Faith Lenshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/April 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><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times new roman&quot;;">When has fear kept you from saying or doing something you know you should say or do?</span></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 src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_180484397edit.jpg" alt="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>03/17/2015March 15, 2015 Sight LinesBrian Hiortdahl, Overland Park, KShttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/286<div class="ExternalClass1646CA0CE18C43908C310E4A1CD9D045"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>What color is the dress?</p><p><strong>Sight Lines<br></strong></p> <p>A photo of a blue and black dress (or is it white and gold?) went viral recently, launching a widespread color debate that captivated the internet.&#160; </p><p><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/28dress1-web-blog427.jpg" alt="28dress1-web-blog427.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /></p><p>(<span class="caption-text">photo from Caitlin McNeill’s Tumblr site.</span>)<br></p><p>Celebrities and scientists were among the millions who weighed in and the&#160;<a href="http&#58;//www.nytimes.com/2015/02/28/business/a-simple-question-about-a-dress-and-the-world-weighs-in.html?_r=0">New York Times took up the question</a>.&#160; The<a href="http&#58;//www.rit.edu/news/story.php?id=51266"> science</a> suggests that&#160; it has something to do with light and how human eyes receive it.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Why do you think the debate about the dress colors was so intense?<span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;book antiqua&quot;;"></span><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;book antiqua&quot;;"></span></li><li><p>How many other examples can you list of people seeing the same thing differently—and passionately arguing (or even fighting) about it?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Fourth Sunday in Lent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=292420282">Numbers 21&#58;4-9</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=292420366">Ephesians 2&#58;1-10</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=292420404">John 3&#58;14-21 </a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>Presenting his gospel like a stage play director, John has turned down the lights.&#160; Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night because John wants us to see that he is in the dark, in sharp contrast to Jesus, the light of the world (see also John 1&#58;9, 8&#58;12, 9&#58;5). <br></p><p>In their conversation, Jesus is trying to get Nicodemus to see things in a different way, but with limited success.&#160; Their disconnect mirrors a passionate divide that runs throughout John's gospel between those who accept Jesus and those who reject him.&#160; Those who accept him believe, and those who do not &quot;are condemned already&quot; as they shun the light in favor of darkness. <br></p><p>Jesus is like the dress&#58;&#160; the same phenomenon seen very differently, but always sparking a strong reaction. <br></p><p>But John, seeing him differently, would say that Jesus is the light.&#160; The world is the dress.&#160; (The Greek word for world is <em>cosmos</em>, which has various shades of meaning itself—humanity, &quot;the way things are,&quot; the powers that resist God, all of creation.&#160; John, whose writing covers many levels at once, probably intends all of these simultaneously.)&#160; Jesus the light shines upon the world and reveals its true colors. <br></p><p>But Jesus also reveals to us the true colors of God's heart&#58;&#160; <em>God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.</em><em>&#160; </em><em>Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.</em><em>&#160; </em>God loyally loves the fickle world.&#160; The designer's eyes consistently see the world as worth saving. <br></p><p>The price tag attached is steep&#58;&#160; Jesus will end up black and blue on the cross. &#160;Yet the colors of Easter are white and gold.&#160; The Light changes everything.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>&#160;How do you see Jesus?&#160; How is your view different from how others see Jesus?&#160; Does he bring love or judgment…or both?</p></li><li><p>&#160;How do you see the world?&#160; Is it good or evil…or both?&#160; If the world were two colors, what would they be?</p></li><li><p>Are there things in your life you keep in the dark because you are afraid they will be exposed?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p> <ul><li><p>Review the colors of the church year.&#160; What do those seasonal color choices reveal about about God’s love and our lives?</p></li><li><p>Interview someone who is blind, or colorblind.&#160; How do they “see” (receive and process what is happening around them in) the world?&#160; What do they notice that people with sight do not? <br></p></li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>Light of the world, shine God’s love into our lives.&#160; Train our eyes to see your truth, and transform our works into bright witnesses to God’s beautiful grace, in order that those who see us would be drawn not toward death but into life.&#160; Amen</p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>03/10/2015March 8, 2015-- Rebuilding DetroitEllen Rothweiller--Ames, IAhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/285http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/285<div class="ExternalClass97F1E7CA4E1F40A0B5B6660052E1AFFD"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>Have you ever experienced the destruction of a place that held emotional significance for you; A home, church, school or city? What was that like and how was it different than the loss of a person?</p><br> <p><strong>Rebuilding Detroit<br></strong></p> <p>The city of Detroit, MI is being rebuilt. Many new businesses are popping up in the downtown area and there are plans for a new streetcar line that will transport people from Downtown to Midtown.&#160; Some who fled the city are returning to be a part of the rebuilding of this great American city. There are signs of new life in Downtown Detroit, but areas outside the city center are still in decline. Housing is crumbling with many vacant buildings and lots. One part of the city booms while the rest continues to decline, making the chasm between rich and poor grow. </p><p class="MsoNormal"><img src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_176591078edit.jpg" alt="shutterstock_176591078edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>Residents of these outlying areas argue that it will take more than just an infusion of money and industry in one part of Detroit to rebuild this city. Jocelyn Harris has lived in one of those “challenged” outer Detroit neighborhoods, about six miles east of downtown, all her life. “We used to have everything&#58; department stores, grocery stores, all of it,” Harris said. “Now the sewage backs up, the park is locked, the school is closed. If we only had more repair dollars, people could have stayed here. It’s been a lot of fighting just to keep it like this.”</p><p>Developer Dan Gilbert has bought up more than 60 buildings in downtown Detroit and has been called everything from a missionary to a super hero-despite the fact that his company has been accused of aggressive sales practice. He and others insist that these pockets of wealth will succeed in rescuing the city and that this boom in economics will have a trickle-down effect on the more challenged areas of the city. </p><p>Many who care about the future of this city are working to rebuild it, but not all are in agreement on how that should happen. The decline of this city did not happen overnight, and neither will its rebirth.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>What do you know about the decline of the city of Detroit? How did it happen?</li><li>Do you agree more with Gilbert or Harris about the best way to rebuild Detroit?</li><li>How does greed play a role in this situation? </li><li>How does hope play a role in this situation? </li></ul><p><strong>Third Sunday in Lent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291877142">Exodus 20&#58;1-17</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291877178">1 Corinthians 1&#58;18-25</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291877213">John 2&#58;13-22</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>&#160;</p> <p>This event, often described as Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, is included in all four Gospels so it is safe for us to assume that this is a key moment in Jesus’ ministry.&#160; The temple was a place of worship and also where the community gathered. It was the hub of the Jewish culture at that time with significant spiritual and emotional ties for many. The temple where this story takes place is the second temple. The first was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. This second temple, constructed after the Jews returned to their land from exile in Babylonia in 539 B.C.E. was leveled by the Romans in 70 C. E. and never rebuilt.</p><p>We know that Jesus was not referring to the physical temple building, but his body in John 2&#58;19-21, but those who heard his words that day may have felt that he was threatening to destroy this holy and significant place once again, just to prove a point! </p><p>Just as the Jews had suffered the loss of their temple and homeland, many in Detroit are feeling the loss of their city. Jesus’ claim that he could rebuild the temple in three days may have been received with the same offense that many are taking from the “trickle-down” economics being applied in Detroit. It was in part greed that got Jesus so mad about the money changers in the temple. Greed can be a powerful force in a culture and in a city and can play a part in the destruction and rebuilding of temples old and new. Ultimately this story ends with the destruction and resurrection of the temple of Jesus’ body. That is where we must place our hope and trust.</p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>What are some current examples of temples that have been destroyed? (twin towers, etc.)</p></li><li><p>Why might it be important to rebuild those temples?</p></li><li><p>How might it be idolatrous to be so bound to a physical place?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p> <ul><li><p>Google two sides of this story&#58; “rebuilding Detroit” and “decline of Detroit”. Compare and contrast the stories told.</p></li><li><p>Brainstorm buildings or neighborhoods in your area that are being rebuilt. Talk to someone involved in that process and see what you can learn about that process. Was there a meeting of social and economic resources for this project? How is that working?</p></li></ul> <p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Dear Lord, we thank you for your church, a place where we can gather in community. We pray for this community and for the community of Detroit. Heal what is broken in these places and people. Give us the courage to put our hope and trust in you, and not in the physical things of this world. Amen</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>03/03/2015March 1, 2015--Losing to GainBob Chell--Sioux Falls, SDhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/284http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/FaithLens/284<div class="ExternalClass05D4AFECC3CD490F9F763890F6A9FCC3"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>What has been the happiest day of your life? What made it so? Does it give you any insight into how to achieve happiness in the future? Is happiness the goal or key to a fulfilling life? If not, what is?</p><p><strong>Losing to Gain<br></strong></p><p>Paul Dolan, a professor who studies happiness suggests there is a disconnect between what we think and how we feel. Sometimes the things we think will make us happy do not. Perhaps the person you've crushed on for months has returned your interest but over time you realize you miss other friends, hobbies or even your 'old self.' Dolan suggests we pay attention to what makes us happy on a daily basis. His formula for happiness suggests we organize our lives around those things which give us pleasure and purpose. <br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>&#160;How would you rate the following in their ability to provide pleasure and purpose to your life;</li></ul><ol><ol><li>Things</li><li>Experiences</li><li>Relationships</li><li>Faith</li></ol></ol><ul><li>Does the time and energy you spend focusing on these areas reflect which you value most and which you value least?</li><li>What is it that gives meaning to life? Happiness, Peace, Power, Faith, Love, Work, something else? Why?</li><li>Professor Dolan doesn't mention faith in this article on achieving happiness. Does meaning come from deep within ourselves or from something outside and beyond ourselves?</li></ul><p><strong>Second Sunday in Lent<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291192983">Genesis 17&#58;1-7, 15-16</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291193019">Romans 4&#58;13-25</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/?ql=291193053">Mark 8&#58;31-38</a></p><p>(Text links are to <a href="http&#58;//bible.oremus.org/">Oremus Bible Browser</a>. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/Lectionary/YearB">Lectionary Readings</a></p><p>For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic <a href="http&#58;//www.agnusday.org/">Agnus Day.</a></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Gospel Reflection</strong></p><p>He was 30 years old when he came into the prison where I am pastor. He will become eligible for parole when he is 65. He will complete his sentence when he is 100 years old. One could easily say he has 'lost his life.' His life is routine and regimented, each day much like the last. On holidays he, like everyone else, is locked in his cell all day because shops are closed and so more staff can have the holiday off. He earns 25¢ an hour at his prison job. There are four men for every job, so he is happy to be working. The money can only be spent at the prison commissary where prices are high and selection is severely limited. One popular item, Ramen noodles, costs 37¢ each. </p><p><img alt="shutterstock_191337131edit.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Faith%20Lens/AllItems/shutterstock_191337131edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>Here is what he has told me about coming to prison. </p><p>&quot;This is the best thing that ever happened to me.&quot; </p><p>&quot;Coming to prison saved my life.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I lost everything to gain everything.&quot;</p><p>&#160;If you are skeptical about this I don't blame you. I would be too if I didn't see his smile when he says these things. If I didn't witness how he lives his life day to day. He came into the prison unfamiliar with the Christian faith. He was baptized a year ago and serves on the church council for our prison congregation now. His faith dwarfs my own and his sense of inner peace is astounding to me.</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>This man lost his life because of his crime not for Jesus' sake, do these verses about losing your life to save it apply to him?</li><li>Is a cross something we freely choose or something that happens to us?</li><li>What is the cross in your life today? Are you carrying it or nailed to it? Explain.</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong></p><ul><li>&#160;Ask someone you trust and respect what gives meaning and purpose to their life? What is one piece of advice they would give to someone looking for meaning purpose and happiness in life.</li><li>Imagine the prisoner described above could have lived one hour of your life last week.&#160; What hour would he choose? (My answer is below. Read it after you decide on your answer.)</li><li>How would you answer someone younger who asked you the key to happinessn life, success in High School, or inner peace?<p><em>My answer&#58; As a prison pastor I've come to realize I know 700 plus men who would relish the day to day tasks I dislike. I thought of it this week when, running late, I realized I had snow to shovel before leaving home. To me, an hour of cold, hard work and inconvenience. To the men I serve; an hour outdoors, an hour alone, an hour of quiet and peace, an hour to relish the beauty of gently falling snow, cold wind on their cheeks and the tired feeling of well used muscles. </em><em>&#160;</em></p> </li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p><p>Jesus, open our eyes to the hiddenness of your kingdom. To joy in hard work, meaning in loss and peace in the midst of turmoil.&#160; Amen. <br><strong></strong></p><p><br><strong></strong></p></div>02/24/2015