Jocelyn Breeland, Sunnyvale, CA

 Warm-up Question

Would it bother you if there was no more chocolate?

A World Without Chocolate?

Business Insider alarmed chocolate lovers around the globe recently with a New Year’s Eve story claiming chocolate would become extinct on earth by the year 2050. The claim was based on a 2016 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a 2014 report of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It suggested that climate change would result in increased temperatures in cacao growing regions, making them unsuitable for the plants necessary for chocolate production.

Much of the Business Insider story focused on research, a collaboration of Mars, Inc. (producer of Snickers, M&Ms and other chocolate candies) and the University of California, Berkeley, to genetically modify cacao to thrive in the new climate conditions.

Many news outlets repeated the story, causing panic among chocolate lovers worldwide. However, subsequent articles in a number of other outlets have taken the edge off the alarm caused by the original report. They point out that, although climate change may make it harder to grow cacao in Ghana and Ivory Coast, where more than half the world’s chocolate originates, there are other regions in the world capable of growing the plants. Some point out that a scientific finding of extinction means there have been no sightings of the plant for at least 50 years. That won’t happen for a while, perhaps not in our lifetimes.

So perhaps, while there is cause for serious concern – and need for action to avoid disaster – you will likely still be able to find Snickers bars for some time to come.

Discussion Questions

  • How concerned are you about the affects of climate change on crops like chocolate?
  • Think about all the people who work to bring chocolate to your local store. How would the absence of chocolate affect their lives?
  • Does the fact that the original article was published by an outlet that focuses on business, and that it devotes most of the story to the actions of Mars, Inc., affect how you think about it?
  • What can you do to improve chocolate’s chances of survival? What does God call us to do as stewards of this planet?
  • Does being called as a disciple of Jesus make any difference in how you reads this article and how you might respond?

Third Sunday of Epiphany

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Mark 1:14-20

(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

Jesus’ choice of disciples was a very important one. These were the men he relied on to support him and his ministry. And after his ascension, they were the essential apostles, spreading the good news of the gospel, sharing his teachings and establishing Christian communities far beyond Galilee.

Given all this, it is a little surprising how spontaneously Jesus apparently calls Simon, Andrew, James and John. In our modern understanding, recruitment involves a carefully crafted advertisement and often multiple rounds of interviews and testing to ensure the best candidate is identified. Applicants today are also advised to do their research to make sure they understand their prospective employers’ expectations, that they’re being offered a reasonable career promotion and salary, and that they will be compatible with the organization’s culture.

What qualification did these fishermen, struggling daily to make a living, have to offer? And how did Jesus convince them to leave what was familiar to them and do something that had never been done before?

Mark’s focus on Jesus’ simple call and the disciples’ immediate, unquestioning response invites us to consider two important realities of our own relationships with Christ. First, when he calls us to ministry, he already knows that we are uniquely qualified to fulfill his plan. Second, when we hear God’s call, we can step forward confidently in faith, knowing that – even if we don’t fully understand his vision – he has invited us to experience the glory of serving him.

Discussion Questions

  • Based on your understanding of the New Testament, what were the disciples’ qualifications for their roles?
  • Was there anything they could have done earlier in their lives to prepare them for their ministry?
  • What are some of the questions and doubts in your mind when you try to discern God’s purpose in your life?
  • How can your community – your friends and family, your school and church – help or hinder your ability to hear and answer God’s call?

Activity Suggestions

Working individually or in small groups, create an ad for the job of disciple, then share it with the group. (For inspiration, think of any job ads you may have seen – for the Army, for McDonald’s, any employer.)

For a television ad, write a script and act it out. For a radio ad, write and then read the ad like a radio announcer. For a newspaper or magazine ad, write the copy, ad images if necessary, and present the layout. Typical radio and television ads are 30 seconds. For newspaper or magazine, imagine you are creating a full-page ad.

Each ad should answer these questions:

  • What is the organization’s mission?
  • What are the job duties?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What type of person should apply?

As each group makes its presentation, discuss which aspects of their ads are most compelling? Is this a job you would apply for?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for the many blessings and gifts you have given each of us. Give us ears to hear your call, and hearts for service to do your will. We are here, Lord, we are listening, and we are ready to say, “Yes!” Amen.