John Wertz, Blacksburg, VA


Warm-up Question

If you woke up from a 30-year coma and turned on the news, what do you think would surprise you most about the world today?

Working Together Despite Disagreement

shutterstock_394199542On Tuesday, November 8, Americans will go to the polls to vote elect a new president.  Whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is elected, chances are that at least 40% of the country will be bitterly disappointed with the result.  Sadly this election season may have set a new record for mean-spirited exchanges, dirty tactics and vocalized anger.  Instead of offering solutions for how we might feed the hungry, lift up the poor, or work for peace in the world, the campaigns have focused on personal attacks, on lifting up negative news about our country, and on reinforcing partisanship.  If one estimate is correct, our country will have spent $5 billion dollars on this campaign season which has sowed seeds of division and highlighted the worst traits of our political system.

Regardless of who wins the election, there are real issues in our country which need to be addressed.

  • How do we provide assistance to those who are unemployed or underemployed?
  • How do we lift up those without a voice who are left out of mainstream life?
  • How do we work for racial equality and erase socio-economic segregation?
  • How do we create safe communities for all citizens and safe working conditions for those who serve and protect others?
  • How do we prioritize governmental functions like protection, infrastructure, and social services?
  • How do we care for those who are sick in mind, body, or spirit?

The answers to these questions and hundreds of others will be hard to find, but one thing is sure, they will not be found without cooperation and compromise.

The campaign we just experienced and the last 30 plus years of political discourse have created an “us verses them” mentality in the political realm, but regardless of which political party you support, you and I are each citizens of the same country, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.   We may not all agree about tax rates, military budgets, or health care, but if we commit to working together, to showing love to our enemies, to offering kindness in the face of hate, and to treating others the way we want to be treated, then despite our disagreements we can began to seek the common good and build up the whole community.

Discussion Questions

  • Would you ever consider going into politics? Why or why not?
  • If you could change one thing about our political system, what would it be?
  • If you had 5 billion dollars to spend to make the world better, how would you invest it?

All Saints Sunday

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

(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

During his ministry, Jesus encountered plenty of opposition.  Some religious leaders saw him as a threat and disagreed with his teaching.  Some political leaders worried that he might start a rebellion.  Some neighbors were stirred to anger by his words and refused to hear him.  In his place, you or I might have given up on our mission, but not Jesus.  Jesus continues to speak God’s Word in the face of opposition – lifting up a vision of God’s kingdom and calling God’s people to faithfulness.  Jesus words may not have always made him friends, but they provided hope, inspired introspection, and offered a better way forward for the world.

For those who were struggling in life, the hope Jesus proclaimed was undeniable. “Blessed are you who are poor,” Jesus said, “for yours is the kingdom of God.”(Luke 6:20)  In that time, kingdoms weren’t for the poor.  Kingdoms were for the rich and the social elite and if you weren’t born into money or status, it was virtually impossible to change you station in life.  Jesus, however, makes it clear that God’s kingdom welcomes the poor and the outcast, not just the rich and well-connected.  God’s kingdom is a place where all are on equal footing and welcomed to God’s table of grace.  For the poor, the weeping, the reviled, and the excluded in this life Jesus is essentially reaching out with loving arms, embracing them and helping them  know they are loved by God.

For those who are rich and prosperous, Jesus’ words invite introspection and repentance.  “But woe to you who are rich,” Jesus says, “for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24)  In that time if you were wealthy, it was thought to be a sign that God favored you.  Jesus, however, offers a different interpretation.  Wealth, Jesus seems to be saying, is fleeting, so if you have invested your whole heart in simply accumulating and enjoying the riches of this world, then you have invested poorly.  Instead of investing your heart in worldly wealth, invest in building a relationship with God and in sharing the gifts you have been given.  The abundance of God eternal kingdom far exceeds what you can accumulate for yourself in this world.

Interestingly, Jesus follows his words of hope and his call for repentance by offering advice for all of God’s people to help them live more effectively in relationship with one another.  Love your enemies,” Jesus says, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. . . . Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-28, 31).  Worldly kingdoms and political parties may try to eliminate their enemies, may speak out against those who disagree with them, and may strike back against those who oppose them, but God’s kingdom is different.  Whether you see yourself on the “blessed” side of the equation or the “woe” side of the equation, Jesus suggests that the way forward in life is love, not hate; generosity, not selfishness; prayer, not retribution.

The problems in our world today are complex. The division between groups is deep, but if we can commit to following Jesus’ advice and treating others the way that we want to be treated, then perhaps we can start to make progress in building both healthier, stronger relationships with one another and a healthier, better world for all God’s people.

Discussion Questions

  • When you are facing problems, where do you find hope and help?
  • Loving your enemy is hard. What does it look like for you to love your enemy?  What does it look like for a country to love its enemy?
  • How do you want others to treat you at school, at church and at home? Give one example of how you might treat someone in the way that you want to be treated.

Activity Suggestions

  • Circle of Complements:

Option 1: Have the group sit in a circle and invite each person to offer a complement to the person next to them.  If the group doesn’t know each other well, you might need to prompt that you could offer one positive statement about the other person’s appearance.

Option 2: Have the group sit in a circle and invite each person to offer one positive statement about themselves.  Encourage the group to affirm and support the statements.

  • Declare Random Act of Kindness Day:

Invite the members of the group to undertake one random act of kindness per day for an entire week. Encourage the group to be prepared to talk about what they did and how it made them feel the next time the group gathers.

Closing Prayer

Loving God, we give you thanks for your presence with us in times of joy and in times of need.  Be with our country as we prepare for the presidential election.  Regardless of the results, help us all seek ways to work together to build up the whole community.  Inspire each of us, by your love and by Jesus’ teachings, to care for one another and to treat others as we would like to be treated.  Amen.