Contributed by Dave Dodson, Fort Walton Beach, FL


Warm-up Question

Have you even had to work with someone with whom you did not get along?  How did you handle the situation?

Walk the Talk

shutterstock_161243480editIn 1996, the Ku Klux Klan, an ultra-racist group, decided to hold a rally in Keisha Thomas’ home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Keisha, an African-American woman, was 18 years old at the time.  She and her friends decided to take a stand against the members of the Klan who has arranged this rally to say hateful things about people like her.  With other members of their town, Keisha and her friends created signs and tied bandanas around their faces, ready to protest the Klan rally.

The Klan rally and the town’s protest started off peacefully.  Though both sides were angry and tensions were running high, the groups were staying apart and their feuding was limited to words.

And then something happened.  From the back of the protesting group, a woman with a megaphone shouted, “There’s a Klansman in the crowd!”  The protesters turned.  Sure enough, there was a man standing near their protest wearing Southern-style clothing, with Confederate flags adorning his clothing.  To the protesters, this was the symbol of the hatred the KKK represented.  Howling with anger at this man, the protesters turned and began to chase him.

At first, Keisha ran with the group.  She was intending to help chase this man away from their protest.  But then the man was knocked to the ground.  He fell, and the crowd surrounded him.  The angry crowd began to scream insults at him, kick him, and hit him with sticks and their protest signs.

It was too much for Keisha.  As she put it, “Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘This isn’t right.’”  Keisha did just that.  She threw herself upon the fallen man, shielding him with her body.  She protected him from being hit any more, and she shouted at the crowd to stop and to leave him alone.

Keisha knew it was important to remember why she was at the protest at the first place.  She was protesting the hatred that she had seen come from groups like the KKK.  “I knew what it was like to be hurt,” she says. “The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me.”

In this moment, Keisha found the strength to stand up for her convictions, even when it meant going against the crowd.


Discussion Questions

  • When Keisha tells this story, she speaks of the “mob mentality” – that people act differently (and more harshly) when in large groups.  Why do you believe this is?
  • Why do you think Keisha felt the responsibility to protect this man?
  • Dr. Martin Luther King once said that “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  Do you think that Keisha’s actions would have changed the man she protected?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 9, 2014 (First Sunday in Lent)

Genesis 2:15-17

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

(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

Immediately after being baptized, Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  He is away from his family and friends.  Since this occurs before his calling of the disciples, that means that Jesus is completely devoid of any human company for forty days.  And if that weren’t challenging enough, Jesus also fasts for forty days and forty nights.

Talk about a challenge of faith!  During this time of solitude and fasting, Jesus is approached by a figure that Matthew calls “the tempter” and “the devil”.  Three times, this figure tries to tempt Jesus to stray from God’s path for him. 

The first time doesn’t sound so bad.  Since Jesus is hungry, the tempter tries to convince him to turn stones into bread.  We know that Jesus could do that, of course – he would later go on to give sight to the blind and bring back Lazarus from the dead!  Yet Jesus’ refuses to perform this miraculous transformation.  He could have done it easily, but he chose instead to stay on the path that the Holy Spirit had set for him.

The second time, the tempter tries harder.  He suggests that Jesus should prove that he is the chosen one of God.  Just leap from a cliff – the prophecies of the Old Testament say that God will protect His messiah.  Again Jesus refuses, choosing to rely on faith rather than trying to test God.

Finally, the tempter abandons all subtlety.  He offers earthly power beyond compare if Jesus will kneel before him.  Of course, Jesus knows that true power belongs only to God, and it is only God to whom we should devote ourselves and direct our worship.

Perhaps the most important thing about this story is how Jesus resists these temptations.  In all three instances, Jesus’ answer to the tempter is to quote Scripture.  Alone and hungry, in one of his most trying times, Jesus leans upon the Word of God for support and guidance.

How inspiring!  Like the story of Keisha Thomas above, we get a wonderful glimpse of what is possible when someone truly “walks the talk” and lives out their beliefs.  It is how we act when we are confronted with difficulty and opposition that shows how faithful we truly are to our ideals.  Are we prepared to be faithful, even when the road is difficult?

Discussion Questions

  • Jesus relied on Scripture for support during these temptations.  Are there any Biblical passages that you remember and rely on for support and guidance in trying times?
  • What is the easiest part about being a Christian in your life?  What is the hardest part?

Activity Suggestions

Collect verses of strength, consolation, and guidance from members of your class.  Seek input from adult classes, too.  Write each verse onto a piece business card stock (available at any office supply store).  Place the cards into a bowl and distribute them randomly throughout your class.  Keep the cards in your wallet, purse, or car.  You might tape them to your mirror at home to refer to them whenever you need strength to face a tough situation.

Closing Prayer

God our Father and Guide, we thank you for the guidance you have provided for us in our lives.  We thank you for your Word, which offers us direction.  We thank you for your Son, who offers us inspiration.  And we thank you for our ability to love, which calls us to action.  We ask that you always show us how we can be your hands, outstretched to a world in need of you.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.