Amy Martinell, Sioux Falls, SD


Warm-up Questions

What is something you feel like you need more of?  More time?  More sleep?  More money, etc.?  What would you be able to do if you had more of that desired item?

Finding Strength to Stand Firm

shutterstock_483303772The proposed Dakota Access Pipeline is an underground pipeline which will transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil each day from North Dakota, across South Dakota and Iowa, to Illinois.  According to the project developer the pipeline is the safest, most cost-effective and environmentally responsible way to move crude oil, removing dependency on rails and trucks.  In addition, the developer claims the pipeline will bring significant economic benefits to the region it covers.

On the other side of the story, environmentalists and Native American tribes strongly oppose construction of the pipeline and have vehemently protested.  The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, located in North Dakota, filed a complaint in federal court, claiming that the pipeline both threatens the tribe’s drinking water and crosses burial grounds and other sacred sites. Furthermore, the tribe alleges the Army Corps did not properly consult with them before approving the project.

A federal appeals court has halted construction of the pipeline  within 20 miles of Lake Oahe along the Missouri River to give the court more time to rule on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an emergency injunction until the court case is decided.  This was a victory for Standing Rock, as their injunction was denied in a lower court.

Previously unlikely, it now appears that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will get its day in court before the pipeline is completed.  By standing firm for what they believed, members of the tribe will get a chance to raise their voice and tell their story.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you think we should balance our need for fuel sources with environmental concerns?
  • How do you think the courts should rule?  Should the pipeline be moved to avoid the tribe’s sacred sites?

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

(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 B at Lectionary Readings

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

Gospel Reflection

The disciples ask Jesus for more faith.  This is not a ridiculous request.  Jesus has just laid out what it means to be a disciple: be careful not to cause others to stumble, forgive those who wrong you again and again.  It seems like more than they are capable of doing.  So they ask for a little more faith, but Jesus assures them if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can uproot trees.  Don’t worry; you have all the faith you need.

Faith is a funny thing.  The disciples were capable of great acts of faith: they left their homes and lives to follow Jesus.  Yet, when their boat was rocked by a storm, they were seized with fear and panic. Jesus dozing nearby offered no comfort.  When Jesus wakes up and calms the storm, he asks, “Where is your faith?”  Even with Jesus by us, fear makes it hard to believe.  But if more faith isn’t the solution, what is?

Jesus uses the example of a slave, which does not appeal to modern ears.  Of course, we reject slavery, but we want to understand the concept behind this image.  Luke uses the example of a slave to talk of one fully devoted to another. In the Bible a slave for Christ is fully devoted to God.

So the question is not do we have enough faith, but how is our faith, even if it is only the size of a mustard seed, shaping our lives?  Are our thoughts and actions transformed by God?  Living devoted to God means believing God walks with us even through storms of fear and doubt.

The easy way out is to ask for more; “We could do this, God, if you’d just make our faith a little stronger.”  The challenge is to believe we have enough, that we are enough, that those tasks that seem impossible are indeed possible with God.  Whether that impossibility is uprooting trees, getting our story heard, or standing strong through fear and doubt, when we walk with God we are enough to do the impossible.

Discussion Questions

  • Have there been times you have wanted more faith?
  • How does your faith in God shape the decisions you make?

Activity Suggestions

  • Have youth list areas where stories need to be told, places where they see injustices, and other things that concern them.  Encourage them to do this on the local, national, and international level.  Brainstorm ways they can be an advocate and raise their voices for these things that concern them.
  • Studies show teens and adults see over 300 ads a day between all of the media sources they are consuming.  These ads are all trying to tell us we need more.  Using a few media sources (internet, magazine, television) explore with your class some of the ads they are exposed to daily.  What messages are they sending us? Discuss how these messages conflict with the message Jesus brings: that we are enough, that we are a beloved child of God just as we are.  Talk about how  we live devoted to God, when we hear hundreds of times a day we are not enough, that we need more?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God, thank you for the gift of faith.  Help us to walk with you daily and to serve your world.  Surround us with your love so we can be assured we are enough.