November 2, 2014–Thanks in the Midst of Trial

Posted on October 28, 2014 by faithlens

Jay McDivett, Waukesha, WI

Warm-up Question

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do? What got you through it? When it was over, how did you feel?

Thanks in the Midst of Trial

After 21 long days of quarantine, over 40 people who may have been exposed to the deadly Ebola virus were released with a clean bill of health last week. Several others still wait to be cleared.

Even though the threat of an Ebola epidemic in the United States is extremely minimal, media attention has created a state of panic for many in this country, worrying about the safety of travel, immigrants, and casual contact with folks at the supermarket or at church. (Several pastors report parishioners wanting to do away with the passing of peace and intinction or common cup Communion because of fears of Ebola and other communicable diseases.)

But for those who were in contact with Thomas Duncan (the one Ebola patient to die on U.S. soil), the fear was very real. It’s over now. This is especially real for Louise Troh, Duncan’s fiancée. “Praise to God. I am free. I am so happy… All thanks to God,” Troh said, according to a spokesperson who spoke to ABC News.

Thankful, but still mourning the loss of her fiancée. Other folks are still under quarantine, with their movements restricted and their hearts and families anxious about whether or not they’re sick.

And the rest of the country waits to see what will happen next.

 

Discussion Questions

  • On a scale of 1-10, how worried are you about Ebola?
  • How would you feel if you were Louise Troh? Or one of the people who are still on quarantine?
  • Think of a time when you were really scared about something… and then everything turned out okay. How did that feel?

November 2, 1014–All Saints Sunday

Revelation 7:9–17
1 John 3:1–3
Matthew 5:1–12

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. 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 Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

 

Gospel Reflection

The book of Revelation is scary. And weird. And totally wonderful.  More than anything, it is a bold and constant proclamation of a foundational promise: God is in charge. From beginning to end of the book of Revelation, we hear the same word: God is the beginning and end.

That doesn’t mean that what happens in the middle doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean that death and disease, war and worry are nothing.  It means that all of this is the “great ordeal” that we fumble through. Some days are wonderful and blissful and full of nothing but blessing. Some days just plain suck. Most days have some of both.  And the Lamb of God reigns and rules above it all; God is with us and among us through it all, and is working to bring us through it all.

November 1 is All Saints’ Day – celebrated in church on November 2 this year. It is the day to remember how God was present with all those who have gone before us – through all their trials and tribulations, all their fears and failings. And to remember how God is present with us now, too – surrounding us with this “great cloud of witnesses” – inspiring us with the stories of how they endured all manner of “great ordeals” and came out on the other side, dressed in the white robes they were given when they were baptized. This promise is ours, too. No matter what we face, the “Alpha and Omega” – the “Beginning and the End” – will be with us.

In the face of that, Ebola ain’t got nothin’ on us. Seriously.

Discussion Questions

  • Tell a story of a “great ordeal” (a trial or test, a disease or defeat) that someone close to you has “come through.” What gave them strength?
  • All Saints’ is a time to remember those who have completed their baptismal journeys. Tell the story of someone close to you who has died. Where was God in their life? What did you learn from them about faith?
  • How could you help someone who is going through a “great ordeal”? How can you be present with people who are struggling to be faithful when life kind of (or really) stinks?

Activity Suggestions

Materials: Paper, writing utensils, crayons/markers/colored pencils/paint, magazines/scissors/glue sticks, whatever you need to express yourself.

Create a stained-glass window of a saint. It could be a saint of the church, or a saint in your life. Anyone who has died whose faith has taught you something about your own faith.  Invite folks to share their saints with each other.

Closing Prayer

God: Your love and grace make broken people holy – saints. Thank you for that. Help us all to be better than we could ever be on our own. When we are afraid or challenged, bring us through. Keep us, and all who have gone before us, safe. Amen.

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