Faith Lens 7, 2014--InvictusDavid Dodson, Fort Walton Beach, FL<div class="ExternalClassF4878E1391B747E3A9E87C8BB1AA33C7"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal">What sort of vestments (special clothing) are worn by people leading your worship services?<span>&#160; </span>Do you feel that these vestments change or enhance your worship and fellowship?</p> <p><strong>Invictus<br></strong></p><p>A casual glance at the cover of the October issue of <em>Airmen</em> magazine, the official magazine of the United States Air Force, might have left readers stunned.&#160; In the cover photo, a 28-year-old woman with dark hair pulled loosely back holds a large barbell loaded with weights high above her head.&#160; The woman, retired Captain Sarah Evans, looks incredibly strong and athletic.&#160; There is just one surprise&#58; she only has one leg.</p><p><img src="" alt="shutterstock_125563616edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>During a deployment to Afghanistan, Capt. Evans was diagnosed with stage three bone cancer in her left hip.&#160; Doctors worked quickly to save her life, but were forced to amputate Capt. Evans' leg below her pelvis.&#160; Some of us, if we had this happen to us, might feel the need to slow down and be limited by this change.&#160; Not so with Capt. Evans.&#160; On the contrary, Evans has become a champion of the Wounded Warrior project, has continued to work for the Air Education Training Command, and has even climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa!&#160; </p><p>What brought Capt. Evans to the cover of <em>Airmen</em> magazine, though, was her determination to compete in the Invictus Games, held in Great Britain.&#160; &quot;Invictus&quot; means &quot;unconquered&quot; – an appropriate name for a set of Olympic-like Games in which the wounded warriors of fourteen nations vie against one another in imposing events.&#160; This year was the first for the Invictus Games, which were conceived by Prince Harry of Wales after he saw the inter-service Warrior Games during a visit to Colorado.&#160; Pressure was high for the USA Team at the Invictus Games.&#160; After all, they were not only representing their country, but also the spirit of determination that drove them to keep themselves strong and mighty, even in the face of adversity.&#160; In the end, their victory was so much more than simply winning at an event.&#160; Each competitor showed the triumph of spirit and fortitude over fear and resignation.</p><p>And Capt. Evans?&#160; She took home the Gold medal in cycling and the Bronze in the shot-put and the discus.&#160; Sounds like she earned the title of &quot;Invictus&quot;!</p><p><em>For more information on Captain Sarah Evans, visit </em><a href="http&#58;//">http&#58;//</a>. </p><p><br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>If you could ask one question of a competitor at the Invictus Games, what would you ask?</li><li>Who is someone that you admire?&#160; What would someone notice about that person right away?</li></ul><p><strong>Second Sunday of Advent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Isaiah 40&#58;1-11</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">2 Peter 3&#58;8-15</a>a</p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Mark 1&#58;1-8</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//">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 C at <a href="http&#58;//">Lectionary Readings</a>.)</p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Anyone meeting John the Baptist for the first time would surely know something about him was different.<span>&#160; </span>First of all, this cousin of Jesus dressed far differently from others, wearing “clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist.”<span>&#160; </span>He also subsisted on strange food&#58; locusts and wild honey.<span>&#160; </span>What a sight he must have been!</p><p class="MsoNormal">It was John, though, who was called to be “a voice calling in the wilderness”, meant to proclaim the coming of Jesus to the people of God.<span>&#160; </span>John was sent to a complacent world to announce something new and incredible to a people desperately in need.<span>&#160; </span>It’s no wonder that he wanted to get people’s attention for that!</p><p class="MsoNormal">John was a “holy man” in the true sense of the world.<span>&#160; </span>“Holy” means “set apart for a purpose”.<span>&#160; </span>John wasn’t worried about fitting in.<span>&#160; </span>John accepted that his faith called him to be set apart for a purpose.<span>&#160; </span>There were certainly those who thought that John was crazy, or at least that he was a bit weird.<span>&#160; </span>In the end, though, it was John’s refusal to conform to his society that helped him preach a powerful witness to God’s people. </p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>When is it important to conform to what people expect of you?</li><li>How can you be a powerful witness to your faith by being different from others?</li><li>Many churches have very different traditions of pastoral vestments and even acceptable dress by members of the congregation.&#160; Why might some people believe that special clothing and vestments are helpful or necessary?&#160; Why might others disagree?</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestion</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">One part of the pastoral vestments in the ELCA is the stole worn behind the pastor’s neck.<span>&#160; </span>This item is a sign and symbol of the ordination of the pastor, and it is laden with imagery and significance.<span>&#160; </span>As a gift to your congregation’s pastor, craft a stole or fabric or paper to decorate and present.<span>&#160; </span>Select a theme for the stole, such as virtues and gifts or Gospel stories.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Be aware that your pastor may or may not elect to wear the stole during a service; stoles are traditionally colored to match the liturgical season.<span>&#160; </span>Regardless, however, your pastor will greatly appreciate the thought and care taken to craft this important symbol!</p> <p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p><p>Heavenly Father, you call each of us to a life of holiness.&#160; You give us the strength and the conviction to accept this call, and for this we are always thankful.&#160; We praise you for giving us new life and new purpose with every new morning.&#160; Bless us to be your holy hands to a world longing for your touch.&#160; In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. </p><p><strong></strong></p></div>12/02/2014November 30, 2014--Preparing With HopeLindean Barnett Christianson, Bozeman, MT<div class="ExternalClassEEF3E0FF6855435EB9323C7D7A9048F1"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Questions</strong></p><ul><li>What does “Advent” mean to you?<span style="font-size&#58;12pt;line-height&#58;115%;font-family&#58;&quot;times new roman&quot;;"></span></li><li><p>What are your favorite preparations for Christmas? Why?</p></li></ul> <p><strong>Preparing With Hope<br></strong></p><p>Many American big box stores have had Christmas decorations up and holiday merchandise available since Halloween. It almost seems like &quot;getting ready for Christmas&quot; is more important than Christmas itself. Many have noted that all the spending and preparations are easily divorced from celebrations of the birth of Jesus (that's why &quot;Jesus is the Reason for the Season&quot; becomes such a popular phrase for some).</p><p><img src="" alt="shutterstock_192182435edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>In an effort to resist consumerism and to create more meaningful holidays, some families follow guidelines for choosing Christmas presents, if they choose to buy presents at all. In the family of Glennon Melton, blogger author of <em>Carry On, Warrior</em>, each child chooses &quot;One gift you want, one gift the world needs, one gift to wear and one gift to read.&quot;&#160; Blogger <a href="http&#58;//">Christella Morris</a> asks family and friends not to buy presents for her children, but to give them gifts only of time and love instead</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>What do you think of pre-Thanksgiving Christmas decorations? Is there such a thing as &quot;too early&quot;?</li><li>How do you feel about the approaches to Christmas gift-giving described? Why?</li><li>Which do you prefer – giving Christmas presents or receiving Christmas presents?</li></ul><p><strong>First Sunday of Advent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Isaiah 64&#58;1-9</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">1 Corinthians 1&#58;3-9</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Mark 13&#58;24-37</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//">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 C at <a href="http&#58;//">Lectionary Readings</a>.)</p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the first Sunday in Advent, and here we are reading about the end – not the end of the season, but the end of the world as we know it. </p><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;line-height&#58;115%;font-family&#58;&quot;times new roman&quot;;"></span><p>The thirteenth chapter of Mark is sometimes called his “little apocalypse” – the revealing, or uncovering, of what has until now been hidden, recorded to affirm that God keeps God’s promises and to encourage the earliest Christians. Jesus’ disciples ask him how they’ll know it’s the beginning of the end, and Jesus’ answer includes all kinds of unrest and natural phenomena.&#160;&#160;&#160; </p><p>Jesus concludes his answer with the statement that only the Father knows the exact hour when the Son will come in glory. That frees Jesus’ disciples, then and now, from having to worry and fret over signs and passing seasons. Instead, we are freed to get about the work the master has left for us to do. “Keeping awake” means living every day with God’s promises in mind.&#160;&#160; “Keeping awake” means trusting that the Son of Man really will come in power and glory, bringing an end to suffering and death. The message is not one of fear but of hope. </p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>What does it mean to you to “keep awake?” Is it possible to live not fully “awake” to what’s happening around us? Why is it hard to “keep awake?”</p></li><li><p>How often do you think about the Son of Man coming with “great power and glory?” How could you use the days of Advent to prepare for Jesus’ coming again?</p></li><li><p>What do you understand is the “work” the master has left for you to do? For the church to do?</p></li><li><p>How do typical American preparations for Christmas (shopping, gift-giving, <a name="_GoBack"></a>decorating, etc.) help/get in the way of “keeping awake”?</p></li></ul> <p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><ul><li>Finding alternative ways to celebrate Advent and Christmas is becoming more widespread. Check out the Advent Conspiracy website (<a href="http&#58;//"></a>) together and discuss what you find. </li><li>In Mark 13&#58;27, Jesus says the &quot;elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven&quot; will be gathered by the angels. The whole people of God is a whole lot bigger than our individual congregations.&#160; Learn about some Advent/Christmas customs from a culture different from your own – perhaps from the traditions of a Companion Synod. (Find your Synod's Companion Synod here&#58; <a href="http&#58;//">http&#58;//</a> )</li><li>As the first Sunday of Advent, November 30<sup>th</sup> marks the beginning of a new liturgical/lectionary year. In 2013-2014 the Gospel readings in the Revised Common Lectionary were mostly from Matthew. This year, they will be from Mark. Mark is the shortest of the Gospels, and lends itself to being read aloud. Find a time to read the whole Gospel in one sitting, perhaps assigning &quot;parts,&quot; or taking turns reading. For extra preparation, read the introduction to Mark's Gospel in a study Bible.<br><strong></strong></li></ul><br><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>Come, Lord Jesus. By your Spirit, keep us awake. Make us aware of your presence with and among us, and prepare us for your coming with great power and glory. Amen</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>11/25/2014November 23, 2014--How Can We Help?Pastor Seth Moland-Kovash, Palatine, IL<div class="ExternalClass158566AE0035496E80889789F6B8BFC8"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>What is it that motivates you to help other people?</p><p><strong>How Can We Help?<br></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">There are people in need all around us. Some of the need is very obvious and draws our attention. Some of the ways to help draw our attention and become fun – think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from this past summer or the fun that you have together doing things like Walk-a-Thons and Bake Sales. Helping can be fun and we can sometimes see the benefits of our efforts right away. We can see the people gather food they need from a food pantry; we can be thanked by those who receive our care. <br></p><p><br></p><p><img src="" alt="shutterstock_185922296edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>But often, helping is a little bit more hidden. A recent article in the Huffington Post illustrates that sometimes that’s because the need is hidden. In <a href="http&#58;//;ir=Chicago&amp;ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000059">this column</a>, a Chicago school-teacher writes about the chronic but largely hidden problem of homeless high school students. Helping in this situation is more difficult. It’s hard to know what to do and how to make an impact. Even if you can help, you might not see the obvious results right in front of you. It’s hard to know whom to help when people are unwilling (for understandable reasons) to let you know they need help.</p><p>&#160;<br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>How do you make decisions about whom to help in a given situation? How do you make decisions about how to help?</li><li class="MsoNormal">Have you ever been unwilling to ask for help even if you really needed it? Why? What can you do differently to let people help you?</li></ul> <p><br><strong></strong></p><p><strong>Christ the King Sunday</strong> <br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Ezekiel 34&#58;11-16, 20-24</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Ephesians 1&#58;15-23</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Matthew 25&#58;31-46 </a><br></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//">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 C at <a href="http&#58;//">Lectionary Readings</a>.)</p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>Jesus tells a parable about how people will be judged based on whether or not they helped. He says that people will be judged based on giving food to the hungry, giving something to drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, giving clothing to the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison. Both people who did the right things and those who did not are surprised because they never saw Jesus. This is the memorable line&#58; “Just as you did it [or did not do it] to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it [or did not do it] to me.” <br></p><p class="MsoNormal">Jesus tells us that how we treat other people is how we treat Jesus. Jesus tells us that all of us (and everyone) are members of his family and deserve to be fed, cared for, and loved. I think all of us want to do that. We have good intentions. Sometimes it’s a problem of recognition, just like it was for the folks in Jesus’ story. I don’t think we’re waiting to see Jesus before we help someone. But I do think sometimes we wait until we see a need we recognize or a need that is obvious.</p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>How does it feel to know that everyone in the world is part of Jesus’ family with you?</li><li class="MsoNormal">Do you think you are also “one of the least of these” that Jesus was talking about? Why or why not?</li><li class="MsoNormal">How can you learn more about what people need so that you can help?</li></ul> <p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><p>As the author of the article on homeless high school students suggests, ask at your school what you can do to help fellow students whose need may be hidden. Organize that help through your church or other group. </p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>Good and gracious God, empower us to open our eyes and to see the needs of your children so that we may help. Help us to make our needs known so that others may help. Amen.</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>11/18/2014November16, 2014--Marketing and StuffBrian Hiortdahl, Overland Park, KS<div class="ExternalClass6C6C8FC5E2064E429FA8498CC5A07FE8"><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p> <p>What responsibility scares you?</p> <p><strong>Marketing and Stuff<br></strong></p> <p>Rikk Wilde became an instant internet sensation for the awkwardness of his presentation of a Chevy truck to the 2014 World Series Most Valuable Player, Madison Bumgarner.&#160; He noted the prize vehicle’s “technology and stuff,” a phrase that Chevrolet has since embraced as part of a new marketing campaign&#58; </p><p><img src="" alt="shutterstock_11902987edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p> <p><a href="http&#58;//">http&#58;//</a></p> <p>A member of the congregation I now serve, who knows Mr. Wilde and his boss, told me that the marketing value of this presentation has been tracked at roughly ten times what was expected for this moment in the national spotlight.&#160; A gaffe became a goldmine.</p> <p><br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>What is your most embarrassing moment?&#160; Did something positive come from it?</p></li><li><p>Do you agree with the author’s assessment of how Chevrolet handled this situation?</p></li><li><p>Circus legend P.T. Barnum is credited with saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”&#160; Is that true?&#160; Why or why not?</p></li></ul> <p><strong>Lectionary 33</strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Zephaniah 1&#58;7, 12-18</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">1 Thessalonians 5&#58;1-11</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Matthew 25&#58;14-30</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//">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 C at <a href="http&#58;//">Lectionary Readings</a>.)</p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>Jesus tells his disciples a surprising parable of exaggerated proportion&#58;&#160; a master leaves town and entrusts three servants with &quot;a few things&quot;&#58;&#160; a ton of money!&#160; (A talent was more than fifteen years worth of an average worker's earnings.)&#160; The first two servants trade with the money and return double the original amount.&#160; The third servant digs a hole and buries it in the ground, in accordance with rabbinical wisdom&#58;&#160; <br></p><p>This activity shows him prudent and trustworthy. In commenting on the Mishnah, &quot;If he guarded it [money] in the manner of guardians [and it was lost] he is not liable,&quot; the Gemara quotes Rabbi Samuel&#58; &quot;Money can only be guarded [by placing it] in the earth.&quot; In the ancient world, underground was the only safe place... (B.B. Scott, Hear Then the Parable, p. 227) <br></p><p>The surprise is that the master, upon his return, banishes the cautious, &quot;trustworthy&quot; servant with fury. Why? <br></p><p>A possible explanation lies in what does not happen in the parable.&#160; No one loses money in this story's economic marketplace, a clue that maybe Jesus is not talking about money at all.&#160; If God is the master and we are the servants, as Matthew's pattern of presenting Jesus' parables suggests, then we have been entrusted with treasure that no one can afford.&#160; Could that treasure be the miracle of being alive?&#160; Could that treasure be the Jesus, who is the kingdom of heaven in human form...who was buried in the earth too?&#160; (Compare Matthew 13&#58;44!)&#160; Could that treasure be, as Martin Luther wrote, &quot;the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God&quot;? (Thesis 62) <br></p><p>God's grace cannot be squandered or wastefully invested.&#160; The only way to lose it is to bury it in fear.&#160; If we trade with grace, exchanging love and blessing, it will only grow.&#160; If we hide it and hoard it, we don't really know God the way we claim we do.&#160; The kingdom of God is like publicity&#58;&#160; it's all good, even when it doesn't seem like it.&#160; Use it or lose it.&#160; (Just ask Chevy!)</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>What riches (or “talents”), literally or figuratively, have been entrusted to you?<span>&#160; </span>What do you do with them?<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>Do you agree with what seems to be Matthew’s inference that God can be like a harsh master?&#160; Why or why not?&#160; If not God, who does the master in the story represent?</p></li></ul> <p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p> <p>Invite members of the stewardship committee and the council at your church to share a Bible study on this parable with your group.&#160; What does it have to say to your congregation as a whole about taking chances? <br></p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>Thank you, God, for entrusting so much to us.&#160; Help us to overcome fear and share your blessings boldly with the world, and lead us all to the joy of our master, Jesus Christ our Treasure and Lord.&#160; Amen</p> </div>11/11/2014November 9, 2014 -- Are You PreparedJocelyn Breeland--Fairfax, VA<div class="ExternalClass4BB2F2728E92463BAC89FA30E50E13D4"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>&#160;What’s the most important way you are preparing for your future?</p><p><strong>Are You Prepared<br></strong></p><p>Here are some things that have been happening around the country in the last couple of weeks&#58; <br></p><p>Authorities on the Big Island of Hawaii have gone door-to-door notifying residents to make preparations for a possible evacuation in advance of lava flows from the Kilauea volcano. Will everyone remain safe? Will their homes? <br></p><p><img alt="shutterstock_223838977edit.jpg" src="" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>Christmas decorations, on store shelves for weeks, are even more prominent now that Halloween has passed. Have you bought yours yet?</p><p>Hospitals and state and local governments are working urgently to develop plans in the event of a case of Ebola in their areas. Will the plans be successful in containing the disease? <br></p><p>Voters in Texas, Ohio and North Carolina scrambled to comply with Supreme Court action that upheld new voter ID requirements, fewer voting dates and an end to same-day voter registration – respectively, in those states. Was there a noticeable reduction in voter fraud, as some insisted, or would poor and minority voters be suppressed, as others feared? <br></p><p>In every case, people are foreseeing the future, and taking steps to be ready.</p><p><br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Have you ever been in a situation where you were unprepared? What lesson did you learn from that experience?</li><li>How do you handle things you can’t prepare for?</li><li>Is there a difference when you plan to avoid something bad as compared to planning for something good?</li><li>How is your faith part of your preparation?</li></ul> <p><strong>Lectionary 32</strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Amos 5&#58;18-24</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">1 Thessalonians 4&#58;13-18</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Matthew 25&#58;1-13</a><br></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//">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 C at <a href="http&#58;//">Lectionary Readings</a>.)</p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong> <br></p><p>Matthew 25 contains two stories that Jesus uses to teach his disciples – and us – about God’s expectations. He wants us to be prepared, like the virgins who carried extra oil for their lamps.</p><p>In verses 14 – 28, he urges us to be like the men who invested their bags of gold. And in verses 31 – 46, he explains why. <br></p><p>The good news is that God always provides the oil for the lamp and the riches to invest. We have everything we need to live the lives he has planned for us.</p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Describe the parable in plain terms. How are we like the virgins who planned ahead? How are we like those who did not?</li><li>Does this scripture contradict Matthew 6&#58; 25 – 34? What are we supposed to worry about and plan for, and what are we not?</li><li>What things or people can help you prepare?</li><li>Do factors such as age, gender, location or economic status affect your preparations?</li></ul> <p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><p>&#160;</p><p>Imagine you know that Jesus is going to be visiting your group next week. How will you prepare?</p><ul><li><p>Make a list of things you might do to get ready for Jesus’ visit. They should be things you can actually do, but don’t worry about not having time to do everything on the list. Just spend a few minutes writing down as many options as you can think of.</p></li><li><p>Select one or two of the options and commit to doing them in the next week.</p></li><li><p>Share your list and your commitment with the others in the group.</p></li><li><p>Next week, make time to discuss your experience. </p></li></ul><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times new roman&quot;;"></span><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>Heavenly Father, we offer you praise and thanksgiving for blessing us with everything we need to live the lives you have planned for us. Remind us daily whose we are and who we serve. Lift our spirits when we are discouraged. Give us the wisdom to see what you would have us do, and the courage to do it boldly. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>11/04/2014November 2, 2014--Thanks in the Midst of TrialJay McDivett, Waukesha, WI<div class="ExternalClass9AEBEFB4080545D2811B5ACCC865EF92"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do? What got you through it? When it was over, how did you feel? </p><p><strong>Thanks in the Midst of Trial<br></strong></p> <p>After 21 long days of quarantine, over 40 people who may have been exposed to the deadly Ebola virus were released with a clean bill of health last week. Several others still wait to be cleared.</p><p><img alt="shutterstock_223301302edit.jpg" src="" style="margin&#58;5px;" /></p><p>Even though the threat of an Ebola epidemic in the United States is extremely minimal, media attention has created a state of panic for many in this country, worrying about the safety of travel, immigrants, and casual contact with folks at the supermarket or at church. (Several pastors report parishioners wanting to do away with the passing of peace and intinction or common cup Communion because of fears of Ebola and other communicable diseases.) <br></p><p>But for those who were in contact with Thomas Duncan (the one Ebola patient to die on U.S. soil), the fear was very real. It’s over now. This is especially real for Louise Troh, Duncan’s fiancée. &quot;Praise to God. I am free. I am so happy… All thanks to God,&quot; Troh said, according to a spokesperson who spoke to ABC News. <br></p><p>Thankful, but still mourning the loss of her fiancée. Other folks are still under quarantine, with their movements restricted and their hearts and families anxious about whether or not they’re sick. <br></p><p>And the rest of the country waits to see what will happen next.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p> <ul style="margin-top&#58;0in;"><li class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><p>On a scale of 1-10, how worried are you about Ebola?</p></li><li><p>How would you feel if you were Louise Troh? Or one of the people who are still on quarantine?</p></li><li class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><p>Think of a time when you were really scared about something… and then everything turned out okay. How did that feel?</p></li></ul> <p><strong>November 2, 1014--All Saints Sunday<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Revelation 7&#58;9–17</a><br> <a href="http&#58;//">1 John 3&#58;1–3</a><br> <a href="http&#58;//">Matthew 5&#58;1–12</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//">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 C at <a href="http&#58;//">Lectionary Readings</a>.)</p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong> <br></p><p>The book of Revelation is scary. And weird. And totally wonderful.&#160; More than anything, it is a bold and constant proclamation of a foundational promise&#58; God is in charge<strong><em>.</em></strong> From beginning to end of the book of Revelation, we hear the same word&#58; God <span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>is</em></span> the beginning and end. <br></p><p>That doesn't mean that what happens in the middle doesn't matter. It doesn't mean that death and disease, war and worry are nothing.&#160; It means that all of this is the &quot;great ordeal&quot; that we fumble through. Some days are wonderful and blissful and full of nothing but blessing. Some days just plain suck. Most days have some of both.&#160; And the Lamb of God reigns and rules above it all; God is with us and among us through it all, and is working to bring us through it all.</p><p>November 1 is All Saints' Day – celebrated in church on November 2 this year. It is the day to remember how God was present with all those who have gone before us – through all their trials and tribulations, all their fears and failings. And to remember how God is present with us now, too – surrounding us with this &quot;great cloud of witnesses&quot; – inspiring us with the stories of how they endured all manner of &quot;great ordeals&quot; and came out on the other side, dressed in the white robes they were given when they were baptized. This promise is ours, too. No matter what we face, the &quot;Alpha and Omega&quot; – the &quot;Beginning and the End&quot; – will be with us. <br></p><p>In the face of that, Ebola ain't got nothin' on us. Seriously.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p> <ul style="margin-top&#58;0in;"><li class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><p>Tell a story of a “great ordeal” (a trial or test, a disease or defeat) that someone close to you has “come through.” What gave them strength?</p></li><li><p>All Saints’ is a time to remember those who have completed their baptismal journeys. Tell the story of someone close to you who has died. Where was God in their life? What did you learn from them about faith?</p></li><li><p>How could you help someone who is going through a “great ordeal”? How can you be present with people who are struggling to be faithful when life kind of (or really) stinks?</p></li></ul> <p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p> <p>Materials&#58; Paper, writing utensils, crayons/markers/colored pencils/paint, magazines/scissors/glue sticks, whatever you need to express yourself. <br></p><p>Create a stained-glass window of a saint. It could be a saint of the church, or a saint in your life. Anyone who has died whose faith has taught you something about your own faith.&#160; Invite folks to share their saints with each other.</p> <p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>God&#58; Your love and grace make broken people holy – saints. Thank you for that. Help us all to be better than we could ever be on our own. When we are afraid or challenged, bring us through. Keep us, and all who have gone before us, safe. Amen.</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>10/28/2014