Bob Chell–Sioux Falls, SD

Warm-up Question

What has been the happiest day of your life? What made it so? Does it give you any insight into how to achieve happiness in the future? Is happiness the goal or key to a fulfilling life? If not, what is?

Losing to Gain

Paul Dolan, a professor who studies happiness suggests there is a disconnect between what we think and how we feel. Sometimes the things we think will make us happy do not. Perhaps the person you’ve crushed on for months has returned your interest but over time you realize you miss other friends, hobbies or even your ‘old self.’ Dolan suggests we pay attention to what makes us happy on a daily basis. His formula for happiness suggests we organize our lives around those things which give us pleasure and purpose.


Discussion Questions

  •  How would you rate the following in their ability to provide pleasure and purpose to your life;
    1. Things
    2. Experiences
    3. Relationships
    4. Faith
  • Does the time and energy you spend focusing on these areas reflect which you value most and which you value least?
  • What is it that gives meaning to life? Happiness, Peace, Power, Faith, Love, Work, something else? Why?
  • Professor Dolan doesn’t mention faith in this article on achieving happiness. Does meaning come from deep within ourselves or from something outside and beyond ourselves?

Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Romans 4:13-25

Mark 8:31-38

(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

He was 30 years old when he came into the prison where I am pastor. He will become eligible for parole when he is 65. He will complete his sentence when he is 100 years old. One could easily say he has ‘lost his life.’ His life is routine and regimented, each day much like the last. On holidays he, like everyone else, is locked in his cell all day because shops are closed and so more staff can have the holiday off. He earns 25¢ an hour at his prison job. There are four men for every job, so he is happy to be working. The money can only be spent at the prison commissary where prices are high and selection is severely limited. One popular item, Ramen noodles, costs 37¢ each.


Here is what he has told me about coming to prison.

“This is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Coming to prison saved my life.”

“I lost everything to gain everything.”

If you are skeptical about this I don’t blame you. I would be too if I didn’t see his smile when he says these things. If I didn’t witness how he lives his life day to day. He came into the prison unfamiliar with the Christian faith. He was baptized a year ago and serves on the church council for our prison congregation now. His faith dwarfs my own and his sense of inner peace is astounding to me.

Discussion Questions

  • This man lost his life because of his crime not for Jesus’ sake, do these verses about losing your life to save it apply to him?
  • Is a cross something we freely choose or something that happens to us?
  • What is the cross in your life today? Are you carrying it or nailed to it? Explain.

Activity Suggestions

  •  Ask someone you trust and respect what gives meaning and purpose to their life? What is one piece of advice they would give to someone looking for meaning purpose and happiness in life.
  • Imagine the prisoner described above could have lived one hour of your life last week.  What hour would he choose? (My answer is below. Read it after you decide on your answer.)
  • How would you answer someone younger who asked you the key to happinessn life, success in High School, or inner peace?My answer: As a prison pastor I’ve come to realize I know 700 plus men who would relish the day to day tasks I dislike. I thought of it this week when, running late, I realized I had snow to shovel before leaving home. To me, an hour of cold, hard work and inconvenience. To the men I serve; an hour outdoors, an hour alone, an hour of quiet and peace, an hour to relish the beauty of gently falling snow, cold wind on their cheeks and the tired feeling of well used muscles.  

Closing Prayer

Jesus, open our eyes to the hiddenness of your kingdom. To joy in hard work, meaning in loss and peace in the midst of turmoil.  Amen.