Faith Lenshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/April 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>04/21/2015April 19, 2015 Do You Have Anything to Eat?Chris Heavner, Clemson, SChttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/291http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/291<div class="ExternalClass4F9623B80EC84B369796566DA11BA13F"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>Why is eating such an important part of most gatherings?</p><br><p><strong>Do You Have Anything to Eat?<br></strong></p> <p class="NoSpacing">“Do you have anything to eat?”<span>&#160; </span>My wife wasn’t raised in the South.<span>&#160; </span>Her cultural sensibilities would never allow her to ask for something to eat.<span>&#160; </span>I grew up in the South where when someone asked if you wanted anything, you were free to ask.<span>&#160; </span>What you were not free to do (in the rural South of my childhood) was to refuse food when it was offered to you.<span>&#160; </span>Eating was not only something you did to satisfy hunger; you ate as a way of showing respect and mutuality. <br></p><p class="NoSpacing">The weekly, ceremonial gathering of Christians is a meal.<span>&#160; </span>Jesus instituted this new custom while participating in a very old ritualized meal with his disciples.<span>&#160; </span>It is the Christmas dinner or the Thanksgiving lunch that show up in all the “ain’t it good to be home” artworks. <br></p><p>Sharing a meal; sharing food; eating – something happens here that far transcends our ability to understand or to explain.<span>&#160; </span>Something just feels right about it.<span>&#160; </span>Something about it speaks louder than any words or with greater clarity than any explanation.<span>&#160; </span>It speaks to our unspoken selves.<span>&#160; </span>It communicates to those parts of us which are accessible only by way of emotion and conviction. </p><p><br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Recall a time when sharing a meal allowed you to learn something about your host (or your guest) that you would have never thought to ask in general conversation.</li><li>Allow yourself to chuckle at a &quot;dinner mishap&quot;, something like the time my brother-in-law drank from the bowls of water set on the table for folks to rinse their fingers.&#160; </li></ul><p><strong>Third Sunday of Easter</strong> <br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=295070402">Acts 3&#58;12-19</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=295070455">1 John 3&#58;1-7</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=295070499">Luke 24&#58;36b-48</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>Of course they had something to eat.&#160; There was almost always something there to eat.&#160; Only eight verses earlier they were prepared to share a meal with the resurrected Jesus when he suddenly disappeared (Luke 24&#58;31b).&#160;&#160; Why did they not think to offer him something?&#160; Why was he left to ask? </p><p><img alt="shutterstock_104421863edit.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/Browse/shutterstock_104421863edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>The text suggests it may have been a result of their being &quot;startled and terrified.&quot;&#160; When Jesus came and stood among them, they weren't completely sure it was him.&#160; Luke's narrative suggests they &quot;thought they were seeing a ghost.&quot;&#160; Before they can reclaim their wits (and their manners) they need to receive the promise Jesus spoke as he appeared among them – &quot;Peace be with you.&quot; <br></p><p>Jesus encourages them to not be frightened.&#160; He asks them to look at his hands and his feet.&#160; &quot;Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.&quot;&#160; (Side note&#58;&#160; this is the ONLY biblical passage that speaks of the &quot;flesh and bones&quot; of the risen Lord.)&#160; Jesus is no &quot;ghost.&quot;&#160; &quot;Ghost,&quot; in the ears of his contemporaries, implied the immortal soul of all the departed as they awaited whatever fate awaited them next.&#160;&#160; &quot;Touch me and see (<em>touch me and see with the eyes of faith?)</em> that I am not merely a reinforcement of what others have tried to pass as the Truth.&quot;&#160; In the resurrected Jesus we encounter something other than merely the desires and longings of those who consider one life-time as insufficient.&#160; &quot;Touch me and see that the promises of God and the assurances of God are as real as the flesh and bone of my own body.&quot; <br></p><p>It is after this encounter that Jesus asks for something to eat.&#160; Some have suggested he asks in order to show that he is not a &quot;ghost.&quot;&#160; The text tells us the disciples were &quot;disbelieving and still wondering.&quot;&#160; One writer suggested their disbelief is the enormity of what they have come to realize has happened.&#160; They are not wondering whether Jesus is resurrected, they are disbelieving that they would be front and center of this astounding occurrence.&#160; If we can begin to think such, then Jesus asking for something to eat might be seen as an acknowledgement of the need for the disciples to be active.&#160; What if Jesus is asking for something to eat, not in order to prove he is flesh and bone, but because he is hungry?&#160; What if he wants them to realize that seeing him and believing in him means following him and that means feeding the hungry?&#160; Earlier (in Matthew's account,) Jesus had celebrated the sheep's feeding the hungry.&#160; Later (in John's account) he will instruct them to &quot;feed my lambs.&quot; <br></p><p>The Resurrected Jesus is not some disembodied ghost.&#160; He is not some celestial being.&#160; He remains the God who set aside the heavens in order to make his home among us.&#160; The Resurrected Jesus, no less than the Rabbi Jesus &quot;opens our minds to understand the scriptures.&quot;&#160; The forgiveness extended to us makes it possible for us to set aside concerns for ourselves and act on behalf of the other.&#160; </p><p>&quot;Do you have anything to eat?&quot;&#160; &quot;Sure I do.&#160; I can offer you a bologna sandwich, a few scrambled eggs. Some boiled fish.&#160; And to feed the hunger that resides deep inside you I can offer&#160; you a morsel of bread and a sip of wine – both of which come with the assurance that she who receives it receives the peace which sets aside all reasons to be startled and terrified.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Come and eat.&#160; And when you are finished, maybe you will help me.&#160; You see, I have been given so much that I am sure it is enough to share with all the nations.&#160; And we will share it, together.&#160; And bear witness to the abundance that others will be bewildered to consider.&quot;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>What is the difference between an immortal soul (the belief of the Greeks) and a resurrected life (the teaching of the Christian Church)?</li><li>Might the culture’s fascination with “ghosts” and “ghost stories” prove to be a hindrance to understanding God’s actions on Easter morning?</li><li>The disciples need to be assured and calmed; but they were also being called into action.<span>&#160; </span>How do we balance these two objectives in our ministries?</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><p>Give to each member of your group, Sunday School class, or member of your family an ample supply of your favorite on-the-go food.&#160; I am partial to those <em>nut and salty</em> granola bars; they come in a box of twelve.&#160; Instruct those to whom you give a box that they are to look for opportunities to give these away, one at a time, preferably to someone they don't know.&#160; As they offer a snack, all they need to say is, &quot;I was given these, and it is more than I need.&#160; Can I share one with you?&quot;&#160; Try not to say anything more – if you can.&#160; It really is best if you don't.&#160; If you must, you could share that at Easter you were reminded off all that you had received, and that in this Easter season you were encouraged to experience that abundance by having so many snack bars that you had to find opportunities to give them away.</p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="NoSpacing">Precious Lord, take my hand, assure me of your peace.<span>&#160; </span>Precious Lord, open your hand, allow me to see the wounds you suffered.<span>&#160; </span>Precious Lord, use my hands, to share that which has been given me.<span>&#160; </span>Together, let all God’s children say - Amen. </p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>04/14/2015April 12, 2015 Do You Need to See it to Believe it?Anne Williams, Ankeny, IAhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/290http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/290<div class="ExternalClass693DB54221BD45378315CB4C43C49F35"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>In a world with Instagram, selfie sticks and duck lips, how often do you take selfies? How often do you like someone else’s selfie?</li><li>Have you ever thought about why you take a selfie and post it on social media? Are there times when you should or should not post a selfie?</li></ul><p><strong>Do You Need to See it to Believe it?<br></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">At the end of March both Coachella and Lollapalooza announced that they were banning selfie sticks as reported by NME, the music news site. Both Coachella and Lollapalooza are big-deal music festivals. Coachella happens in California in April.<span>&#160; </span>Lollapalooza takes place in Chicago at the end of July into August.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_238002061edit.jpg" alt="shutterstock_238002061edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p class="MsoNormal">These two events are just the latest in a growing list of places and events that ban selfie sticks (or as the Coachella website says&#58; “selfie sticks/narcissists”). Buzzfeed reports that the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the Coliseum in Rome, and the Palace of Versailles in France have all banned visitors from using selfie sticks (also called monopods, camera extension poles, narcisticks, and a number of other names). In England a number of music venues have also banned the use of selfie sticks.</p><p class="MsoNormal">While organizers acknowledge that taking pictures is a part of the live music experience, they want to discourage anything that would block others views, according to the NME article. The Coachella website lists selfie sticks as one the things which are not allowed, lumping them with fireworks, knives, chains, drones, laser pointers, Hula Hoops, and explosives.&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal">People want to take pictures of the things they are doing. They want to share those pictures with their friends and followers on social media. Selfie sticks produce great pictures. On the flip side, you’ve got about three feet of possible hazard and traffic jam that makes getting around selfie-takers a pain.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Iis using a selfie stick a sign of a big ego – narcissism, or is it a way to get a great pic?</li><li>Do the pictures posted on social media tell us more about what our friends are doing than text posts?</li><li>Do you need to see it to believe it? </li></ul><p><strong>Second Sunday of Easter<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=294835704">Acts 4&#58;32-35</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=294835816">1 John 1&#58;1-2&#58;2</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=294835861">John 20&#58;19-31&#160;</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">The week after Easter, we meet Thomas, who didn’t witness the miraculous events of the Resurrection first hand. He got the message but told the messengers that he would have to literally touch Jesus before he believed that he had been raised from the dead. He would have to see it to believe it. Jesus calls him out for it too, asking “Have you believed because you have seen me?” </p><p class="MsoNormal">What would Thomas have said had he had the chance to respond to this question? “I wanted to believe so much, but I was just so afraid to hope!” Or “Look Jesus, you died. What was I supposed to believe?” We don’t know why Thomas didn’t believe. </p><p class="MsoNormal">We don’t know why Thomas had to see it to believe it.<span>&#160; </span>In some ways, it doesn’t really matter because Jesus doesn’t give Thomas a chance to respond and gives us a not-quite beatitude&#58; “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” For those of us who live as Christians two thousand years after Jesus’ life and ministry, this not-quite beatitude could be considered a great consolation.<span>&#160; </span>We don’t get to meet Jesus face to face, so our belief without sight should keep us close to him right? Could it be that we turn too quickly to rely on this not-quite beatitude. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Do we look hard enough to see Jesus in the people we meet? Do we search for Jesus in our world and in the troubles we encounter? Do we expect to find Jesus in new places and situations we find ourselves in? What if we were all a little more like Thomas? What if we were a little thirstier to see the face of Christ all around us, to touch Christ when we hug a friend in need or to feed Christ when we serve the hungry? Would we believe it more if we saw it more? Maybe a better question&#58;, Would we see it more if we believed?</p><p class="MsoNormal">When it comes right down to it, if we say that Jesus is in those we serve and those we meet, like in Matthew 25, maybe being a little more like Thomas – a little more see it to believe it, would serve us well. <br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p> <ul><li>What would you guess Thomas was feeling in the aftermath of the terror of Good Friday and the miracle of the Resurrection?</li><li>Can you relate to Thomas? Do you need to see something to believe it or are you more willing to take someone’s word for it?</li><li>Have you ever seen the face of Jesus in the face of someone in need or someone you have served?</li><li>How can you learn to see the face of Jesus among your friends and family and the people you meet everyday?</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p><ul><li><em>Prepare this one in advance</em>&#58; get a bunch of photos together where it's hard to figure out what exactly is going on without a description (or if you have it, use something like <em>Every Picture Tells a Story</em> by Youth Specialties). Spread the photos out around your space and ask students to individually or in pairs come up with an explanation of what's happening in each photo. Compare notes amongst the group. Ask questions like, &quot;How did you arrive at your story or explanation for what's happening?&quot;</li><li>Have the group take selfies. Take a long look at them together as a group. Discuss the following questions&#58; Can you tell where you are? Would people know you are at church? Among Christians? Why don't selfies tell the whole story? </li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Loving and gracious God, you have given us eyes to see. Help us to see you in our families, in our friends, in those we serve. Help us to be models of seeing and doing and being<a name="_GoBack"></a> is believing – of being able to find you at work in our world. Moving and Powerful God, help us to be those who are doing your work in the world so that others might see and come to believe, while always reminding us it’s about you and not us!&#160; In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.</p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>04/07/2015April 5, 2015, Prove it!Jay McDivitt, Waukesha, WIhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/289http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/289<div class="ExternalClass7495644C288841429A3C898698BAD5D4"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>When has fear kept you from saying or doing something you know you should say or do?</p><p><strong>Prove it!<br></strong></p><p>Every year, right around Easter, someone somewhere &quot;discovers&quot; something &quot;new&quot; about Jesus – his life, his wife, his death, his resurrection, his friends, his existence… etc. It's at least as predictable and timely as the Easter Bunny.</p><p>Not long ago, someone found an ankle bone with a nail in it, in a tomb that dates to the time of Christ. This was, apparently, a big deal. (Except, of course, for the fact that a resurrected Jesus wouldn't leave bones behind… because…resurrection….)</p><p>2000 years later, many people are desperate to &quot;prove&quot; that Jesus lived, died, and was raised from the dead. At least as many other people are just as desperate to &quot;prove&quot; the opposite.</p><p><img alt="shutterstock_180484397edit.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_180484397edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>The truth of&#160;the resurrection cannot be &quot;proven&quot; one way or the other. The very concept defies all expectations, logic, and science. It's something that is received by faith – and experienced in daily life. </p><p>This doesn't keep us from trying to &quot;prove&quot; it's true – or prove it's not, depending on your persuasion. But one does wonder, for those of us who want to believe the resurrection matters; couldn't we find something else to do with our time and energy other than search for &quot;proof&quot;? More important, what if the &quot;proof&quot; is found in <span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>living</em></span> the resurrection – living lives that make it clear (to others and to ourselves) that Christ is Risen? <br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>What difference does it make to you whether the resurrection can be “proven” or not?</li><li>What would it look like to “live” the resurrection, rather than just “believe it” or “talk about it”?</li></ul><p><strong>Resurrection of our Lord/Easter Day</strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=294391947">Acts 10&#58;34-43</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=294391991">1 Corinthians 15&#58;1-11</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=294392029">Mark 16&#58;1-8</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=294392081">John 20&#58;1-18</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>&quot;…and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.&quot;</p><p>These are the last words in the Gospel of Mark. (Yes, there are some more words in your Bible, but nearly every scholar in the world believes they were added much later by people who didn't like how Mark ended his gospel.)</p><p>Let me say that again&#58; <span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>These are the last words in the Gospel of Mark</em></span>. &quot;They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.&quot;&#160; No wonder later Christians added to the story. This is a most alarming ending.</p><p>Jesus has been raised from the dead. All the torture and terror of Holy Week is in the past. The One Mary, Mary, and Salome thought was dead is no longer in the tomb. You'd think that would be a story worth telling. But no&#58; &quot;They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.&quot;</p><p>Why? Because &quot;they were afraid.&quot; Afraid of what? Afraid no one would believe them? Afraid it wasn't really true? (After all – they didn't see his body...) Afraid that the Romans who tried to kill Jesus would kill them, too, if they came out telling people he had survived? </p><p>&#160;All this – and more. Jesus told them this would happen (the resurrection). And the young man in white at the tomb told them to &quot;go, tell…&quot; But &quot;they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.&quot;</p><p>&#160;And you know what&#58; <span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>Me too.</em></span> I'm afraid of what Jesus would say if he saw my life for what it really is. I'm afraid of what Jesus would ask me to do if I let go of all my assumptions and plans and other priorities and let Jesus &quot;take the wheel.&quot; I'm afraid of offending people. I'm afraid of sounding silly – talking about resurrection (seriously?!? Dead men stay dead…). I'm afraid of putting my time and energy into something that may not actually be real. I'm afraid of spiders, too… but that's another story.</p><p>Maybe you're afraid, too.</p><p>&#160;But here's the deal&#58; Mark is the oldest Gospel we have. It's the first canonical story of Jesus written and preserved. And it ends with &quot;they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.&quot;</p><p>And yet… someone told someone. Obviously – otherwise, <span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>there would be no</em></span> Gospel of Mark. Or any other Gospel, for that matter – because the other Gospel writers used Mark as their source.</p><p>Somehow, the Word got out. Somehow, the Word of Resurrection Life escaped the fear of the women and the other disciples and got out. Somehow, God found a way to make sure that the whole world would know that Jesus had conquered death.</p><p>Somehow, this story grew and grew until it came to unlikely losers like me and you. Somehow, their fear and our fear were no match for God's Word of Life.</p><p>This gift cannot be proven. God got rid of the evidence. No body, no bones. Probably because God knew that even the most air-tight, scientific, logical case would still be hard for some folks to believe. </p><p>&#160;But this gift is told and shared and lived – Every. Single. Day. By people who are afraid, but still open to the idea that God might do something new. By people who thought they had given up hope, but God showed up and made a way out of no-way. By people who dare to whisper or shout about the good things God has done. This story <span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>is</em></span> being told and lived and experienced – and has been for nearly 2000 years. Despite fear's best attempts at keeping it all under wraps.</p><p>And thanks be to God for that.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Why do <em><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">you</span></em> think the women “said nothing to anyone”? What were they afraid of?</li><li>Tell a story of a time when you were afraid to say something important. Did you overcome your fear – or not? How did it feel? How did others react?<span style="font-size&#58;7pt;"></span></li><li><span style="font-size&#58;7pt;"><span>&#160;</span></span>If someone asked you to tell a “resurrection story” from your own life (or from something you’ve read or heard), what story would you tell? </li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><p>Prepare a poster board (or other large piece of paper/foam board/etc.) with a rough sketch of an empty tomb (make sure there is lots of room inside the tomb). Using markers/pens/[colored] pencils/crayons and/or magazines/newspapers/scissors/glue, invite the youth to fill in the empty space in the tomb with pictures, words, stories of &quot;resurrection.&quot; Signs of hope and life – especially when it is surprising or unexpected. Help them find words and images to illustrate the gift of an empty tomb and a story to share. Write (or collage with letters) &quot;Alleluia!&quot; all around the edges.</p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p><p>Dear Jesus&#58; You died and rose again so that we might always know that nothing will ever separate us from you and your love. Help us to be confident and bold in telling the story of your undying love and life. When we are afraid, strengthen us, for you know more than we do about everything. Help us trust you. Amen. <br><strong></strong></p></div>03/31/2015March 29, 2015 How Can We Help?Seth Moland-Kovash, Palatine, ILhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/288http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/288<div class="ExternalClass176656DB237A40118FFD44872FF53C98"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>With whom do you feel closest? Is it your family, your friends? <br></p><p><strong>How Can We Help?<br></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">There are many reasons that we can feel divided as people. We sometimes divide people into groups and separate based on gender, or on race, or on class, age, or sexual orientation. Some separations can be healthy – you are not a member of family. That is not a judgement; it’s just a simple fact. But often, separations and divisions keep us all from being the people we can be and that God created us to be. One of the most enduring and powerful ways in which people are separated is based on race. We have recently watched events surrounding the 50<sup>th</sup> anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma as well as divisions in our society based on the events in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and elsewhere. <br></p><p class="MsoNormal">Recently, the national coffee chain Starbucks has begun to promote a “Race Together” conversation guide and encouraged baristas to write “Race Together” on customers’ coffee cups <a href="http&#58;//www.forbes.com/sites/barbarathau/2015/03/17/starbucks-launches-campaign-to-heal-race-relations-one-cup-at-a-time/">on March 20</a>. The goal, as Starbucks states, is to get customers and employees talking together about race in our society and about how these things have affected them personally.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Which types of divisions do you feel at work in your life in a negative way?</li><li class="MsoNormal">Do you feel as though divisions based on race are at work in your school? What about in your church?</li></ul> <p><strong>Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=293693357">Isaiah 50&#58;4-9a</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=293693420">Philippians 2&#58;5-11</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=293693535">Mark 14&#58;1-15&#58;47</a>; <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=293693579">Mark 15&#58;1-39 [40-47]</a> (alternate)<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 often say that Jesus came into the world to break down divisions. Jesus came to bring people together. He ate with those who other would not. He touched lepers who were shunned by others. He reached out to Samaritans and commissioned his disciples to go “into all nations” with God’s message of reconciliation and forgiveness.</p><p>As we enter Holy Week we contemplate the ultimate way in which Jesus broke down barriers. Not only did Jesus come to break down barriers between people, but Jesus came to break down barriers that keep us as people separated from God. Mark 15&#58;38 says that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” at the moment that Jesus died. That curtain symbolized the separation between humanity and God. In Jesus’ death, the separation was broken down.</p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>What would it feel like to feel as close to God as you do to the person sitting next to you right now?</li><li class="MsoNormal">How do you think Jesus’ death brings us together with God?</li><li class="MsoNormal">How do you think Jesus’ death brings us together with other people?<br><strong></strong></li></ul><br><p><strong>Activity Suggestion</strong></p> <p>Participate in your congregation’s full slate of worship services this week. Walk the journey and experience the whole story. Let it bring you closer to God.<br><strong></strong></p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Good and gracious God, in this Holy Week bring us together. Bring us together with others and bring us together before your throne. Amen. <br></p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>03/24/2015March 22, 2015 Seeing the UnseenAmy Martinell, Sioux Falls, SDhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/287http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/287<div class="ExternalClassC128E8E178394479AA80D070F0F766B1"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p> <p>What is the one sight you want to make sure to see in your life?</p><p><strong>Seeing the Unseen<br></strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><span style="color&#58;#222222;">Last weekend a video surfaced of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma singing a racist chant while traveling on a bus to a party.<span>&#160;&#160;&#160; </span></span><span class="apple-converted-space"><span style="color&#58;#262626;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% #fefefe;">&#160;</span></span>The chant, which included references to lynching and racial slurs, has caused quite a backlash.<span>&#160; </span>The fraternity house has been banned, the students have moved out and the leaders of the chant have been expelled from the university.<span>&#160; </span>Several protests have been held on campus including the O<span style="color&#58;#333333;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">klahoma football coach Bob Stoops and his football team walking arm-in-arm across campus.<span>&#160;&#160;</span></span></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Racial issues have been in the news a lot over the last few months.&#160; What are your thoughts on race in the United States?&#160; Where has progress been made?&#160; Where are there still gains to be made?</li><li>Many organizations, like the Oklahoma football team, have marched in protest of the video.&#160; When have you stood up for something you thought was wrong?&#160; When have you stayed silent even when you know something is wrong?</li></ul><p><strong>Fifth Sunday of Lent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=293088992">Jeremiah 31&#58;31-34</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=293089033">Hebrews 5&#58;5-10</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=293089272">John 12&#58;20-33</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>“Sir, we want to see Jesus”<span>&#160; </span><br><p class="MsoNormal"> I wonder what the Greeks were looking for when they came to the disciples with this request.<span>&#160; </span>Did they simply want to see the man who was drawing all the attention?<span>&#160; </span>Were they hoping to see a sign for themselves?<span>&#160; </span>Were they there to request a healing or ask a question?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Whatever caused them to seek Jesus out, I doubt they expected everything that they would see and everything that would happen. But as Jesus responds to the relayed request, he seems to say if you want to see me; then be ready because what is coming is what you must see.<span>&#160; </span><span class="apple-converted-space"><span style="color&#58;black;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">&#160;Life with Jesus is more than spectacular signs and stories.<span>&#160; </span>Life with Jesus is serving others, life with Jesus is sacrifice, and life with Jesus is laying down your life. <br></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class="apple-converted-space"><span style="color&#58;black;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Jesus death on the cross is a sign of solidarity with the suffering of humanity.<span>&#160;&#160; </span>His death promises that no matter what terrible thing you are going through Jesus has been there and will go there again to be with you. This promise brings us comfort, but it also means that when we go looking for Jesus we may have to look to the places we’d rather not see. ‘ <br></span></span></p><p> An Oklahoma student said racism has been a problem on campus for a long time, but no one wanted to see it.&#160; As disciples we are called to see the evil and ugliness in the world even when we would rather look away.&#160;&#160; Jesus spent his life among the sick, poor and marginalized and that is where Jesus is found today.&#160; &#160;We can feel powerless against evils like racism and it seems easier to try not to notice all that is wrong. Yet, Jesus is found among the unseen and unheard and we are called to follow him there trusting that with Jesus on our side even the most insurmountable situations can be changed.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>What are some of the evils in the world you would rather not see or think about?&#160; How is pretending these problems do not exist easier than working for change?</li><li>Who are the unseen people and what are the unseen problems in your community?&#160; In your church? What would you like to change?&#160; How can you make that change happen?</li><li>How have you seen or felt God's presence in the low times in your life?&#160; Where do you see God in the situation at the University of Oklahoma?&#160; </li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><ul><li>There are many people in our own life that we rarely notice or interact with even though we see them on a daily basis.&#160; Brainstorm the unseen people in your life (bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, etc.) and chose one to write a thank you note to for all they have done for you.</li><li>Make up your own positive chant about what you like or what you'd like to change about your church.</li><li>Go to the movie <em>Selma</em> and continue the conversation on race in the United States. <br></li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class="apple-converted-space"><span style="color&#58;black;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Dear Jesus, We give you thanks for your promise to be with us no matter what we are going through.<span>&#160; </span>Open our eyes to all the injustice in the world and give us the courage to stand with those in need.<span>&#160; </span>In Jesus’ name we pray.<span>&#160; </span>Amen. <br></span></span></p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>03/17/2015