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June 1-7, 2011–Take It to the Lord in Prayer

Contributed by Dennis Sepper, University Pastor, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA


Warm-up Question

How many friends have you checked in on today by text, Facebook or cell phone?

An Unexpected Message…

A couple of months ago and email showed up in my inbox.  When I opened the email, the message read, “Are you the Pastor Dennis Sepper who lived in Cincinnati?”  It was from the former organist of the church I served there.  I have to admit that it felt good to know someone was thinking of me and searching for me on the web.  That unexpected email led to a renewed connection with someone I cared about but our paths just led to different places and we lost touch.

About a month ago the student congregation at my school received a postcard from a group called the Gideons (these are the folks who leave Bibles in hotels and who may handout small New Testaments at your school or church).  The postcard stated that the local Gideon chapter prayed for our church’s mission and ministry by name and they wished us well.  The students of the congregation were touched to think that the Gideons would care enough that they would remember them by name in prayer.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever received a message or a Facebook friend request from someone that you didn’t expect?  How did it make you feel?
  • Has anyone told you that they prayed for you by name?  If so, how does knowing that fact affect your day or your life?  Does it give you more energy?  Does it make you more hopeful?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, June 5, 2011 (Seventh Sunday of Easter)

Acts 1:6-14

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

John 17:1-11

(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

As you may have noticed, our Gospel this week is really a prayer.  It is a prayer spoken by Jesus, directed to God, right after Jesus had eaten this last meal with the disciples and right before the passion and crucifixion of Jesus begins.  Also, you may have noted that Jesus uses the word “glory” quite a few times in this prayer.  You should know that in the Gospel John whenever the “glory” of Jesus is mentioned it is a reference not only to the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension to heaven, but it also includes Jesus’ suffering and death.  In John’s view the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension is how Jesus is glorified and how Jesus gives glory to God.  There is no way our experience can be the same as Jesus’ but we know what it means when, to experience a success, we have to work hard to achieve it.  Sometimes we have to “suffer” for a greater good.  As Christians we are a resurrection people but we walk the way of the cross.

In this final prayer, Jesus’ character is revealed and it is consistent with what he has shown throughout his life.  Jesus prays that God be glorified (verses 1-6), he then moves on to pray for the disciples (verses 6-19) and then Jesus prays for us! (See verses 20-27 which are not a part of our text this week but it’s only fair to look at the whole prayer of Jesus.)

What Jesus asks for in this prayer is that the close relationship that God and Jesus have that this closeness might now include the disciples and the Church throughout the world and throughout the centuries.  What is more, Jesus wants us to experience the love that God has for Jesus and Jesus has for us and Jesus asks God to

Prayer is a truly amazing thing.  God has given us the privilege to talk to God directly anytime we want or need to pray.  We don’t have to address God with special words, we don’t have to pray through a pastor or anyone else and there are no special rituals we have to perform to get God’s attention.  Our prayer can be as simple as saying “God, I need you.”  Prayer is one of the ways we stay connected to God.  Like texting or using Facebook to stay connected to our friends, prayer is how we stay connected to God.

Think about this: Jesus knows he is headed to his suffering and death and yet Jesus takes the time to pray for his disciples, who will deny and abandon him, and Jesus takes the time to pray for us.  Like that person who sent me an email or like the Gideon folks praying for the students at my school, it is a little bit of unexpected grace that Jesus prays for us that we might experience the love of God and Jesus and share that love with others!

Discussion Questions

  • How do you view prayer?  Do you see it as a privilege or as an obligation?  Why do you feel that way?  Do you see your personal prayer as an informal conversation with God or as a formal thing?
  • What do you think about the fact that just before his suffering and death Jesus prayed for his disciples and us?
  • Do you pray often or only when you need something from God?
  • If prayer is difficult, what would make prayer easier for you?

Activity Suggestions

Think of someone who might be surprised to hear from you.  It could be a grandparent or a distant relative or a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.  Then write a note, ask to be their friend on Facebook, or text them and let them know you are thinking about them.  Better yet, let them know that you have prayed for them.  If that unexpected grace feels good for you, imagine how it will make them feel.

Closing Prayer

Abba, our heavenly Father, you are indeed worthy of our praise and worship.  We thank you for Jesus who was so loving that he prayed for us before his suffering and death.  By your Holy Spirit help us to glorify you in word and deed as we walk the way of the cross following Jesus.  Help us to love one another, along with the stranger, that all the world might know your love.  To you be the glory and the honor forever and ever.  Amen.

May 12-18, 2010–Number One or Being One?

Contributed by Paul Baglyos, St. Paul, MN

Warm-up Question

 Got glory?  What is glory, and how do you get it?

Number One or Being One?

At one point during the past basketball season, Syracuse University reached no. 1 in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) ranking for men’s college basketball.  The website for Syracuse University Athletics reported the achievement under the familiar boast, “We’re Number One!”

It feels good to be number one, whether in sports, artistic ability, scholarship, or any other endeavor that requires hard work, discipline and dedication.  Individuals strive to be number one.  So, too, do schools and corporations, groups and nations.  To become not just good but the best at something brings honor and recognition, distinction and acclaim.  In common understanding, this is glory.  Glory sounds like the cheer of a crowd or the applause of an audience; it looks like a trophy or other award.  Glory walks with the confident step of a winner, and savors the rewards of success.

Discussion Questions

  • In what ways do people, either individually or collectively, strive to be number one?
  • Describe a situation in which you were, or wanted to be, number one.  Why was that important to you? 
  • Have you ever experienced glory?  Describe your experience.

 Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 16, 2010 (Seventh Sunday of Easter)

 Acts 16:16-34

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17

John 17:20-26

(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 prays that his followers “may all be one,” which is different than being “number one.”  His glory consists, not in distinguishing himself from others so as to draw their cheer and applause, but in forging relationships with others so as to share their lives and include them in his life.  This is a different understanding of glory than that which boasts, “We’re number one!”

Jesus seeks to become one with others as he is one with the Father, and to draw people into a new experience of unity with him and with one another.  Sometimes the theological word “atonement” is explained as “at-one-ment,” which points to the relational character of Jesus’ work in the world.  Jesus cultivates at-one-ment with and among people, opening his life to theirs and calling them to do the same with others.  Christian discipleship involves dwelling in unity with Jesus, sharing his unity with the Father and forging unity with other people.  Glory, for Christians, is not about being better than others.  It is not about being the best, but about seeking relationships with others so as to share life together and overcome the divisions which pit people against one another in destructive competition and conflict.

Discussion Questions

  • How and why is it often easier and more popular to strive to be “number one” in comparison to others than to be “one” in relationship with others?
  • In what ways does the church sometimes seek to be “number one” rather than be “one” within the fellowship of faith and in relationship with the larger world?
  • Why does Jesus’ understanding of glory often seem so inglorious?


Activity Suggestions

  • Play, as a group, some of the games described in Best New Games, by Dale N. Le Fevre (published 2002; ISBN 0-7360-3685-7).
  • Consider others who might be involved in your group but are not.  Develop a plan to include them and on your plan.


Closing Prayer

Jesus, our Savior, teach us to honor in our lives your prayer that we become one with you, those in our community of faith, and others in the world.  Amen

November 25-December 2, 2009 – Angel bus driver

Contributed by Connor Early (10th grade student), Clive, IA
and Angie Larson, Clive, Iowa

Warm-up Question:  What would you do to help people in need? Are there limits to what you would do?

jorge-munoz200Jorge Munoz may sound like the name of a typical New Yorker, but he is much more than that. He is a school bus driver! But more importantly, Jorge Munoz, 44, has supplied over 70,000 meals to the homeless over the past four years.

Every night he pulls up in his white pickup truck and unloads as many as 140 meals with hot food, coffee, and hot chocolate. Both food and gas costs are estimated to be about $400-450 a week, which he pays for with his $700 a week paycheck. People of all backgrounds come to receive a meal, usually their first and only for the day.

Jorge says that seeing these people remind him of when he first arrived in America in the 1980’s. He was born in Columbia and his father had died when he was young. His mother had moved to Brooklyn to earn money to support him and his sister, and he soon followed. He achieved citizenship with his mother and sister in 1976. He stood on the streets not looking for work, but as an immigrant, much like the people he serves.

Jorge began his now non-profit meal program in the summer of 2004, naming it “An Angel in Queens, Inc.” His work has consumed much of his time, money, and space, but he or his sister carries the work on every night of the year. When asked why he spends so much time helping people he doesn’t even know, he replied:

“I have a stable job, my mom, my family, a house… everything I want, I have. And these guys [don’t]. So I just think, ‘OK, I have the food.’ At least for today they’re going to have a meal to eat.”


Discussion Questions

  1. How is Jorge helping to make a difference in the world? What steps is he taking to reduce hunger?
  2. How do you think the people feel towards Jorge’s generosity? What is something they might say to him?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 29, 2009. (first day of Advent)

(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.

Scripture Reflection

In the 1st Thessalonians text, Paul writes about increasing and abounding in love. In Luke, we are reminded to not be weighed down by the worries of this life. Both texts spread news about living a life of abundance instead of a life of scarcity. Often we think that we do not have enough. We do not have enough money. We do not have enough material goods. We do not have enough of whatever it takes to fill our need or want.

The good news is that love abounds and God provides. Jesus tells us that the kingdom is near. The kingdom is within us.

In the Gospel, we are warned against things that lead to a life of scarcity. Jesus tells us to look out for those things that get in the way of living the abundant life that God has planned for our lives. When we look at life as short and precious as it is, we can adopt an attitude of gratefulness; abounding in love.

Jorge Munoz adopts this way of life. He does not let his career as a bus driver or that he’s an immigrant keep him from giving in abundance. Instead, he realizes that he has much to give from his abundance. He is not weighed down by what he lacks, but gives from what he has. We can do the same.

Discussion Questions

  1. In what area of your life do you feel like you have scarcity? What is scarcity?
  2. Realistically, do you think you would be like Jesus, James and John, or the other ten disciples?

Learn more about: 

Activity Suggestion

Everything I have

Ask your group to write down everything that they own all over a huge piece of paper. Or do it as a huge collage of photos, pictures, and drawings.

  1. Step back and look at all the things listed.
  2. What’s your first impression?
  3. What are your first thoughts about your life, generosity, need, decisions you make, lifestyle, and how you will live life?

Closing Prayer

Blessed Savior, thank you for serving us. Help us to remember to serve others. We know that at times we look towards power and prestige; we ask you to help us redirect ourselves during those times. Bless those who serve others with their lives. Enable us to learn and live extraordinary lives of service. In your name we pray. Amen.