Faith Lens 8, 2015--Too Tired to CareDavid Delaney, Salem, VA<div class="ExternalClassB96C40B9F5604BA4BE97F63E1206F07B"><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Set up an imaginary scale across the room where you are meeting, ranging from 0 to 10.<span>&#160; </span>Ask people to stand in various places on the imaginary scale based on this series of questions&#58;&#160; 1. How tired are you right now, today?<span> </span>(0 = exhausted, need to go back to bed for a whole day;<span>&#160; </span>10 = most energetic ever) 2. How tired are you usually, on average?<span>&#160; </span>(same scale) 3. How confident are you that when you are stressed or exhausted that you will be able to set aside time to get the rest you need?<span>&#160; </span>(0 = can’t count on that at all, it’s out of my control;<span>&#160; </span>10 = I can rest whenever I need to)</li><li>How important do you think rest is to doing well in school, family, work, other relationships, life in general?</li><li>Finally, an opinion question&#58;<span>&#160; </span>Of the ten commandments (can anyone name them, by the way?) a number of them are commands that involve ways we contribute to our own communities and the world around us, but only the third commandment (by the Roman Catholic and Lutheran numbering;<span>&#160; </span>it’s number 4 in Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, and other Protestant traditions) commands us to observe a Sabbath rest.<span>&#160; </span>If there doesn’t seem to be enough time in life to honor both aspects of the commandments, should one be sacrificed in favor of the other?<span>&#160; </span>Does God consider one to be more important than<span>&#160; </span>the other?<span>&#160; </span></li></ul> <p><strong>Too Tired to Care?<br></strong></p><p>The January 15, 2015 issue of the <em>Journal of Emergency Medical Services</em> carried an in-depth article on the potentially dangerous effects of fatigue on those who work in emergency services. For decades, the 24-hour work shift (2-3 times a week) has been the norm in the industry of emergency medicine and other emergency response professions such as firefighting, so that it is common for everyone from ER doctors and surgeons to ambulance drivers to pharmacists to work shifts that start at 6am one day and do not end until 6am the next day.&#160; </p><p><img alt="shutterstock_202169833edit.gif" src="" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>This pattern persists largely because it is believed that giving people a full day's break between the strains of trauma response is better for them, plus it's also apparently cost-effective.&#160; It's also simply the way things have been for a while and it would be a lot of work to change them.&#160; However, experts in the field of emergency medical care as well as those who are responsible for oversight and evaluation of the medical providers – insurance and government entities especially – are starting to pay attention to the risks that are present when someone who has had no sleep for nearly a whole day is trying to make complex decisions about things like evaluating patient vital signs or measuring dosages of medicine.&#160; </p><p>The phenomenon of &quot;burnout,&quot; where people in caregiving professions work so hard and absorb so many emotional demands that they run out of energy and lose their ability to perform effectively, has led to frequent early resignations among emergency care workers.&#160; This has long been recognized and has for many years been attributed to the stress of dealing with injury and death on a regular basis.&#160; But now fresh studies are starting to reveal what must surely be obvious to many people outside the medical profession – that simply being awake for a straight 24 hours with no attention to mental rejuvenation, let alone physical rejuvenation, may be the real culprit in early burnout, not to mention increasing the risk of some very serious errors in emergency treatment.&#160; As a result, emergency care providers are rethinking the risks involved with long shifts of caregiving to the point of exhaustion.<br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>What are some of the strains on caregivers that might be associated with long shifts or lack of rest in general?<span> </span></li><li>How does lack of rest or too much mental/emotional strain affect you personally?<span>&#160; </span>If you are a student, what effect does being tired or overstressed have on the quality of your school work or your relationships?</li><li>Many people, when they hear for the first time about 24-hour shifts, are shocked and can’t imagine how anyone does this, but others say that you’re just cut out for it or you’re not.<span>&#160; </span>Do you think you could be one of those emergency workers who works on a schedule like that?<span>&#160; </span>Or do you need your sleep on a really regular schedule?</li></ul> <p><strong>Fifth Sunday after Epiphany<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Isaiah 40&#58;21-31</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">1 Corinthians 9&#58;16-23</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Mark 1&#58;29-39</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 B 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" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">For a long time, commentators on Mark’s gospel have noticed that Jesus’ work in the first half of the gospel is characterized by three major activities that signal the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God&#58;<span>&#160; </span>preaching, teaching, and healing.<span>&#160; </span>In this story we are still in the very first chapter Mark, near the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, but already we see all three of these activities represented, with Jesus emerging from teaching in the synagogue (vs. 29), healing Simon’s mother-in-law (vs. 31), and moving on to preach in the rest of Galilee (vs. 39).<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">The fourth activity represented here that is often overlooked as a “kingdom-oriented” activity is that of resting and praying.<span>&#160; </span>It is mentioned specifically again with respect to Jesus and his disciples in chapter 6 and hinted at in many other places all the way through Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane in chapter 14.<span>&#160; </span>In several other places we are told that Jesus was overwhelmed by the size and volume of the crowd that was facing him, sometimes even asking his disciples to plan an escape route (3&#58;9).<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">We should not fail to notice that even Jesus rested and took time for private prayer and communion with God.<span>&#160; </span>Particularly in Mark, where so much happens so fast and the word “immediately” appears more than 40 times, it is refreshing to see Jesus take time out to care for his human capacity for fatigue.<span>&#160; </span>We should also note that this attentiveness to resting when tired or overburdened was connected not only to his physical or emotional needs, but just as much to the life of the spirit.<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">Another dimension of life in the Kingdom of God is illustrated by the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law.<span>&#160; </span>As with so many characters in Mark’s gospel, she receives Jesus’ miraculous grace and then at once starts engaging in the very activities to which Jesus’ followers are called as they take their places as ministers of God’s kingdom.<span>&#160; </span>In this case, she begins serving them.<span>&#160; </span>On one level, it could just mean that she brings them snacks, but the deeper meaning is that she now becomes a servant to others, which is what we are all called to do, just as the man delivered of a demon in chapter 5 will immediately become a witness and Bartimaeus in chapter 9 will immediately become a disciple after being healed of blindness.<span>&#160;&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">The command to the demons that they should be silent may come as a puzzling feature in this passage.<span>&#160; </span>One of the interesting literary tricks in Mark is that the very ones who are religious insiders (including the disciples!) tend not to recognize who Jesus is, or at least they can’t seem to figure him out; only those who are on the fringe or outsiders (the physically injured, unclean spirits, the Roman centurion) know him for who he is – the Son of God.<span>&#160; </span>As we read along, it’s as if Mark wants the disciples and other onlookers to recognize Jesus’ divine identity because of what’s happening and not because they heard someone (even a demonic spirit) say so.<span>&#160; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">&#160;</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">We’re supposed to get frustrated with those who should be catching on to this immediately and then should be actively, excitedly proclaiming this truth.<span>&#160; </span>But then, Mark perhaps wants us to wonder, why do we ourselves not do that?<span>&#160; </span>So the frustration we might experience because of the characters in the gospel can be turned back on ourselves and transformed into inspiration for us to notice when Jesus is present in our own lives but we do not recognize him because we aren’t paying attention or we’re looking for something different.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;"><br></p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Dealing with people in Mark’s gospel seems to wear Jesus out.<span>&#160; </span>This may be one of the most honest and authentic aspects of Jesus’ human nature.<span>&#160; </span>Even the disciples exasperate him on occasion (8&#58;21;<span>&#160; </span>8&#58;23; 9&#58;19;<span>&#160; </span>14&#58;37).</li><li>In response, Jesus devotes himself to prayer and, when necessary, solitude.<span>&#160; </span>How do we take care of our whole selves, not just the body and the mind, but also the spirit?</li><li>Many people find that a routine of prayer, possibly including simple quiet meditation, is an essential piece of self-care that not only allows them to be good stewards of their own lives, but also connects rest with growth in discerning God’s presence and purposes.<span>&#160; </span>What are the faith practices represented in our own group that combine rest and self-care with nurturing faith?</li><li>Other people find that separating the work of restful prayer from the rest of life is an artificial division that does not leave them refreshed, so they practice what is sometimes called “noisy contemplation,” or prayer in the midst of activity.<span>&#160; </span>We might imagine Simon’s mother-in-law, surely filled with heart-felt thanks for being healed (and maybe still even recovering from sickness?), nevertheless moving forward immediately into acts of service and finding her energy for loving and communing with God there.<span>&#160; </span>What are some good examples of quick on-the-run prayers or opportunities for prayer that we can practice?<span>&#160; </span> </li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Make a covenant as a group to keep a Sabbath day.<span>&#160; </span>Identify a day –<span>&#160; </span>either Saturday or Sunday may be a good choice – where you set aside as many of the things you do just by habit as possible and rest.<span>&#160; </span>You might even try it for just a six-hour stretch.<span>&#160; </span>(It might also be a good activity for a retreat or lock-in).<span>&#160; </span>Start by turning off your cell phone and computer and staying away from radio and television.<span>&#160; </span>As a group, come up with a set of prayers that you can say on each hour while you’re letting your mind settle down.<span>&#160; </span>Then keep a brief journal of how you feel – physically, spiritually, mentally – as the time passes.<span>&#160; </span>When you next re-gather as a group, share your experiences and journal notes.</li><li>Identify medical care givers or emergency responders in your congregation and either invite them to talk with you about how they care for themselves or what their prayer and worship lives are like, given that they often spend time with many people who are victims of injury or tragedy.</li></ul> <p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom&#58;0.0001pt;line-height&#58;normal;">Loving God, we give you thanks for providing us with times for renewal, even as you also give us work to carry out in your kingdom.<span>&#160; </span>We pray that you would reveal your Son Jesus to us in all that we do, whether we are alone or with others, whether we are overwhelmed or at rest.<span>&#160; </span>And in all things, we pray that you would make us good witnesses to the healing grace that you have given to us and to the world in which we live. In Jesus’ name we pray.</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p><p>​</p></div>02/03/2015February 1, 2015--Selma and “Bloody Sunday”Aaron Matson, Waterton, SD<div class="ExternalClass6B936B73569C418A8F71BFBF8E7B9A77"><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><span style="color&#58;black;">If you see someone doing something wicked – hurting another person or themselves, for example – do you feel the responsibility to say or do something? Why does it take so much courage to do something in the face of wickedness, injustice, or evil?</span><span style="font-size&#58;9pt;font-family&#58;helvetica;color&#58;black;"></span></p> <p><strong>Selma and &quot;Bloody Sunday&quot;<br></strong></p> <p>The movie Selma depicts events in the struggle for civil rights and voting rights in this country. To protest the lack of voting rights of African Americans and the violent intransigence of the white power structure towards voter registration efforts, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and other local and national civil rights leaders, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which King helped organize and served as president, organized a series of marches from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery in early 1965.&#160; </p><p><img src="" alt="hands.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>The first of these marches took place on Sunday, March 7, 1965. In the process of crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge, the peaceful protestors were brutally attacked by state troopers, leaving many bloody and severely injured. Images of gruesome events of “Bloody Sunday” shocked those watching the evening news or reading about the events in newspapers and magazines, and helped the turn popular support in favor of the protestors and the voting rights protections for which they were marching.&#160; </p><p>After Bloody Sunday, Martin Luther King organized and led two more marches from Selma to Montgomery. After the second march, there was more violence, as three white ministers were harshly beaten; one of these ministers, James Reeb, died as a result of this beating. The bravery of the protestors in the face of this violence and evil cruelty spurred President Lyndon Johnson to finally introduce the Voting Rights Act to Congress and send troops to protect the protestors for the third march.&#160; </p><p>This brief summary does not do justice to those momentous events. But one aspect about these events that I hope you notice is that many of the leaders in the movement for civil rights were people of faith, including Dr. King, the SCLC, and James Reeb. Their faith moved them to action against injustice, as it did for hundreds and thousands of ordinary people whose names are not as famous. Though there have been several hard-won victories in the movement for civil rights, there are still injustices in our country and people of faith are still joining together to confront and overcome them.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p> <ul><li>If any of you has seen the movie<em> Selma</em>, what did you think of it, especially the “Bloody Sunday” scene? What have you learned in school about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement?</li><li>Has your faith inspired you to stand up against cruelty or injustice? Perhaps this has meant joining a protest or a march, or perhaps this has meant standing up for someone who was being teased or bullied.</li><li>Are there any injustices in the world that you see that you think people of faith should join together to confront?</li></ul> <p><strong>Fourth Sunday after Epiphany</strong> <br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Deuteronomy 18&#58;15-20</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">1 Corinthians 8&#58;1-13</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Mark 1&#58;21-28 </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>In the Gospel reading, Jesus casts out the unclean spirit. The spirit recognizes him for who he is, the holy one of God. Others do not know who exactly this Jesus is, but in the Gospel of Mark, all the spirits know exactly who Jesus is and the power he has. The question the spirit asks, “What have you to do with us?” In other words, the unclean spirit is saying “You have special power. You can see I’m pretty powerful, too. Who are you going to side with, powerful beings or with these lowly humans? Have you come to destroy us?”<br> <br> Jesus sides with us lowly humans, and shows the power he has over unclean spirits. In the ancient world, unclean spirits were thought to be the cause of disease, mental illness, and all sorts of tragedy and misfortune. They were a part of the chaos and disorder that afflicted humanity; as we see later in Mark, Jesus has the power to calm the chaos of stormy seas. Jesus frees the man from the unclean spirit, and a major part of Jesus’ ministry in Mark, chapter 1, is driving out unclean spirits, along with healing those who were ill.&#160; </p><p> As Martin Luther writes, Jesus has freed us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Working together, we as Christians can confront the evil we see in this world in the name of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Whether the injustice and evil we see is across the street or across the world, we can do this work, confident not in our own abilities or courage, but in the promise we have in the cross and resurrection of Christ – as powerful as evil is, Jesus is more powerful, and in him, we shall overcome.&#160; </p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>&#160;Where do you see the church confronting &quot;unclean spirits&quot; in the name of Jesus?</li><li>Most people do not believe in &quot;unclean spirits&quot; in the same way that people in Jesus day did.&#160; Is this an antiquated way of speaking?&#160; What do these exorcisms by Jesus tell us about him?<br></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><span style="color&#58;black;">Search newspapers, or Internet news sites. Where do you see evil? What do you think the Christian witness of Jesus and people of faith can bring to these situations? During your time together, pray for those places where you see evil in the world. </span><span style="font-size&#58;9pt;font-family&#58;helvetica;color&#58;black;"></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><span style="color&#58;black;">Visit the ELCA Advocacy, ELCA World Hunger, and Stories from the Global Church blogs on the ELCA website to look for ways we are working together against injustice today. Other useful websites might be Sojourners (<a href="http&#58;//" target="_blank"></a>) and Bread for the World (<a href="http&#58;//" target="_blank"></a>). </span><span style="font-size&#58;9pt;font-family&#58;helvetica;color&#58;black;"></span></p><p> Go to Selma together, or watch a documentary about Martin Luther King or the Civil Rights Movement and discuss the ways people’s faith led to their involvement in the movement.</p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p><p>Holy God, our protector and defender, drive out those unclean spirits which cause so much harm and evil in this world. Remove the unclean spirits from our own hearts, and give us the courage and confidence to confront the evil we see in the world in Jesus’ name. It is in his name we pray. Amen. </p><p><strong></strong></p><p>​</p></div>01/27/2015January 25, 2015--Call to ActionJen Krausz, Bethlehem, PA<div class="ExternalClassAD636C70E93A439A8FDE1130A110216E"><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong> <br></p><p>What makes you want to buy something? Do you currently purchase more online or at stores?<br><br> </p><p><strong>Call to Action<br></strong></p><p>The social media site Facebook now boasts some 1 billion plus users worldwide. It is the most used social media site in existence. By comparison, 100 million users log into Twitter at least once a month. </p><p>Internet marketers discovered years ago that Facebook could be used to sell products. Although Facebook is and has always been free, advertisements appear in the sidebars, and increasingly, in the &quot;suggested&quot; or &quot;promoted&quot; posts that show up in users' news feeds of recent posts. Options to create a page have allowed businesses to share content with anyone who &quot;likes&quot; the page. Large companies and famous celebrities might have over a million likes, but even small businesses and local musicians can use Facebook pages to communicate with followers and fans.</p><p><img src="" alt="Do-it-edit.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>A few weeks ago in December, Facebook introduced &quot;call to action&quot; buttons on their pages. Companies can use these buttons to ask their followers to take some sort of action—anything from signing up for a newsletter to purchasing a product. It is well-known among internet copy writers that people are more likely to take action if they are asked to do so directly. When internet advertisers and bloggers write, a call to action is an important part of the attempt to market products and services.</p><p>Facebook was not created to sell products; its original purpose was to give people a way to communicate with friends and people they know online. At this point, however, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight to the ways people use Facebook as a sales tool. For better or worse, selling on Facebook is here to stay.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li><p>Do Facebook ads bother you? If so, which ones? If not, why not?</p></li><li><p>Have you ever bought something through Facebook or because of a Facebook ad? Share your experience.</p></li><li><p>Do calls to action (when someone specifically asks you to do something) get more people to do it, in your opinion? Why are they so effective?</p></li></ul> <p><strong>Third Sunday after Epiphany</strong> <br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Jonah 3&#58;1-5, 10</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">1 Corinthians 7&#58;29-31</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Mark 1&#58;14-20</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>It seems that calls to action have been around for a very long time. Jesus asks those following him to do two specific things in these verses. He asks everyone to repent and to believe the good news that the kingdom of God is near. Jesus’ call to action is not intended to sell anything. Instead, he invites all he meets to become a part of the kingdom of God.</p><p>Neither of the two things Jesus asks of his followers is an easy thing to do. “Repent” means to turn back. Specifically in this context, it means to turn away from sin and back toward God. In order to repent, a change in behavior is necessary. If you’ve ever tried to change your behavior in any way, you know how difficult this can be.&#160; Our habits grow over time. We get very accustomed to doing things in a certain way. Changing long-held habits requires learning a whole new set of behaviors.</p><p>As Jesus continues in his ministry, he teaches his followers a lot about these new behaviors. Forgive people again and again, he says. Love your enemies instead of hating them. Give to the needy. Be humble. Serve instead of expecting to be served. It’s no wonder some people turned away and stopped following him. These are not easy things to do. </p><p>The other call to action Jesus gives in these verses is for certain individuals to leave everything and follow him. Again, this request is incredibly difficult. Leaving your entire life behind—family, friends, job, possessions—to follow a teacher is not something most people would be willing to do. Jesus knew that these men he called would be willing to follow him to a different way of living. The disciples may not have understood everything about what they were doing, but something attracted them to this plain, ordinary man and led them to change their lives forever.</p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p> <ul><li><p>What are some differences between an internet call to action and Jesus’ calling for people to repent, believe, and follow him?</p></li><li><p>What are some similarities?</p></li><li><p>Why do you think the disciples were willing to follow Jesus?</p></li><li><p>What might Jesus be calling his church to do now? What might he be calling you specifically to do?</p></li></ul> <p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p> <ul><li><p>We don’t want to try to “sell” Christianity like a product on the internet. Spend a few minutes role-playing how you would invite someone you know to come to church, Sunday School or Bible study with you without making it sound like a sales pitch. Pair up with another person and get constructive feedback on how your invitation comes across.</p></li><li><p>If available, take a look at your church’s marketing materials (brochure, business cards, newspaper advertisements, etc.) Share your insights with the group about how your church may be perceived based on these materials. </p></li></ul> <p><strong>Closing Prayer​</strong></p> <p>Dear God, we pray for those people who are waiting for a call to action to follow you. Help us to be someone who can invite them to become a part of your kingdom. We pray for strength to follow you daily. In Jesus’ name, amen.<a name="_GoBack"></a></p> </div>01/20/2015January 18, 2015--Divine Intervention?Scott Mims, Virginia Beach, Virginia<div class="ExternalClassFF087655B4674049AE6AF79FB149D2CF"><p>​</p><p>Warm-up Question</p><ul><li><p>Who are some of the people in your life who have had a positive impact on your faith?&#160; What did they do that was so meaningful to you?</p></li><li><p>&#160;Has God ever helped you through a difficult time or situation? What was your experience like?</p></li></ul><p>Divine Intervention?<br></p> <p>On the night of January 2, 2015, Larry Wilkins opened his front door to discover a teary-eyed child standing on his front porch.&#160; Sailor Gutzler, 7, had just walked away as the sole survivor of a horrific accident. Her parents, a sister, and a cousin had all perished when their small plane went down in a wooded area of western Kentucky. Nearly as miraculous as her survival was Sailor’s journey to Wilkins’ door and her ability to relate to those who responded what had happened.&#160; Still dressed in shorts from their Florida vacation, Sailor walked barefoot through the dark Kentucky woods in 38-degree weather. </p><p><img alt="shutterstock_170643116edit.jpg" src="" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>At a televised news conference on Sunday one of those who responded, Kentucky State Police Lt. Brent White, said of his conversations with other rescuers, &quot;We were talking about that being some divine intervention there, because she absolutely went to probably the nearest house that she could have,&quot; also noting that the path was nonetheless a hard one. &#160;Sailor was treated for minor injuries and released into the care of other family members.&#160; An investigation into the cause of the crash is pending.</p><p>&#160;</p><p>Discussion Questions</p><ul><li><p>What do you think Lt. White and the other rescuers meant by, &quot;Divine Intervention?&quot;&#160; Where do you see God in this situation?</p></li><li><p>Many people expressed support for Sailor in online comments related to this article.&#160; Others expressed skepticism that God had anything to do with the situation.&#160; What do you think? Do you believe God intervenes or acts in our world?&#160; If so, in what ways?&#160; If not, why not?</p></li><li><p>In Matthew's gospel, when the angel Gabriel comes to Joseph he calls Jesus, &quot;Emmanuel,&quot; which means &quot;God is with us.&quot;&#160; John begins his gospel talking about how God's Word became flesh in Jesus and lived among us. You may have heard these, and other promises, recently during Advent and Christmas. What do Jesus' life, death, and resurrection suggest to you of how God acts and/or intervenes in our world?</p></li></ul><p>Second Sunday after Epiphany<br></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">1 Samuel 3&#58;1-10 [11-20]</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">1 Corinthians 6&#58;12-20</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">John 1&#58;43-51</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>&#160;</p> <p>The way in which we read or hear something can make all of the difference.&#160; One way to read these verses, for example, is simply as John’s account of how Jesus called his first disciples.&#160; And in this case, the first three words of this passage, “The next day,” clue us in to the fact that we need to go back a bit to understand what’s going on. </p><p>As it turns out, this is actually the third “next day” section in the opening chapter of John’s gospel.&#160; In the first section, verses 29 – 34, “the next day” after John the Baptist explains his role to those sent from Jerusalem, he bears witness to Jesus as both the Lamb of God and Son of God.&#160; Whereas the other gospel accounts describe Jesus’ actual baptism, John, the gospel writer, has John the Baptist relate his experience of seeing the Spirit descend upon Jesus in the moment, testifying to his true identity. The “next day” after this (verses 35 – 43), John the Baptist’s further testimony about Jesus leads two of his own disciples to follow after Jesus.&#160; Jesus, seeing them, asks, “What are you looking for?” When they stammer out, “Rabbi, where are you staying,” Jesus invites them to “Come and see.” What, or rather who, they are really looking for is the Messiah, and in their encounter with Jesus the two experience something that leaves them convinced. For his part, Jesus’ invitation initiates an ever-widening circle of discipleship as one of the two, Andrew, goes on to his own brother, Simon Peter, with the news, “We have found the Messiah.”&#160; </p><p>So it is that we come to the “next day” of this week’s gospel where the circle of followers continues to grow. Deciding to go to Galilee, Jesus first calls Philip.&#160; Philip, in turn, invites Nathanael saying, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”&#160; Here, “the law and the prophets” means the whole of the Scriptures for these Jewish believers.&#160; Brushing aside Nathanael’s remark about the insignificance of Nazareth, Philip offers once again the invitation, “Come and see.”&#160; Nathanael does, and his own encounter with Jesus, and Jesus’ ability to “know” and “see” him from afar, not only leads Nathanael to believe in Jesus, it also draws forth a confession of faith&#58; “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”&#160; </p><p>While Nathanael cannot, at this point in the story at least, fully understand the true meanings behind the titles he gives to Jesus, we have pointers here to what John’s gospel will be about.&#160; Indeed, Jesus assures all who are present (both instances of “you” here are plural) that greater things are yet to come&#58; ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’&#160; By the way, the reference here seems to be to the story of Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28&#58;10-22) where God comes to Jacob in a dream, promising to be with him.&#160; What will be experienced in and through Jesus is the reality to which Jacob’s dream points, that is, what John means when he writes, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1&#58;14)</p><p>So, as the first chapter of his gospel ends, John leaves us with Jesus heading towards Galilee with a growing group of followers.&#160; Yet, there is a deeper way to hear this passage than simply an account of Jesus gathering a group of disciples.&#160; Jesus’ very first words in John’s gospel, “What are you looking for?” are not simply words for those in the story; they are a question to us, as well.&#160; When it comes to life…when it comes to faith, what are we looking for?&#160; Deep down in our bones, what is it that we really need?&#160; </p><p>In these three “next days,” we hear Jesus being called many things.&#160; John the Baptist calls him “the Lamb of God who takes away the world’s sin” and “Son of God.”&#160; Andrew calls him, “Rabbi” and “Messiah.”&#160; Philip says Jesus is the one, “about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.”&#160; Nathanael adds that Jesus is, “the King of Israel.”&#160; Is Jesus what we are looking for?&#160; Is he the one that we really need?&#160; The invitation that John offers to us through the rest of his gospel account, and indeed through our own experience of living as followers of Jesus, is simply to “Come and see.” <br></p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li><p>When it comes to the titles and names given to Jesus in John 1&#58;29-51, (Lamb of God, Messiah, Son of God, Rabbi, King of Israel, Son of Man) which one is most important or most meaningful to you?&#160; Why? &#160;Would any of these titles be meaningful or helpful to friends of yours who may not yet believe in Jesus?&#160; If not, are there other titles or ways of describing Jesus that would be?</p></li><li><p>If you had been Philip and Jesus had just walked up to you and said, &quot;Follow me,&quot; would you have gone?&#160; If so, why?&#160; If not, then what further information would you have needed?&#160; What else would you have wanted to know before making such a commitment?&#160; Do you think we have this information now?</p></li><li><p>What does it look like to you to follow Jesus?&#160; Can a person believe in Jesus without following him?&#160; Can we follow him without believing in him? &#160;&#160;Why or why not?</p></li><li><p>Nathanael first responds as a skeptic&#58; &quot;Can anything good come out of Nazareth?&quot;&#160; What are some of the reasons that people today might have in being skeptical about Jesus or about the Christian faith?&#160; How would you answer their skepticism?</p></li><li><p>Nathanael came to Jesus because Philip invited him to &quot;come and see.&quot;&#160; What do you think would be the best way to invite a friend of yours to &quot;come and see&quot; Jesus today?&#160; What are some approaches that might not work so well with your friends or in your setting?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p><ul><li><p>Video&#58; For further discussion on the sheer grace of being called to follow Jesus, watch Rob Bell's short video, Dust (Nooma series).&#160; Though not specifically about this passage, he presents a great take on what being called to &quot;Follow me,&quot; by a rabbi meant in Jesus' day, and how Jesus' invitation to Andrew, Peter, James, John, Philip, Nathanael and the rest would have been most unusual.&#160; Talk together about what it means that Jesus calls us to be his followers.&#160; What does it mean to you that Jesus believes in you?&#160; Does this change the way you see yourself as a disciple?</p></li></ul><p>&#160;</p><ul><li><p>Reaching Out&#58; Consider taking a discussion on the invitation to &quot;Come and see,&quot; even further.&#160; As a group, explore ways to invite your friends or others in your community to &quot;come and see&quot; Jesus.&#160; How would you go about it?&#160; Would you hold an event of some sort?&#160; Would you invite them to a service project? A retreat?&#160; A play or music festival?&#160;&#160; A specially designed worship service?&#160; What activities are you already doing that are, or could be, great places for friends to experience God's love and grace? How might you use social media or other modern means to invite folks?&#160; What &quot;barriers&quot; might need to be overcome? Brainstorm the possibilities – can you make a plan to try one or more of these possibilities out?</p></li></ul><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>Gracious and loving God, before we ever could think to seek you, you have come seeking us, inviting us to know abundant and eternal life.&#160; When we doubt your goodness and love, help us to see the many ways that you act in our lives and the grace that you give to us day by day.&#160; Empower us by your Spirit to follow<a name="_GoBack"></a>, lead us to be living signs of your grace, and give us the courage to invite others to “Come and see.”&#160; In Jesus’ name we pray.&#160; Amen. <br></p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>01/13/2015January 11, 2015--Finger PointingBryan Jaster--Winchester, VA<div class="ExternalClass59422CD3226A4A949E52C0E8CB57C95A"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>&#160;Have you ever been in an earthquake?&#160; Where were you and what happened?&#160; <br></p><p><strong>Finger Pointing<br></strong></p><p>At the close of 2014 that was a lot of finger pointing back and forth between North Korea and the United States of America.&#160; Conflict between the two nations began at least 70 years ago but the close of 2014 brought a flurry of finger pointing.&#160; It began in late November with the hack of Sony Pictures' computer systems.&#160; In the days following, evidence surfaced that the attack originated in North Korea, likely in retaliation to Sony preparing to release a comedic movie called <em>The Interview</em> about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. North Korean officials deny their country is responsible but the FBI says North Korea is the culprit.</p><p><img src="" alt="shutterstock_215597296edit.gif" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br></p><p>Hackers next told Sony to stop the &quot;movie of terrorism&quot; and threatened terror attacks against people who see <em>The Interview</em> in theaters.&#160; In response major theater chains cancelled plans to show the movie and Sony officially canceled the movie's release.&#160; President Obama criticized Sony for failing to consult the White House in deciding to censor the movie but later applauded when the movie was released on Christmas Day in theaters and online.&#160; </p><p>Starting Christmas Eve, Sony's PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live networks experienced multi-day outage via denial-of-service attacks.&#160;&#160; FBI investigating is where or not North Korea is involved.</p><p>On December 22<sup>nd</sup> and 28<sup>th</sup> North Korea suffered a nationwide internet and 3G mobile phone networks outages.&#160; In response North Korea blames the US for engineering the outages and said, &quot;Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest&quot;. &#160;&#160;US officials have not commented on whether they had a role in the outages and refuse to respond to avoid provoking a response from North Korea.</p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>Have you seen the movie&#160;<em>The Interview</em>?&#160; Why or why not?&#160;&#160;&#160; Is it responsible to release a movie about the assassination of another nation's current leader?&#160; &#160;What would your response be if North Korea released a movie about assassinating President Obama? </li><li>Which country is to blame in all the finger pointing?&#160; Is one or the other more in &quot;the right?&quot;</li><li>Should we be afraid of further escalation between the 2 countries - i.e., nuclear attacks?</li></ul><p><strong>Baptism of our Lord<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Genesis 1&#58;1-5</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Acts 19&#58;1-7</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Mark 1&#58;4-11&#160;</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>At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, John the Baptist comes as a messenger with one message&#58;&#160; <em>Get ready God is coming.</em>&#160; John is like a hand that points to Jesus – the One God sends.&#160; John says to anyone who will listen, &quot;the One who is more powerful than I is coming.&quot;&#160;&#160; John knows who he is and that his job is to finger point to Jesus.</p><p>John's words and appearance were like the prophet Elijah who also finger pointed to God doing something new.&#160; Here in Mark's story John proclaims baptism (washing) and makes it new in making baptism a moment where God's invitation to repentance and forgiveness happen.&#160;&#160; John baptizes and then points to Jesus and says &quot;I have baptized you with water… he will baptize with the Holy Spirit.&quot;&#160; Jesus baptism will be even <em>better</em> because he will baptize with the Holy Spirit.&#160; </p><p>Then Jesus is baptized.&#160; Jesus sees the heavens ripped apart and hears God say &quot;You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.&quot;&#160; In baptism God finger points to Jesus and comes to earth as a flesh and blood human being.&#160; We hear God's voice in baptism too call us beloved sons and daughters.&#160; God finger points to us and gives us new birth in the Holy Spirit to live and love like Jesus.&#160; </p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong> <br></p><ul><li>Why was a person like John sent to get people ready for Jesus and not a religious leader or ruler from Rome?&#160; Why did so many people respond to John's message?</li><li>Do you think only Jesus saw the dove-like form of the Spirit and the voice of God when he was baptized?&#160; What difference does this make?&#160; </li><li>What difference does baptism make in your daily life?&#160;&#160;&#160; What do you do each day that tells the world everyone is a beloved child of God?</li></ul><p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong> <br></p><p>Make a large, finger pointing hand out of cardstock.&#160; (Think of the foam &quot;#1&quot; fingers of sports teams).&#160; On one side write &quot;<em>points people to Jesus</em>&quot;.&#160; On the other side &quot;<em>points people away from Jesus</em>.&quot;&#160; </p><p>Now as a group write or draw ways that you as individuals, church community and nation point and fail to point the world to Jesus on each side. Brainstorm together what do you do and what do you fail to do to tell the world that everyone is given the new life of Christ?&#160; </p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p>God of the finger pointing, help us to receive the daily gift of baptism in pointing the world to your Son.&#160; As North Korea and the USA point fingers, transform our finger pointing into the love and life of turning lives around and knowing you.&#160; Thank you for messengers like John the Baptist.&#160; Help us to tell and show the world you are here and that the world is loved by you.&#160; Amen.</p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>01/06/2015January 4, 2015--Let There Be LightScott Moore--Erfurt, Germany<div class="ExternalClassFB9BB691CD7F48728719C82C5163F365"><p>​</p><p><strong>Warm-up Question</strong></p><p>&#160;<span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;">When were you ever afraid of the dark? </span> <br></p><p><strong>Let There Be Light<br></strong></p><p><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;">A 31 year-old physicist at MIT, Jeremy England, has been mixing things up a bit in the world of physics and the question of the origin of life, as we know it, here on earth (and perhaps existing elsewhere). The Big Bang followed by primordial ooze giving birth to life is not enough for the young physicist. According to England, there are even more fundamental laws of nature at work. His premise is that where there is energy (as in the form of light) and conditions for heat to be released, the inanimate can become animate. </span><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;black;">The physics world is divided and still debating his theory. If proven to have merit and accepted it could change how we talk about the origins of life. As England suggests, </span><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;">“</span><span style="font-size&#58;12pt;font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;black;">You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant.”&#160; </span><br></p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong></p><ul><li>How does the sun feel on your skin or face?<span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;"></span></li><li><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;">When do you most like being in the sun?</span><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;"></span></li><li><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;">When have you noticed the life-giving effects of sunlight?</span><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;"></span></li><li><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;">How do you feel during this ‘darker’ time of the year with less hours of sunlight each day? </span></li></ul> <p><strong>Second Sunday of Christmas<br></strong></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Jeremiah 31&#58;7-14</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">Ephesians 1&#58;3-14</a></p><p><a href="http&#58;//">John 1&#58;[1-9]10-18</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 class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#222222;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">The eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ, is what this introduction to John’s Gospel is about. These verses right at the beginning are a philosophical-theological explanation of who Jesus is. God’s word that creates, becomes flesh – a real human being, and is light. Just like the first thing that God creates in Genesis, “let there be light.” And after there’s light, then things can begin to take shape in the midst of the chaotic stuff that was “without form and was void”. A new creation is taking place. A divine word that is a light for humanity has come. “</span>What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1&#58; 3b-5) Light is life. The new light of Jesus brings life to the dark corners of our world and of our daily existence.<span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#030000;"> <br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#030000;">The gospel writer, John, says that the darkness did not ‘overcome’ it. The original word in Greek (“katalaben”) can mean “to take hold of,” “seize,” “comprehend,” or “understand.” So this Jesus-light shines in the darkness and the darkness can’t cover him up and make him go away and the darkness can’t get a hold of the Jesus-light. It doesn’t understand it. <br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#030000;">Jesus gives life and somehow that is hard to understand. The creator becomes a part of the creation. The same God that says, “let there be light,” comes to the dark corners of the world to shine into the darkness. Wherever the light of Jesus Christ shines, there you will find life. </span><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#010000;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1&#58;12). As God’s children, the ones who have received the light, we have the opportunity to point to the same light of Christ as John the Baptist does. Where we see darkness, we can shine the Jesus-light of love to dispel it. </span></p> <p><strong>Discussion Questions</strong><br></p><ul><li><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#010000;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Even though we know the light of Jesus Christ, when do you still experience moments of “darkness”?</span></li><li><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#010000;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">What are ways the light of Jesus Christ can dispel the “darkness” in our lives and the lives around us?</span><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#010000;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"></span></li><li><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#010000;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">In what ways can we increase or intensify the light of Jesus? </span></li><li><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#010000;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">What would you call darkness in the world?<br></span></li></ul> <p><strong>Activity Suggestions</strong><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#222222;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"></span></p><p><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#222222;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Candle in the darkness&#58; Take one candle and the participants into a dark place in the church (some room somewhere where light can be kept out). See how one small candle can illumine the whole room. Read the Gospel lesson again</span></p><p><strong>Closing Prayer</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family&#58;&quot;times&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;color&#58;#222222;background&#58;none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">God who is the creative Word, you have so often come to us in the dark moments in our lives. Send the loving light of your son, Jesus Christ, to us now. Enlighten our darkness now and send us out to be your children, children of your divine light. We pray this in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen</span></p> <p><br><strong></strong></p></div>12/29/2014