Bob Chell, St. Dysmas Lutheran, South Dakota State Penitentiary

Warm-up Question

What event changed your life so much that it can never go back to the way it was before?

Life Changing Event

On March 22nd Brussels was shaken by bombing at the airport and train station which killed 31 people and injured 300.  This was the latest in a wave of terrorist bombings which have shaken European cities.  Described as the worst attack in the country since World War II, it has undercut a sense of safety in Belgium.  Hotels and restaurants worry that tourism will be affected.  The sizeable Muslim population of the country is braced for a backlash which fails to distinguish terrorists from many who practice Islam.  Still, the country is slowly moving back to some semblance of normal.  As 27-year-old freelance film-maker Khael V stated,”We have to keep our heads cool and live on. We shouldn’t give them (the terrorists) what they want, which is fear.”

Discussion Questions

  • The article states: In the four days since the attacks, life is only slowly inching back to normal.” Is this good? Is this bad? When should things be ‘back to normal.’ If never, what should the new normal be?
  • Was this event news in your world? Was it talked about in school or church? Should it have been? How much time and focus should events like this receive? What determines this? Relationships? Geography? Religion? What else?
  • Who was there for you when your life changed, never to be the same? Who wasn’t? Are you angry, sad, happy?
  • The young woman in this photo is Bethany Hamilton, shown shooting the curlshutterstock_148867814 eight years after her arm was bitten off in a shark attack when she was 13.   What factors determine if life changing events are good, bad, or a mix of both?

You can learn more about Bethany Hamilton from her book, Soul Surfer, which was also made into a film.

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]

Revelation 5:11-14

John 21:1-19

(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

When reading scripture one way to figure out its meaning is to pay attention to what catches your eye or your ear. For me it was Peter putting his clothes on to jump into the water to swim to Jesus. A bit of basic research revealed TMI about ancient fishing practices, inner and outer garments, and original meanings of the words translated as ‘naked’ and ‘put on.’ I’ll spare you the entire explanation, but want to let you know he probably tightened the belt on the working clothes necessary to get into the water before swimming to shore. Nothing there for me.

How ‘bout verse 14 though? “This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” Jesus had appeared to the disciples three times since being RAISED FROM THE DEAD and they had simply gone back to their old jobs, the ones they had before meeting Jesus three years before? How weird is that?

One of the men in prison where I am a pastor told me I nailed the lens by which the Bible should be read when I said in a sermon: “Scripture is the story of God’s relentless pursuit of people who fail to trust his promises.” I wish I could tell you the line is original with me but I don’t remember. Original or not, I know the insight came from someone else.

I find it comforting that the disciples were clueless dolts who didn’t get it the first time, or the second time, and who—even when they got it— often forgot it, only to be reminded again. That’s the way I have experienced God’s Spirit working in my life; coming again and again, giving me multiple chances to catch on, to get it, to make sense of life changing events and to find God’s promise in those events, even when hidden in deep pain and grief.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you know anyone who has transformed the deep loss or pain in their life into something positive? What do you think enabled them to do this? Ask them and report back next week.
  • Looking back to when you were a child, some deep losses seem silly now while others still carry deep hurt. How have these events changed and shaped your life for the better or for the worse?
  • If, or when, your deepest fear becomes reality what will enable or prevent you from getting back to normal, or better yet, to a new and better normal?

Activity Suggestions

  • Ask the person you thought of in the first discussion question or a parent or grandparent about these experiences in their lives and their impact. Report back next week.
  • Watch the movie, or read the book, “Soul Surfer.” Discuss what you like and dislike about it.
  • Do books and movies with super happy endings inspire you by their positive attitude or depress you because they make things look too easy?

Closing Prayer

God, we are so concerned about our own problems and worry about problems that we don’t even have that we are oblivious to the deep pain of others. Open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to those whose families are splitting, who struggle with depression, addiction, anorexia or other pain not easily seen. When we are that person, give us courage to respond when you reach out to us through others and to recognize your presence in our lives. Amen.