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ELCA Blogs

Faith Lens

March 10-16, 2010

Contributed by Joycelyn Breeland, Fairfax, VA.




Warm-up Question

How much do the adults in your life trust you?

I Spy


The FBI is investigating the claim of 16-year-old Blake Robbins that his high school illegally spied on him using the webcam in his school-issued computer.

Robbins says his school’s assistant principal accused him of selling drugs and popping pills in his bedroom. He says she backed up the accusation with a photograph taken by the laptop’s built-in webcam.  Blake denies dealing or using illicit drugs.  He says the images show him eating candy. 

The Lower Merion School District issued laptop computers, equipped with webcams, to all of the approximately 2,300 high school students in the district.  School officials deny any wrong doing.  They say they are not spying on students and only activate the webcams to help locate missing laptops.


Discussion Questions

  • Is it OK for the school district to use webcams to locate school property?
  • Why would it be a problem for the school to activate the webcams on laptops they own?
  • Does it matter how the school got the evidence if Robbins was engaged in illegal activity?


Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 14, 2010 (Fourth Sunday in Lent)

(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.

Joshua 5:9-12

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Gospel Reflection

Today’s Gospel is a well-known story. The generous father reminds us that God’s love is extravagant to the point of seeming  reckless.  We go astray.  But no matter how far we go, how unworthy our behavior, God longs to welcome us back into the fold. 

The waiting father models how we are called to behave toward each other.  We pray, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” but our forgiveness is often grudging.  In contrast, the father clearly yearns to welcome his son back home.  He sees the boy while he is far away and runs to him.  The son can not even get out his well-rehearsed apology before the party is on.  Following the father’s example, we strive to forgive absolutely, rejoicing at the restoration of a relationship with someone who has wronged us. 

Sometimes we are like the younger son, striking out on our own, overly confident in our abilities.  We forget how much we need the father.  This inevitably leads to trouble.  When that happens, we, like the prodigal, need to remember that our father is merciful and compassionate.  No matter how far we go down destructive paths, we can find our way home.  Mistakes are painful and costly.  Our poor decisions cause a lot of suffering. The certainty of God’s care is no excuse for failing to weigh our choices carefully.  Still, when we find ourselves staring at a dead end, Jesus reminds us that the long journey we begin with repentance in the pig sty ends with a welcome, a ring, and a fatted calf.

Discussion Questions

  • If the father in the story represents God, what is the inheritance we might each expect? 
  • The family in today’s Gospel is clearly wealthy.  What could have motivated the son to leave this comfort in the first place? 
  • Verse 17 says the younger son came to his senses.  What does this mean?  Has this happened to you? 
  • Can you identify with the older son’s reaction in verses 28 ­– 30? 
  • What does the father’s answer to his older son say to us about God’s love?

 Activity Suggestion

Design a t-shirt which communicates your understanding of this week’s lesson.  Think beyond simply picturing a scene from the biblical story.  Use words and graphics which would grab the attention of folks in your school.

Closing Prayer

Loving and forgiving Father God, we thank you for the rich inheritance you offer each of us.  Help us not to squander your gifts, remembering that all we have and are comes from you.  Call to us when we stray and bring us quickly back to our senses.  In the name of Jesus, whose sacrifice has secured for us eternal life and a home with you, Amen.


April 15-22, 2009 – Sad news surrounds joyful Easter celebration

Contributed by Pastor Jay Gamelin
Columbus, OH

Warm-up Question: Think of a time when you got hurt (physically, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise). What’s the most important thing you learned from that experience

In the weeks leading up to Easter this year, sad news filled nearly every newspaper and broadcast. In just over a week, there were five mass murders in the U.S. alone, from Oakland, CA, to Binghamton, NY, killing nearly 40 people. In Italy, just as that predominantly Roman Catholic country was beginning to celebrate Holy Week, a massive earthquake killed at least 260 people. Violence continues in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in other war-torn corners of the globe. And all over the world, people continue to struggle with a devastated economy.

All this news has surrounded what for Christians ought to be the most joyful time of the year. Figuring out how to celebrate on a tighter budget in the midst of difficult times is an ancient challenge, and one that the faithful will face again as they gather to celebrate the festival of the resurrection and the bright, seven-week season of Easter that follows.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever tried to celebrate something (Christmas, Easter, your birthday, family weddings, etc.) while also having to deal with sad news? How did that go?
  • What did your family do for Easter this year? Was anything different than years past?
  • How do you think the families of people who died in the shootings in the U.S. felt during the Easter celebration this year, especially if they were Christians?
  • What do you think Jesus would say to folks who were trying to celebrate Easter while also finding themselves homeless after the earthquake in Italy?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, April 19, 2009.

(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 comicAgnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The week after Easter is a peculiar Sunday in the church. On most Sundays, the appointed readings are different each year, following a three-year cycle. But every year, on the week after Easter, we hear this story about Thomas, the disciple who asked for proof. That makes me wonder: What’s so important about this story that the church asks us to read it every year during this time?

It seems to me we could answer that question with two words: doubt and scars.

Isn’t it a bit jarring that just one week after the lilies and the brass, the egg hunts and family gatherings, the joyful shouts and songs filled with “Alleluia!,” all of a sudden we run into doubt and scars? What happened to butterflies and bunnies?

The church is trying to tell us something. From the beginning, the joyful news of the resurrection had to be spoken, heard, sung, and lived by people whose lives were not very joyful. “He is Risen!” did not put an end to the suffering and persecution, death and danger that those first Christians lived with. In fact, their claim that Jesus, whom the Empire had tried to destroy, was in fact living and reigning as the true King of Creation, made things even worse for the faithful.

In the midst of danger and suffering, it’s normal for a little doubt to creep in. Thomas asked, and for good reason, to see the same proof that Jesus handed — literally — to the other disciples. For Thomas, as for most of the citizens of Jerusalem, the resurrection had not changed anything. Well, not anything they could see anyway. Life was still hard, and death was still at hand. So before Thomas took the message of “He is risen!” very far, he needed to be sure he wouldn’t just be telling a cruel joke to people who needed some real, meaningful hope.

Legend has it, Thomas ended up taking that message very far indeed — all the way to India! So whatever Jesus showed him was good enough.

What Jesus showed him were scars. Jesus was alive, but his body still had the marks of what he had suffered. His own flesh would not let him, or us, forget about the real tragedy and death he endured. Knowing that Jesus was still a marked man helped Thomas know that God still understood the danger and the risk of living faithfully in a broken world. Those scars gave Thomas’s own scars holy meaning: doubt and danger are still abundant, but God’s love and life are more abundant still.

We, too, live this Easter faith in a dead and dying world. Thanks be to God, Jesus lives and breathes in the midst of our doubts, bearing the scars, and yet overflowing with life. Alleluia! Amen.

Discussion Questions

  • If you were Thomas, what proof would you ask for to know that the resurrection — rising death — was real?
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus still has the scars on his resurrected body? If God could raise him from the dead, why didn’t God take the scars away, too?
  • Do you have any scars (physical or otherwise)? Where does God fit into the stories about how you got your scars?
  • What difference does “He is risen!” make in your own life? If “He is risen!” actually made your life more challenging and dangerous, would you still tell it to your friends and neighbors? Would it make a difference to them?

Activity Suggestions

  • Get a laminated map of the globe and some Vis-à-vis overhead pens. Invite folks to draw or write on places on the map where the world is scarred or marked. Play some music during this time (anything from Taizé songs to an iPod mix of thoughtful or thought-provoking music like The Fray’s “You Found Me”). After they’ve had some time to write, draw, or circle places, ask them to share why they drew or wrote what they did. Then ask where they think God is in all the world’s scars.
  • Have youth draw temporary tattoos (any non-permanent marker pen will do fine) on their arm, wrist, or ankles. (Draw it on paper first. Some may choose not to draw on themselves — a valid choice that should be respected.) What mark would you draw that would describe your faith and your doubts in your life? What invisible scars do you have that you could make “visible”? Where does Jesus fit into this picture? Have them share as they are comfortable.

Closing Prayer

Jesus, you lived and died and live again, feeling in your own body how hard life can be. Help me see your love and grace in the midst of the entire world’s, and my own scars. Be patient with me, and accept my doubts even as you give me faith. Amen.