to help you find strength? </li></ul><p><strong>Pentecost Sunday<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=298525112">Acts 2&#58;1-21</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=298525163">Romans 8&#58;22-27</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=298525214">John 15&#58;26-27, 16&#58;4b-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>&#160;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">We rejoin Jesus and his disciples as Jesus offers his final teachings following the Last Supper.<span>&#160; </span>After he finishes speaking, Jesus and the disciples will go to the Garden of Gethsemane.<span>&#160; </span>The disciples may not know it yet, but they are about to experience a situation in which they will feel helpless and alone.</p><p class="MsoNormal">The disciples had learned to rely on Jesus.<span>&#160; </span>Sometimes that was a hard and frightening lesson to learn, as when Jesus calmed the storm that had the disciples terrified and fearing for their lives.<span>&#160; </span>Sometimes it was simply miraculous and humbling, as when Jesus caused four loaves and two fish to feed a multitude.<span>&#160; </span>By this time, though, the disciples were getting it.<span>&#160; </span>Jesus was not only their rabbi (their teacher) but also their Rock and their Shelter.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Jesus knew, of course, that the disciples would struggle with his death and his ascension into heaven.<span>&#160; </span>After learning to rely on Jesus in a very real way, would the disciples feel abandoned and alone when they didn’t have Jesus physically by their side?<span>&#160; </span>Certainly, we can relate to this.<span>&#160; </span>Haven’t we all felt alone sometimes?<span>&#160; </span>Have you ever wanted Jesus to be physically beside you?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Fortunately, Jesus has some comforting news for us.<span>&#160; </span>As scary as the idea of Jesus’ departure is to the disciples, He tells them, “It is to your advantage that I go away…”<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal">By His death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, Jesus is preparing the world for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which He calls “the Advocate” in this passage.<span>&#160; </span>The term “advocate” is a powerful choice of title.<span>&#160; </span>An advocate is one who fights for a cause – one who cares deeply and passionately and who works tirelessly on behalf of another.<span>&#160; </span>The Spirit of God, Jesus says, is our Advocate!</p><p class="MsoNormal">This is the simple truth that makes the rest of the story of our Christian faith so powerful.<span>&#160; </span>After Jesus ascends into heaven, His followers receive the Spirit of God to be their strength, to teach them to have faith, and to fill them with hope and love.<span>&#160; </span>As we read about the miracles of Peter and Paul in the book of Acts or read Paul’s letters to the churches of Europe and Asia, we should keep in mind that the same Spirit of God that gave these early disciples strength and faith has been given to us as well.<span>&#160; </span>We, too, can open ourselves up to be filled with God’s Spirit!</p><p class="MsoNormal">We may never experience something quite as traumatic as Pemba did, being trapped under rubble for days.<span>&#160; </span>However, we will all experience times of loneliness or worry.<span>&#160; </span>It is at those times that we should remember that we have the most powerful Advocate the world will ever know – the Spirit of God through Jesus!</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li><p>We often use metaphors to describe the nature of God.&#160; God is often referred to as a &quot;Father&quot;.&#160; Jesus calls himself the &quot;bridegroom&quot; of the Church in the gospels.&#160; What metaphor might be useful to describe the role of the Holy Spirit?</p></li><li><p>Why is &quot;hope&quot; an important part of our faith in God?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal">As a group, plan a “pep rally”.<span>&#160; </span>Instead of focusing on school spirit, though, focus on the Holy Spirit!<span>&#160; </span>Some members of your group might paint banners, some might come up with cheers or chants, and so on.<span>&#160; </span>The themes will be hope, advocacy, and strength. (If you can, invite younger groups of Sunday School classes to join you in your pep rally!)</p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Heavenly Father, through the death, resurrection, and ascension of your Son, you have entrusted us with the precious gift of your Holy Spirit.<span>&#160; </span>Help us to always treasure this gift, relying on your strength and power whenever we feel powerless or alone.<span>&#160; </span>Teach us to spread this gift of your Spirit to our community and our world, so that all of your children know what a powerful Advocate they have.<span>&#160; </span>In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.</p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>05/19/2015May 17, 2015 Saying GoodbyeAaron Matson, Waterton, SDhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/295http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/295<div class="ExternalClass43120727B64041928337609B17E5CBC3"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>Have you ever moved? What was the hardest part for you? What helped you adjust to your new community?</p><p><strong>Saying Goodbye<br></strong></p><p>As I was growing up, my family moved from one town to another a few times. Each time it was hard to say goodbye to friends and the familiar places and routines and then to build new relationships and familiarize myself with new surroundings and activities. As I have gotten older, I’ve had to keep moving – to college, seminary, my first call as a pastor, and beginning graduate school. I’m sorry to say even when you are an adult, and even when it’s a move you have decided to make, moving is not easy. But, as you get older, you do begin to gain perspective, and realize that change, and saying goodbye, is a part of life. &#160;You will miss the people who have been a part of your life (sometimes very much!), but there are new friends to meet (even though that can be hard if you’re an introvert like me). <br></p><p><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/Browse/shutterstock_257216164edit.jpg" alt="shutterstock_257216164edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>As a pastor, I have been with families who have had said goodbye to loved ones for the last time. Even with the tremendous promise of Easter that they are in our Savior’s care, and in the fullness of time we will see them again as resurrected people, it’s hard to say good-bye. <br></p><p>A word that I have found helpful in those goodbyes is “Godspeed,” which (according to <a href="http&#58;//merriam-webster.com/" target="_blank">merriam-webster.com</a>) is from a Middle English phrase, “God spede you,” which meant “God prosper you.” It’s come to be used to wish someone a good journey, or good luck, though it’s not used all that much anymore. But, especially in its original sense, saying “Godspeed” is like saying a short prayer for those you are saying farewell to; it is a short hand way of praying that God bless someone and watch over them until you meet again.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>Have you ever had to say goodbye to someone you cared about, a friend or family member who you knew you wouldn’t see again – or at least for a very long time? Maybe you or they were moving, or going on long trip, or maybe even you were saying your last goodbyes before they passed away.</p></li><li><p>How can we as Christians help others who have had to say goodbye to someone they care about?</p></li><li><p>Have you ever heard the word “Godspeed” before? What did you think it meant? Has your congregation ever used the “Farewell and Godspeed” liturgy from the hymnal?</p></li></ul><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times new roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;"></span><p><strong>Seventh Sunday of Easter</strong> <br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=297941901">Acts 1&#58;15-17, 21-26</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=297941940">1 John 5&#58;9-13</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=297941977">John 17&#58;6-19</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 reading from John 17 is part of how John tells the story of Jesus’ last night with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. On this night, Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples, so part of what he says to them in their last night together are things he wants them to remember (like his commandment that they love one another), but also he wants to comfort them. He promises that they would not be alone, that he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and guide them, and he prays for them. <br></p><p>Jesus wants the disciples to know they will not be alone, and he wants them to know what he hopes for them after he “goes to the Father.” In his prayer, he asks the Father to keep them safe, and that they might love each other and care for each other (that they may be” one”) just as Jesus and the Father are one. His words were not only meant to comfort those first disciples; John wanted all believers to know Jesus’ prayer for his followers, including us reading John’s gospel today. Jesus’ prayer is a prayer for us, too.<br><br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>Have you ever prayed for someone or has someone prayed for you?</p></li><li><p>If you could ask Jesus to pray for one thing for you, what would it be?</p></li></ul><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times new roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;"></span><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><ul><li><p>Take turns saying a prayer for every person in your group. If there is a specific thing that person is comfortable sharing that they want you to pray for, you can focus the prayer on that. Otherwise, you can simply say a prayer for God’s blessing on each person.</p></li><li><p>Ask your pastor (or someone who has access to the LBW’s “Occasional Services” or the ELW’s “Pastoral Care” books) to make you a copy of the ‘Farewell and Godspeed” liturgy, and go through it. What do you like about it? What could be added or changed to make it better? If you have time, maybe you could even try to make up a version specifically geared towards your age group.</p></li></ul><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times new roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;"></span><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p><p>Lord of today and <span data-term="goog_286494850">tomorrow</span> – we ask that you be with us when we have to say goodbye to someone we care about. In those times, help us to wish them “Godspeed” and to be able to see the new relationships and blessings you give us. We thank you, Lord Jesus, for praying for us. May your words be a comfort to us and a reminder that we are never alone, for you are watching over us, and your Holy Spirit is with us. Amen.</p><p><strong></strong></p></div>05/12/2015May 10, 2015 Life GivingScott Moore, Erfurt, Germanyhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/294http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/294<div class="ExternalClass3C02CEB99718482984914C368A5AD98E"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color&#58;#010000;">What is the most difficult thing you have ever done for a friend? </span></p><p><strong>Life Giving<br></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color&#58;#010000;">Jesse Yuth, an 18-year old high school student from Signal Hill, California, died after jumping 50 feet from the cliff at Hermit Falls cliff to the water below. He would’ve have survived if he hadn’t tried to save the friend he had jumped with moments before. Jesse’s friend immediately started to drown when they hit the water. Jesse, who was also injured, didn’t try to save himself. Instead, he tried to save his friend. He wasn’t able to because of his own injuries. That’s when Jesse’s cousin jumped in and pulled the friend to shore. When Jesse’s cousin, David Chhom, went back to get Jesse, it was too late&#58; Jesse had drowned.</span></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p> <ul><li><span style="color&#58;#010000;">When have you ever been in a life-threatening situation?</span><span style="color&#58;#010000;"></span></li><li><span style="color&#58;#010000;">When have you ever witnessed someone else in a life-threatening situation?</span><span style="color&#58;#010000;"></span></li><li><span style="color&#58;#010000;">When are risky behaviors like cliff jumping worth it? </span></li></ul><p><strong>Sixth Sunday of Easter</strong> <br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=297409403">Acts 10&#58;44-48</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=297409446">1 John 5&#58;1-6</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=297409493">John 15&#58;9-17</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 class="MsoNormal"><span style="color&#58;#010000;">Jesus isn’t the unreachable or distant teacher and master, who we are in awe of and just wish we could get close to. Yes, we learn from Jesus and his words and actions. Yes, he calls us to follow him. Yes, Jesus boldly commands us to follow and act. But, and this is a big ‘but’, Jesus changes the rules of the game in this part of his “Farewell Discourse” (Chapters 14-17) here in the Gospel of John. He has given the disciples, and now us, a promotion so to speak. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_145447531edit.jpg" alt="shutterstock_145447531edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br><span style="color&#58;#010000;"></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color&#58;#010000;">The disciples are his friends. Those who follow Jesus are friends. Followers of Jesus are friends because Jesus loves them. Jesus loves us. And, Jesus keeps his friends in his circle of information. They are in the know. Whatever God has told Jesus, Jesus shares. Just as God, in a great act of love, chose the children of Israel and led them into freedom from bondage in Egypt, Jesus chooses us. Just as God gave his chosen people teachings and commandments as a way for them to abide in God’s love, Jesus shares commandments and teachings so we can stay in him and his love. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color&#58;#010000;">Jesus’ words lead to our actions. Jesus’ words also are a glimpse of what is to come, “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus is planning to do just that&#58; lay down his life for us. Jesus chooses us, reaches out to us, claims us, and calls us friends. Jesus dies for us to add power to his words. There is no greater love than what God has shown the world in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.<span>&#160;&#160;</span> <br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color&#58;#010000;">But all this friendship and all this love isn’t just a one-way love affair between Jesus and each one of us. Jesus does this and invites us, commands us rather, to love him back…and…to love one another. If we love Jesus, then we will love each other. It sounds simple and yet it often requires us to take a leap of faith. It requires us to take risks. It requires us to be vulnerable sometimes. Loving is risky business. Great love might lead to great sacrifice. God’s love did, that’s for certain. </span></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p> <ul><li>When have you ever wanted to be friends with someone who seemed too distant/important/cool?</li><li>What is it like to have a friend who you know everything about?</li><li>When have you had a friend with whom you shared everything about you?</li><li>When would you rather not be friends with someone but rather have a more formal relationship?</li><li>When have you had a relationship with someone where you felt like not only friends? (Friend/teacher, friend/doctor, friend/pastor). <br></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Hanging out with Jesus for a day&#58;</p><p class="MsoNormal">If you had a chance to hang out with Jesus for a day, how would you spend that day together?Take some time and write out (in as much detail as you can or would like) how you would spend an ideal day with Jesus. There are no “wrong” answers. You can choose how you would spend time with your friend.&#160; Invite the individuals in the group to share their “Jesus Hang-out Time”. </p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">God of eternal love, you sent your Son Jesus to be our teacher and our friend. Encourage us to see not only Jesus’ power and strength but also his love as a true friend. Teach us to love each other as Jesus has loved us. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our truest friend. Amen</p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>05/05/2015May 3, 2015 Fruit-FullJen Krausz, Bethlehem, PAhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/293http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/293<div class="ExternalClass0307451C93B24F6DB1AA62020590F36A"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong> <br></p><p>What is the last fruit or vegetable you ate, and when did you eat it<a name="_GoBack"></a>?<br><br> </p><p><strong>Fruit-Full<br></strong></p> <p>America is the breadbasket of the world. Walk into any grocery store, and you will find thousands of items to choose from. The average American spends thousands of dollars each year on all kinds of food, from groceries to fast food to sit down restaurant meals served by waitstaff. </p><p>Despite the abundance and variety of food available in this country, it seems that many Americans are failing to get enough of certain foods considered to be important to good health. The government recommends that kids and adults get at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. </p><p><img alt="shutterstock_115821670edit.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_115821670edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>Most say that they are trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, but the average person eats only about a cup of vegetables and half a cup of fruit each day. Teens and the elderly are the groups eating the least of these healthy foods. </p><p>Fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy diet because they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Many of these healthy nutrients are not found in other types of foods such as breads, meats, or fats. A balanced diet can prevent disease and prolong life. </p><p>According to Elizabeth Pivonka of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, even adding small amounts of fruits and vegetables to normal meals can help your overall health. Putting raisins in cereal, veggies on sandwiches, and drinking 100% fruit juices can help people get to the recommended number of servings per day. </p><p>Another way to make sure there are enough fruits and vegetables in someone’s diet is to aim to fill half the plate with those foods. More frequent grocery shopping may be needed to make sure the house stays stocked with fresh produce. Instead of shopping every two weeks, people may need to shop once or twice a week.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> </p><ul><li>Why do you think many people don't eat enough fruits and vegetables? Consider the following&#58; people relying on food stamps, the menus of the fast food restaurants you frequent, and the fact that many low-income neighborhoods don't have grocery stores in them.</li><li>How does government policy affect what foods are affordable and available?</li><li>What steps could restaurants and grocery stores take to improve this situation? Do you believe they should be forced to do so? </li><li>Do you think food advertising generally helps or hinders people from eating more fruits and vegetables?</li><li>What positive forces exist to help people eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables?</li></ul><p><strong>Fifth Sunday of Easter</strong> <br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=296708974">Acts 8&#58;26-40</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=296709015">1 John 4&#58;7-21</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=296709061">John 15&#58;1-8</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>We’re going to move on from talking about eating fruit to considering what it means to “bear fruit.” Bearing fruit is more than simply doing good things or being good. Bearing fruit can only happen if we are connected to Jesus—if our actions grow out of that connection. </p><p>Good things can be done by anyone. Apart from God, our good works are more like candy than fruit. They seem good—but they are artificially made, and they are not connected to anything. Furthermore, they aren’t really healthy for anyone. They may give a good result initially, but they don’t ultimately lead to anything good. </p><p>What a beautiful analogy Jesus gives here about how living as his follower works. Knowing Jesus makes us want to do good things, but only being connected to him and his power can allow us to do the right kinds of good things in the right ways and for the right reasons—bearing fruit that lives on and produces more fruit through its seeds. Fruit that doesn’t come from a branch connected to the true vine (Jesus) will eventually wither or rot or become unhealthy. </p><p>In order to bear fruit, the branch has to be healthy. God’s influence over our lives can allow us to become healthy enough to bear fruit. As we live in relationship to God through Christ, bearing fruit has a lot to do with the ways God changes us to become more like him. </p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>What are some things we can do to nurture the connection to Jesus so that we are indeed fruitful?</li><li>Many people do good things--including persons of other faith traditions or no religious tradition at all.&#160; What is gained by being connected to Jesus?&#160; Why does it matter? <br></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p> <ul><li><p>Start a community garden on your church property or other land, and donate the produce to a local food bank. Fresh produce is rare at food banks, making it difficult for those in need to eat a healthy diet. This is a big undertaking, but it can make a big difference in the community—a way to bear fruit literally and figuratively.</p></li><li><p>Organize a collection of fruits and vegetables to benefit a food bank or otherwise give away to those in need. Because fresh fruits and vegetables don’t last long, it’s best to have a defined collection day and then deliver to the food bank right away.</p></li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>Dear God, we thank you for the blessings of food to eat. Help us remember to stay connected to Jesus the true vine, so that we can bear good fruit to benefit the world around us as we become more like him. We pray these things in Jesus’ name, amen.</p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>04/28/2015April 26, 2015 Love Laid DownStephanie Opsal, Albuquerque, NMhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/292http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/292<div class="ExternalClassD82C67E472294D54BEE04DCD8B6D06B8"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>Which of your teachers in the past has had the strongest influence on your life?</p><span style="font-family&#58;arial;"></span><p><strong>Love Laid Down<br></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><span style="font-family&#58;arial;">Have you ever seen a teacher in action and thought, “That must be an easy job?”<span>&#160; </span>Conveying first-grade level math or language arts skills might not seem difficult from the outside, but it takes a special kind of person to become a thriving teacher.<span>&#160; </span>Beyond a thorough knowledge of <span>&#160;</span>subject content and developing a teaching style, teachers who truly engage students have an enormous capacity for love, dedication, and patience for their students.<span>&#160; </span>Many educators say they love their jobs and do not teach for the money; the strongest ones mean it.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><br></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><img alt="shutterstock_147613478edit.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/Browse/shutterstock_147613478edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br><span style="font-family&#58;arial;"></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><span style="font-family&#58;arial;">&#160;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><span style="font-family&#58;arial;">In the worst times, such as the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, stories of hope rise out of the darkness, and many of these involve teachers who cared beyond their expected role.<span>&#160; </span>A first grade teacher, Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, jumped into gear at the first sound of a gunshot and locked all fifteen of her students safely in the classroom bathroom.<span>&#160; </span>The principal lost her life throwing herself at the gunman, giving every effort to stop him.<span>&#160; </span>One teacher responded after the event by teaching her students to pay it forward to others.<span>&#160; </span>To honor the twenty-six lost lives and recognize all the gifts received by the surviving children, a young teacher started a nonprofit organization called Classes4Classes to provide smartboards, books, and other school supplies to communities in need. She taught her students to become selfless, others-focused individuals in the same way she courageously stood before her class on the fateful day.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><span style="font-family&#58;arial;">&#160;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><span style="font-family&#58;arial;">As recently as April 4<sup>th</sup>, 2015, a teacher made the news in a much more uplifting scenario.<span>&#160; </span>Ms. Sheila Howarth, teacher at Leeds City Academy, won the “Most Inspiring Teacher” award in Yorkshire, England.<span>&#160; </span>Ms. Howarth believes in every single student who walks in her door and feels proud of every achievement they make, no matter the size.<span>&#160; </span>She teaches and recognizes the progress of her students as individuals, not in comparison to one another.<span>&#160; </span>Some children she teaches know very little English, but she helps them achieve good grades and reach the collegiate level.<span>&#160; </span>She takes the effort to get to know the young people she interacts with every day, and she has found the hook that can turn “uninterested” kids into engaged learners.<span>&#160; </span>She encourages kids to make the most of their lives, starting today, and has “a big heart and all the pupils belong in it.”<span>&#160; </span>She never stopped encouraging students to keep trying, reach their potential when they could not see it themselves, and push toward their dream careers, even when the path looked daunting.<span>&#160; </span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><span style="font-family&#58;arial;">&#160;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><span style="font-family&#58;arial;">Sheila Howarth, along with numerous inspiring teachers throughout the world, whether noticed or not, choose not to leave work at work or do the bare minimum requirements to earn the paycheck. <span>&#160;</span>She gives her all for the kids and never gives up on them, which could not help but make a transformative difference in so many lives.</span></p><p><br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Have you had a teacher that truly inspired you?&#160; What were the characteristics of that person?</li><li>Can you think of a teacher that was not your favorite?&#160; What qualities was he or she lacking?</li><li>Do you see Jesus as a selfless, loving teacher?</li></ul><p><strong>Fourth Sunday of Easter</strong> <br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=296104534">Acts 4&#58;5-12</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=296104572">1 John 3&#58;16-24</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=296104624">John 10&#58;11-18</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></p><p>&#160;</p><p>Jesus claims to be &quot;the good shepherd,&quot; the one who lays down his life for the sheep.&#160; In the passage, Jesus shows the difference between 1) the true good shepherd who loves the sheep and will do anything to protect them and 2) the hired hand who only takes care of the sheep for the necessity of earning money.&#160; The hired hand runs at any sign of danger or interruption to his own life, because he does not truly care about the sheep. The shepherd, however, loves the sheep to the point of sacrificial love.&#160; He would rather die and let the sheep live than see them get hurt or scattered.&#160; He puts them before himself.</p><p>&#160;</p><p>In the second part, Jesus extends the metaphor and asserts that He also has sheep from another sheep pen that He calls His own.&#160; Finally, He does all of this by choice, based on His love and His close relationship with both the Father and the sheep, not under obligation.</p><p>&#160;</p><p>Jesus uses this example to show that we are the sheep, and Jesus is <em>our</em> good shepherd.&#160; Look back through the passage with this mindset, replacing the word &quot;sheep&quot; with &quot;us&quot; or &quot;them.&quot;&#160; Hopefully this does not offend, but sheep have little brains.&#160; They may not be the most intelligent animals, but they can recognize their leader's voice and follow.&#160; Sheep are great at flocking together.&#160; If God is our shepherd leader, we can agree that our intelligence and understanding pales in comparison to His.&#160; &quot;For my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts,&quot; God says through the prophet Isaiah (55&#58;8-9), and &quot;Who has known the mind of the Lord?&#160; Or who has been His counselor?&quot; – Romans 11&#58;34.&#160; </p><p>&#160;</p><p>Jesus does not save us based on our level of intelligence.&#160; He saves and protects us because of His love, because by nature, He IS Love.&#160; This example of the sheep and the shepherd illustrates Christ's selfless love for humankind.&#160; He lives out this truth through His death on the cross and resurrection.&#160; Instead of watching and letting all His sheep whom he created, leads, and loves die, Jesus stands before us and takes on the death that we deserve.&#160; Then He conquers death and rises again to life!&#160; What a GOOD shepherd we have! <br></p><p>How can I be sure that Christ died for ME specifically, and not only for all the super holy, religious people?&#160; Jesus said, &quot;I know my sheep, and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.&quot; (v. 14-15). <br></p><p>Jesus does not love you reluctantly, shaking His head but loving you because He has to.&#160; Quite the contrary, He is the shepherd that puts little sheep lives before His own perfect life, the teacher that gives everything he can for each individual learner, and the one who does everything from the motivation of love, even letting sinful men nail him to a cross for the sake of us &quot;having life, and having it to the full.&quot; (John 10&#58;10)</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Do you view Jesus more as a loving, good shepherd or as a hired hand just leading you for His own gain?&#160; Think of times when you or other people in your life have acted like Jesus or the hired hand.</li><li>What is your favorite line from this passage and why?</li><li>What connections can you make between the inspiring teacher from the article and Jesus, our good shepherd?&#160; How are they similar?</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Read the Sandy Hook poem found at <a href="http&#58;//www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2075578/jewish/Heroism-in-Sandy-Hook.htm">http&#58;//www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2075578/jewish/Heroism-in-Sandy-Hook.htm</a> and discuss the character traits of these heroic teachers.&#160; In what way are you a teacher?&#160; What little change can you make in your life to become more helpful and loving toward others?&#160; </li><li>Write a short poem or narrative from the perspective of someone in another profession, possibly your future career choice.&#160; Think about how you can show Jesus' selfless love and service to others in any job or school position you may have.&#160; Write down a couple possibilities you will try.</li><li>Listen to the song &quot;It Was Love&quot; by Abandon (<a href="https&#58;//www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfyutFUdUEw">https&#58;//www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfyutFUdUEw</a>).&#160; What lyrics stood out to you?&#160; These are biblical truths.</li><li>Read the story of &quot;The Lost Sheep&quot; in Luke 15&#58;1-7.&#160; Discuss how this relates to our Gospel reading today.</li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><span style="font-family&#58;arial;">Jesus, thank you for being our Good Shepherd and never leaving us or letting us down. Help us to become selfless, loving, Christ-like people, quick to act and take opportunities to serve others in Your name.<span>&#160; </span>Hold us in your grace and love.<span>&#160; </span>In your holy name, amen.</span></p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>04/21/2015