Contributed by Sylvia Alloway, Granada Hills, CA


Warm-up Question

We are often told, “Do your best and you’ll succeed.” Is this true? Why or why not? What other rewards are there for great effort besides winning and approval?

Above and Beyond

persevere-editAs any Olympic competitor knows, falling is terrible and falling just short of the goal is worse yet. Russian skier Anton Gafarov knows this all too well. As he entered the home stretch during the sprint portion of the cross-country skiing event, he fell on a treacherous turn. Determined to finish, Gafarov got up and continued, but his left ski was broken. The harder he tried the more damaged it became, until it shredded completely. He was about to finish the race on one ski, when Canadian ski coach Justin Wadsworth rushed to his side and quickly replaced the broken ski with one of his team’s own.

“It is just the essence of the Olympic Games, the Olympic spirit,” said Sochi 2014 spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina.  International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams was equally enthusiastic “It is entirely to be applauded… one of the [reasons] why we all love the Olympics.”

Gafarov himself, disgruntled at losing the race, didn’t sound as impressed as others. A Russian sports website quotes his reaction.  “I just had one aim — to get to the end. Some foreigner then gave me skis from a different firm.”

It’s true that Gafarov came in last – but he finished upright on skis, not limping hopelessly across the finish line.


Discussion Questions

  • What does it really mean to do your best?
  • When do you strive most to do your best? When least?
  • Why do you think Justin Wadsworth helped a member of an opposing team?
  • What do you think is meant by “Olympic spirit”?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, February 23, 2014 (Seventh Sunday after Epiphany)

 Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

(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

“Do I have to?” How many times have you said this to a parent or teacher? There are times when just about everyone wants to get away with doing the least they can. So what does Jesus have to say about his? Never mind others, you need some “me time”? Don’t bother with people you don’t like?

It’s the world that talks like that. But Jesus disagrees. Our behavior should make us stand out from the world.

The Jews to whom Jesus was preaching hated Rome. Roman law said that if a soldier asked a civilian to carry his gear, the man had to do it – for one mile. He was not compelled to go any farther. Jesus says to go two miles voluntarily with that hated Roman.

If you are insulted*, Jesus says let the person insult you again. Lend to those who can’t pay back. Love (that is, behave in a loving manner to) your enemies.

This sounded just as outrageous to Jesus’ audience as it does to us. But is it any stranger than telling an Olympic hopeful she must practice eight hours a day? Keep pushing her body until every muscle aches and then push some more? And all this to win a few minutes of glory?

Spiritual training requires that same dedication. We must show the world our heavenly Father by behaving as He behaves. Our spiritual muscles must be trained through use, just as our physical muscles are. But Jesus who has made us children of God for eternity will not make us train alone. He has been through it all before us and will support us when we fall on the way to the finish line. Through his strength and by his grace we will reach not earthly gold, but eternal glory.


*To slap a person with the back of the hand (“on the right cheek”) was meant to insult, not primarily to cause pain.

Discussion Questions

  •  Look at the phrases in this passage that have become common sayings: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” “go the extra mile,” “love your enemy.” What do people mean when they use those phrases? Why do you think they have become well known?
  • What goals in life are you striving for? What are you doing to attain those goals?
  • Do you have spiritual goals? What are they? How can you attain them?
  • We all become weary in our Christian lives sometimes. What can we do about it? How can we help each other?

Activity Suggestions

  • Ask the class for specific examples from their own experience that would require a person to obey Jesus’ words in the passage, specifically behaving in a loving manner toward people we don’t like.
  • Look again at the passage. What spiritual goals does it mention (see especially verses 45 and 48)? List the goals. Discuss what we need to ask God for as we work to attain them. Write the goals and needs for prayer on chart paper or a poster and display it in the classroom.

Closing Prayer

Blessed Savior, you ask much of us who would rather take the easy way out. But you have not left us alone. You have given us your Word, your presence and each other to bring us joy, strength and encouragement. We thank you, dear Lord, for helping us to show the world who your are and we pray for your power to act in love throughout the week, in Jesus’ holy name, Amen