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Faith Lens

August 11-17, 2010–Speaking of Jesus…In ALL times

Contributed by Sylvia Alloway, Granada Hills, CA

Warm-up Question

What would you do or say, if you came face to face with someone who wanted to rob you? 

Speaking of Jesus…in All Times

 “I really hate to do this…” began the man with the gun.

 The clerk behind the counter at the wireless phone store did not panic. She began to tell the robber about Jesus.

 “I know you can do whatever you want, but let me tell you about the Jesus I have…Jesus my God.” Nayara Goncalves continued to talk to the man, after he claimed to be a Christian himself, encouraging him to go back to church. They discovered that they had attended the same church in Pompano Beach, Florida and both knew the pastor.

 Still the fellow insisted that he needed $300 for his rent, or he would be evicted. Only when the young lady explained to him that the money he took would be docked from her own wages did he finally relent and back slowly out the door.

 “God bless you!” he said, just before he made his exit. Less then an hour later he was arrested for robbing a nearby shoe store.

 Newsmen from a popular morning TV show [Good Morning America] who reported the incident were impressed by Goncalves’ calm courage.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever been the victim of a robbery or burglary? What would you say to the criminal if you were to meet him?
  • Why do you think a person would choose to commit a robbery instead of finding an honest way to get the money he needed?  Are there always honest options?
  • Do you think you could ever “witness” (tell someone about Jesus) in a dangerous situation? Why or why not?

 Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, August 15 (Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost) [Some congregations will use  texts observing the lesser festival, “Mary, Mother of our Lord]

Isaiah 61:7-11

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

Luke 12:49-56

(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

Jesus spoke of bringing peace. Yet here he talks about division and family strife. Is this contradictory?  No, Jesus recognizes that his vision is challenging; many will reject it.  Division between those who commit to following him and those who refuse to embrace his distinctive type of peace is inevitable.

The signs are everywhere, as obvious as the weather. Jesus is doing everything the prophets said the Messiah would do. Conflict with those who resist God’s coming kingdom has been building to the crisis point.  He has one more act to complete, what Jesus calls his “baptism,” that is, his crucifixion and resurrection. When this work is finished, it will be time to choose sides, either worshipping Jesus as Lord, or rejecting him as a fraud. There is no middle ground. 

Talking about Jesus brings division, sometimes even to the strongest family ties. There is no room here for “don’t make waves,” or “anything to keep the peace.” We are to show our devotion to the Lord in thought, word, and deed, no matter what the consequences. They may be good – we may turn away robbers, inspire faith, spread joy. Or we may upset people.

If you looked at the courage of Nayara Goncalves and thought, “I can’t do that,” you’re right, you can’t – alone. But we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit, who has promised to give us words. We have the example of those who have gone before us (see today’s New Testament lesson, Hebrews 11:29-12:2). And we have each other, fellow Christians, for strength and encouragement. Those abiding in the love of Jesus cannot be divided.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever had to risk rejection or unpopularity because of your faith? What did you do? If you could go back to that incident, would you change your actions?
  • Are you or do you know anyone who is the only Christian in his or her family? What kind of support can the Body of Christ, the Church, give such people, so that they can live out their faith and not feel alone?
  • When and where do you find it most difficult to behave like a Christian? What suggestions do class members have for staying true to Christ in these situations?

Activity Suggestions

Practice responding to those who question or ridicule Christian belief. List some of the arguments you have heard against belief in Jesus (I don’t understand it.  Following the Christian way is too hard.  It’s only for stupid or weak people, etc.). Come up with answers to those arguments. If time permits, act out some scenarios, with one person playing a skeptic and another, a believer.

Suggested Songs: Onward Christian Soldiers, Lift High the Cross, The Battle Belongs to the Lord (contemporary)

Closing Prayer

Father, we humbly admit that we are weak in our desire and ability to speak out for you. Let us pray for and encourage one another. We ask for your Spirit to inspire in us the words and actions that will best glorify you.  In the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.