Josh Kestner, Clemson, SC

Warm-up Question

  • Who are some people that you look up to in your life? What have they done to make you respect them?
  • Tell about a time when your faith and values did not line up with your experience of reality. How did you feel? What did you do?

Resilient Women

I am in awe of the Muslim women involved in protests surrounding the wearing of the hijab. They are heroes who are showing strength and resilience in the midst of persistent pushback.

One of the things that has struck me is that there is no one, universal stance. Women are asking for the power to choose how to live out their faith. There are women in Iran who refuse to be forced to wear a hijab. And at the same time there are women in India who wear their hijabs despite being banned from doing so. While justice may look different in both of these societies, the message is clear: stand up for yourself and for others when change needs to happen. These women are putting their lives at risk to defy the way things are and the way things have always been. 

What gives these women the confidence and courage that they need to demand change in their communities?

I often wonder what motivates someone to join or lead a protest. Do they have a loved one in their life who has acted as a role model? Perhaps these women have mothers who have also shown strength in different ways. Or have they learned about heroes from other moments in history? They’re merely waiting for their own opportunities to act and fight. Whatever the answer, God bless these women and others who sacrifice their time and energy to make a difference in the world – not only for themselves but for many generations to come.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some examples of big changes that have happened in the history of the world? What did people do to make them happen?
  • Name a change that you’d like to see in the world? What is something that you’re passionate about – something that you’ve spent time educating yourself about and that you feel comfortable talking about with other people?
  • Have you ever participated in a protest? Or have you ever known someone who has? What was it like?
  • What are some ways besides a public protest that you might be able to make change happen in your own community?

Reformation Sunday

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36

(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

The gospel for this week is chosen to help celebrate the Reformation. The Reformation is the period of history when Martin Luther and many other people helped to work for change in the greater Church. The changes helped make it so people (ordinary people like you and me) could develop a more personal and relational sense of faith in their lives.

Because of its roots in the Reformation, I think that one of the most important traits of the Lutheran church is that it should always be open to change. Lutherans balance tradition and innovation fairly evenly. So, when there is a shift in the world they are ready to adapt. That doesn’t mean that pastors and bishops are always right. We are too often slow to move in the right direction. But when we are wrong, we are committed to holding ourselves accountable and following the Holy Spirit wherever it leads. (Take a look at the ELCA’s Declaration to People of African Descent from 2019 as an example of an act of reformation and reconciliation.)

It can be easy to get stuck in the flow of how things are and how they’ve always been. John 8:31-36 references descendants of Abraham who believe that their history and lineage has earned them some kind of future reward. They are not eager to do what Jesus is asking of them. 

Reading the gospel with the Reformation in mind encourages us to be proactive when it comes to change. While some of us may feel comfortable and affirmed in our current realities, there are countless others who are struggling with poverty, grief, violence, oppression, and other calamities in their lives. Our work is not done until all of God’s children are taken care of.

How do we do it? Like Martin Luther, and so many other people who have demanded change in the world, we have to listen. We have to listen to the people around us who are crying out for help. We have to listen to the voices of folks who are usually ignored. And we have to listen to the rustling of the wind of the Holy Spirit to see where God is already at work.

Discussion Questions

  • What have you learned about the Reformation at church or in school?
  • How has your own congregation changed in response to the pandemic in the last couple of years?
  • What is one change that you would suggest to your pastor about your worship services?

Activity Suggestions

  • Tell the story about how Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg Germany 500+ years ago. Read a few of the 95 Theses and talk about why Martin Luther did it. 
  • Find a door (or a few doors) in the church building that is close to where your group is gathering. Give each individual a handful of Post-It notes (make sure you’ve got several different colors). Ask them to write down their hopes and dreams on the Post-It notes: changes they want to see in their own lives, changes they want to see in the church, changes they want to see in the world, etc. Stick each note on the door(s) and then have students spend some time reading what other folks have written (keep them anonymous if you’d like).

Closing Prayer

God of grace, we are always in awe of the ways that your love shows up in the world. We are especially grateful for the ways that your love shows up in our own lives. While your love continues to transform us and transform your whole creation, empower us to be a part of that change. Humble us. Give us courage. And send us out with your Spirit to do your work. Amen.