Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Lord is my _____

Good Shepherd Sunday! Love this collection of Good Shepherd passages. But for a lesson, we had already covered it. (The Baaaa study.) As much as I LOVE theKing James translation, it is hard for modern folk to connect to the shepherd imagery. So I was thinking about a lesson where we looked for a new metaphor; the Lord is my ______.

The problem is that (a) shepherd is really good, and gets better the more you know about it, and (b) I struggled with coming up with a new metaphor. I am not opposed to giving students things with which I struggle, but I do use that to get at appropriate difficulty.

Karen had the idea to use Prayer Out of the Box to get at praises of God... which worked pretty well. It was hard to get the students completely engaged today, but it is an amazing collection of scripture for praise. They picked two cards, and then selected one passage from the choices on each of their cards.

We then made a poster of it afterwards! They weren't too much into that either (beginning to think it's the teacher), but Xavi and Yzzy helped me finish it up afterwards.

Praise His name!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not Zombies

The Apostle’s Creed is an ancient summation of what we as Christian’s believe. The Nicene Creed that is more common in church is an expansion on this from 325 AD.
1.    I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2.    I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
3.    He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4.    He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5.    He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.
6.    He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7.    He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
8.    I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9.    the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
10.    the forgiveness of sins,
11.    the resurrection of the body,
12.    and life everlasting. Amen.

1)    Today we’re going to look into 11 & 12. What do you think about them?

There was definitely something different about Jesus after Easter.
John 20:11-18
11Mary, however, stood there and cried as she looked at the tomb. As she cried, she bent over and looked inside. 12She saw two angels in white clothes. They were sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying. One angel was where Jesus’ head had been, and the other was where his feet had been. 13The angels asked her why she was crying.  Mary told them, “They have removed my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”  14After she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. However, she didn’t know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus asked her, “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Mary thought it was the gardener speaking to her. So she said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I’ll remove him.”  16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” Mary turned around and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This word means “teacher.”)

17Jesus told her, “Don’t hold on to me. I have not yet gone to the Father. But go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”  18Mary from Magdala went to the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord.” She also told them what he had said to her.
2)    What do you think was different about Jesus? Why did Mary finally recognize him?

One of the things people might have thought when Jesus was came back from the dead is that he was a ghost.
Luke 24:36-48
36While they were talking about what had happened, Jesus stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you!” 37They were terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost.  38He asked them, “Why are you afraid? Why do you have doubts? 39Look at my hands and feet, and see that it’s really me. Touch me, and see for yourselves. Ghosts don’t have flesh and bones, but you can see that I do.” 40As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet.

41The disciples were overcome with joy and amazement because this seemed too good to be true. Then Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish. 43He took it and ate it while they watched him.

44Then he said to them, “These are the words I spoke to you while I was still with you. I told you that everything written about me in Moses’ Teachings, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to come true.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46He said to them, “Scripture says that the Messiah would suffer and that he would come back to life on the third day. 47Scripture also says that by the authority of Jesus people must be told to turn to God and change the way they think and act so that their sins will be forgiven. This must be told to people from all nations, beginning in the city of Jerusalem.48You are witnesses to these things.
3)    What are the important details to you?

But in the Creed it is not talking about Jesus, but about us. Paul writes:
Philippians 3:18-21
18I have often told you, and now tell you with tears in my eyes, that many live as the enemies of the cross of Christ. 19In the end they will be destroyed. Their own emotions are their god, and they take pride in the shameful things they do. Their minds are set on worldly things. 20We, however, are citizens of heaven. We look forward to the Lord Jesus Christ coming from heaven as our Savior. 21Through his power to bring everything under his authority, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his glorified body.
4)    What could this mean?

1st Corinthians 15:12-26, 29-34
12If we have told you that Christ has been brought back to life, how can some of you say that coming back from the dead is impossible? 13If the dead can’t be brought back to life, then Christ hasn’t come back to life. 14If Christ hasn’t come back to life, our message has no meaning and your faith also has no meaning. 15In addition, we are obviously witnesses who lied about God because we testified that he brought Christ back to life. But if it’s true that the dead don’t come back to life, then God didn’t bring Christ back to life. 16Certainly, if the dead don’t come back to life, then Christ hasn’t come back to life either. 17If Christ hasn’t come back to life, your faith is nonsense and sin still has you in its power. 18Then those who have died as believers in Christ no longer exist. 19If Christ is our hope in this life only, we deserve more pity than any other people.
5)    Paul’s making a logical argument here. What’s the point and how does he argue it?

 20But now Christ has come back from the dead. He is the very first person of those who have died to come back to life. 21Since a man brought death, a man also brought life back from death. 22As everyone dies because of Adam, so also everyone will be made alive because of Christ. 23This will happen to each person in his own turn. Christ is the first, then at his coming, those who belong to him will be made alive. 24Then the end will come. Christ will hand over the kingdom to God the Father as he destroys every ruler, authority, and power. 25Christ must rule until God has put every enemy under his control. 26The last enemy he will destroy is death.
6)    What does this passage have to do with Harry Potter?
7)    What does he mean here? What does it have to do with the resurrection of the body?

 29However, people are baptized because the dead will come back to life. What will they do? If the dead can’t come back to life, why do people get baptized as if they can come back to life?
30Why are we constantly putting ourselves in danger? 31Brothers and sisters, I swear to you on my pride in you which Christ Jesus our Lord has given me: I face death every day. 32If I have fought with wild animals in Ephesus, what have I gained according to the way people look at things? If the dead are not raised, “Let’s eat and drink because tomorrow we’re going to die!” 33Don’t let anyone deceive you. Associating with bad people will ruin decent people. 34Come back to the right point of view, and stop sinning. Some people don’t know anything about God. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
8)    “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die,” is a famous phrase and oft quoted. Is that what Paul is recommending? 

9)    Do you agree with his point about associating with bad people?

10)    I will freely admit that this is the part of my faith I least understand. Yet I believe it on the authority of the Bible. Is it okay to believe something of which you haven’t made sense?

11)    Jot down one thing to remember from this study.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Psalms and Praise

From Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis became a Christian as an adult. As a new believer, he had a lot of trouble with the idea that we should praise God, and, worse, that God Himself demands it.  After all, we usually can’t stand people with that attitude.
1)    Why do you think that we are instructed by scripture to praise the Lord?

Lewis notes that you hear a lot of praise every day.
2)    What have you praised or heard praised this week – whether it deserved it or not?

The Psalms are especially thick with this: “Praise the Lord,” “Praise the Lord with me,” and “Praise Him” is everywhere.  Lewis asks:  why is the praise so often telling other people to praise Him? God says “He who offers me thanks and praise honors me,” in Ps 50: 23.  Sometimes the psalmists warn God that if he lets his followers die he will be in danger of getting no praise.  Read:
•    Ps 30:8-10,
•    Ps 88:10-14, and
•    Ps 119:174-175.
3)    How is this different than a pagan asking their gods to do something for them and then they will make an offering to the gods.  Isn’t this bargaining with the Lord?

Lewis tries to understand the idea of praise from thinking first about a beautiful object.  Something can be so beautiful that it deserves admiration.  He clarifies that this is very different from being admired, as many worthless things are admired by many.  But sometimes admiration and appreciation is the correct response to this thing.  People who don’t or can’t admire beautiful things often get our sympathy – the blind who can’t see the Grand Canyon and the deaf who can’t hear Mozart.  But God is the most deserving and demanding of praise.  How much should we pity those who can’t see or feel this?
4)    Read Ps 119:169-176 in this context.  Why is the Lord deserving of praise?

The idea that God needs our praise is addressed in Ps 50: 7- 14.
5)    How does Ps 50 contradict the idea that He needs our praise?

When we think about the people we know in terms of whether they are praisers or not, we can divide them into personality type by whether or not they have praise for things in their lives.
6)    Characterize those who praise least:  what are they like?

7)    Characterize people you know who are full of praise:  what are they like? 

He also notes that praisers usually want people to join them. “Isn’t she lovely?”  “How cool is that?”  “Wasn’t that awesome?”  The urge to have others do the same is natural when we’re praising.  Praise completes the enjoyment.  When we love something, we want to tell others, need to share our excitement. 
8)    What is something that you’ve liked so much you told your friends or family how great it is?

In commanding us to glorify Him, God is commanding us to enjoy Him.  And our praise and worship here is a foretaste of what is to come.  If you can enjoy the orchestra warming up, it’s because of anticipation for the concert to come.  If we enjoy the praise and worship now, how great is that to come?
9)    What has the Lord done in your life for which you can praise Him?

10) Jot down one thing you want to remember about praise.

In closing, we can read Psalm 65 together.  A song of David.
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion;  to you our vows will be fulfilled.
Oh you who hear prayer, to you all men will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you chose and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of nations.
Those living far away fear your wonders;  
where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.

You care for the land and water it;  you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, 
for so have you ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.
Photocredit: kelly_lovefusionphoto @ Flickr

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Passion

One Page Wonder

This lesson has a bit of the "Crossing the Streams" feeling for me. In teaching there is a kind of project called a foldable, and this is my favorite kind of foldable, the one page wonder. The idea is for the students to make their own mini-book. It being Palm Sunday, the lesson is on the Passion. They were pretty involved and made some interesting scripture selections. Intentionally there's too much for them to use, so that they will read and make choices about importance and what goes in. I've also go images of the one I made with them. I made mine at the same time instead of ahead of time so that there would be less imitation and more creation. I wrote in the passage from Mark 14:61-63 because I forgot it on the first version of the scripture passages. It's really one of the key passages to me, since Jesus identifies so strongly with how the Lord named himself to Moses.

Here's the scripture:

Here's a form with some gridlines and directions. But really any sheet of paper will do. (There really are gridlines, but it's a faint grey.)

And then here's my example.

A quick look in action.

Too late for me, but not for you; just saw this beautiful little video that's a visualization of Mark's Passion narrative:

Image credit: What Good Foundation @ Flickr


A bit late for this study, but it's good anytime during Lent. The idea is a powerful one from Philip Yancey, and the starter question was a good one all by itself.

What does it teach us about Jesus?

0) Picture Jesus. Describe what you see.

 This study is adapted from Chapter 4 of Philip Yancey’s book The Jesus I Never Knew.  The idea of the book is that Mr. Yancey tries to set aside all his preconceptions about Jesus, and then look freshly at scripture to see what God’s Word has to say.

1)    Before we read the account freshly, what comes to you when you think of Jesus’ temptation in the desert?

Mark mentions the temptation briefly in Mark 1:12-13, but Matthew gives a fuller account in Matthew 4:1-11.  Take a moment to read Matthew’s account, which follows the story of Jesus being baptized by John.

Matthew 4:
1Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2Jesus did not eat anything for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end of that time, he was hungry.  3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

 4Jesus answered, “Scripture says, ‘A person cannot live on bread alone but on every word that God speaks.’ ”

 5Then the devil took him into the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple. 6He said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, jump! Scripture says, ‘He will put his angels in charge of you. They will carry you in their hands so that you never hit your foot against a rock.’ ”

 7Jesus said to him, “Again, Scripture says, ‘Never tempt the Lord your God.’ ”

8Once more the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms in the world and their glory. 9The devil said to him, “I will give you all this if you will bow down and worship me.”

 10Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! Scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ ”

 11Then the devil left him, and angels came to take care of him.

2)    What other bible passages or stories does this remind you of?

3)    Are the tasks Satan asks Jesus to do evil in and off themselves?  What does that mean about why the devil is asking them?

4)    What did the Jews think the Messiah was going to be like? How do the temptations relate to the expectations?

5)    Yancey contrasts his own temptations (the most common human ones), which revolve around lust and greed and so on, with those of Jesus.  One way he thinks about this is that Jesus’ temptations were connected with his mission in becoming human.  What connections do you see?

6)    Yancey describes Jesus reaction to his temptations as the “miracle of restraint.”  He could have done the tasks, he could have crushed Satan, but he didn’t.  Yancey notes that power can force obedience, but only love can evoke love.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?

7)    Where else in scripture do we see restraint as a response from Jesus or from the Father?

James 1:
12Blessed are those who endure when they are tested. When they pass the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13When someone is tempted, he shouldn’t say that God is tempting him. God can’t be tempted by evil, and God doesn’t tempt anyone. 14Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him. 15Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin. When sin grows up, it gives birth to death.

 16My dear brothers and sisters, don’t be fooled. 17Every good present and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who made the sun, moon, and stars. The Father doesn’t change like the shifting shadows produced by the sun and the moon.

 18God decided to give us life through the word of truth to make us his most important creatures.

8)    How does his advice relate to Jesus’ temptation in the desert?

9)    Jot down one thing you’d like to remember from this study.

Photo credit: biblevector @ Flickr