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May 26, 2013–His Caring Spirit Lives On

Contributed by Brian Hiortdahl, Chicago, IL


Warm-up Question

Do you believe in ghosts?

His Caring Spirit Lives On

shutterstock_5982979editSo proclaims the title of a local newspaper article reporting the memorial services for Sean Collier, a beloved young police officer at MIT killed in the wake of the bombing at the Boston Marathon:


Discussion Questions

  • React to the article.  What feelings does it stir in you?
  • Do you believe that people’s spirits continue to be present with us somehow after they die, or is that just grief’s wishful thinking?  What personal experiences inform your answer?
  • What is the best way for a community to honor someone special who has died?
  • What similarities and differences do you see between what the mourners said about Officer Collier after his death and what Christians say about Jesus after Easter?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 26, 2013 (The Holy Trinity/First Sunday After Pentecost)

Proverbs 8:1-4,  22-31

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

(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

This week’s gospel reading gives us the words of someone who died too young, the victim of someone else’s political statement:  Jesus.  On the night before his death, he tells his friends that he has so much more to tell him than he has time to say it or they have capacity at the moment to hear it, but he also promises that the Spirit of truth will come to them.  Since Jesus is himself the truth (and the way and the life), the Spirit of truth is his Spirit, coming “to guide you into all the truth.”  This Spirit is identified in Christian theology as the third person of the Trinity, sometimes named the Holy Ghost.  In a way, the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ way of haunting us.  Or, to phrase it as the news article does, “his caring spirit lives on” among us.

Yet this Spirit is more than a spook, a vapor, a legacy, or a memory.  The Holy Spirit is God fully (though not bodily) present with us.  It is nearly as mystifying and beyond our comprehension as the larger teaching we celebrate on Sunday that God is Trinity:  one God in three persons, a unified community of generous, trusting love.  Those of us who cannot fully grasp these deep truths–who cannot bear them now–can hold onto the promise that (somehow, over time) the reliable Spirit will guide us into all the truth.

Discussion Questions

  • What questions puzzle you?
  • Where, when, and how do you experience the living presence of God in your life, as an individual and as part of a community?  What inspires you?  (Do you know the etymology of the word inspire?)
  • Who in your life has done the work of the Spirit, guiding you into the truth?
  • Read and discuss 1 John 4:1-21, which begins: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…. According to this biblical writer, how do we recognize whether a spirit is from God or not?

Activity Suggestions

  •  Serve as a mentor or tutor for someone with less learning or experience than you; help guide them into new truth that you know.
  • Honor someone who has died, but whose life and spirit continue to teach, bless, or inspire you.
  • As a group, begin planning a holy haunted house for the children in your church next Halloween.   (Maybe the Church itself is really a holy haunted house!)  Find fun, creative ways to trace the evidence that the Holy Spirit has been present and active there. And what about “the great cloud of witnesses,” the saints?  Is Martin Luther’s spirit still there? (Remember Reformation Day.) What about the faithful members of the congregation and other Christians elsewhere who have died?  (Remember All Saints Day.) What spirits continue to bless us with their presence at Holy Communion…not in fear, but in love?

Closing Prayer

Blessed Trinity, keep guiding us into the truth that you are. Shepherd us into and share with us your holy and beautiful dance of powerful life and perfect love.  Grant that your caring Spirit live on in us and bless the world with your abundant grace.  Amen.

May 27, 2012–Who Will You Advocate For?

Contributed by Angie Larson, Clive, Iowa


Warm-up Question

When is it ok to use photoshop on a photo?

Who Will You Advocate For?

Fourteen year old, Julia Bluhm has begun a petition to ask Seventeen magazine, a magazine geared towards teenage women, to cut back in using Photoshop on their photos.  She started a petition on and has so far had over 70,000 people sign that petition. Bluhm believes that cutting back on the amount of photo alterations would benefit the young women who read and subscribe to the magazine.  Bluhm wrote, “The media tells us that ‘pretty’ girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin. Here’s what lots of girls don’t know. Those ‘pretty women’ that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life. That’s why I’m asking Seventeen magazine to commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month.”  Bluhm is advocating for thousands of girls who compare themselves to the photos in the magazines.

There is debate concerning  this advocacy program.  Some say that selling magazines is what it’s all about; it’s just business and putting Seventeen’s best look forward is what sells.  Others say that the unrealistic and unachievable perfection of  photo-shopped photos are partially to blame for eating disorders and low self –esteem.  At this time Seventeen has not issued a response.


Discussion Questions

  • If you had a zit on your face during the day of your yearbook photo, would you want it computer altered to make you look more flawless?
  • What do you think of Julia’s advocacy campaign?
  • Would you be willing to sign Julia’s petition or do you agree with the magazine’s perspective?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 27, 2012 (Day of Pentecost)

Acts 2:1-21

Romans 8:22-27

John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

(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

In this part of John’s Gospel Jesus tells his friends that the Advocate will come.  By the “Advocate” he is referring to the third part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  As Christians we try to grasp an understanding of God the Father from Scripture.  We also know Jesus through the Gospel, but our understanding of the Holy Spirit can be confused.  The Holy Spirit is just as much at work as God the Father, or Jesus the Son.  However, the Spirit’s work is more mysterious.

When the disciples heard Jesus talking about the Holy Spirit as an advocate who will come when He is gone, they were confused.  They couldn’t understand what he was saying about his upcoming death, resurrection, and ascension. He also calls the disciples to testify to the truth about who Jesus is.  Jesus knows that he must leave in order for the Advocate to come.

The Advocate or Spirit will come to “convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.”  At the same time it will “guide you into the truth.”  Both the good and the bad will be revealed.  The Holy Spirit is our advocate, it will guide us in areas that we need someone to help us to understand the true nature of the world.  The Holy Spirit will help us to see accurately, un-airbrushed, the reality of who Jesus was.

Discussion Questions

  •  How do you see the Holy Spirit’s movement in your own life?
  • Having read the Scripture text, what do you think was the disciples’ original reaction?
  • Who are some that do not know Jesus yet?  How can you share with them the truth?

Activity Suggestions

  •  Make a list of causes you think you can advocate for.  What world concerns do you think need to be pointed out as issues?  Choose one issue or cause. Brainstorm ways that you can witness and testify to others about what you understand to be the truth.
  • Create a mock trial situation.  On one side, have a “lawyer” explain and call witnesses about why Jesus is the Son of God.  On the other, have a group explain why he is not.  Put together your own trial and practice apologetics in order to learn how to better testify.  Then switch sides.

Closing Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for blessing us with this time together.  Open our hearts to your Holy Spirit, your Advocate for us.  Help us to see your activity in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Help us to know your love and care for us in our own unaltered state. Please use us Lord for your kingdom. Amen.

January 8, 2012–Person of the Year

Contributed by David Delaney, Salem, VA

Warm-up Questions

  •  What kind of people get your attention – I mean really get your attention for a good long period of time, maybe for as long as that person is willing to talk?  Can you think of anyone you know – celebrity, friend, or otherwise – whom you would be very willing and happy to listen to non-stop for ten minutes, or an hour, or a day?  What is it about such a person that makes you pay attention?  New ideas?  Personal charm?  Fantastic stories?  Outrageous language?   Alluring promises? Disaster waiting to happen?
  • Imagine for a bit what must have gotten people’s attention about John the Baptist.  Mark’s Gospel says that people from the whole area (maybe a 20-30 mile radius), including “all the people of Jerusalem” were coming to see him.  Maybe he was just an oddity for people in need of entertainment.  Maybe people heard about him and wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  But maybe he was a brave voice saying a new thing to a group of people who had kind of given up because of their situation.  What do you think?  What intrigues a group of people who are overtaxed, ruled by an occupying foreign power, feeling abandoned by God, and just in general watching their hopes and dreams fade?

Person of the Year

At the end of each year, news organizations and publications release their editorial choices for “newsmaker of the year” or a similar title.  For 2011, many names came to the top:  Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry, Pope Benedict XVII, Harold Camping (remember him?  He was the guy who predicted the end of the world for May), Apple Founder Steve Jobs, and as always, the President.

Yet Time Magazine named as Person of the Year “The Protestor,” not a specific individual, but anyone –  from the Tea Partiers to the Occupy Movementeers to the Egyptian and Syrian Protestors – who takes a stand against what they think is unjust power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a few.  Recall that the so-called “Arab Spring” of protests in northern Africa began in Tunisia not by a great philosopher or statesman, but when an otherwise unknown man named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after claiming he was slapped by a policewoman.   Many, many important and notable people could have been named to the top news spot for 2011, but in the end it was people whose names had never really been mentioned before.

Notice that in the story of Jesus’ baptism which is our focus this week, Jesus himself is a bit player.  Most of the action and all of the dialogue are from John the Baptist and the “voice from heaven.”  Lots of important and notable people – including John the Baptist – could have been called by God to be the ones who would deliver the news about the coming Kingdom of God, as Jesus does in verse 15, and then to carry it all through Galilee and on to Jerusalem and the cross.   But Jesus seems to come out of nowhere, at least in Mark’s gospel.  And in some ways, that makes perfect sense.  His place of birth (Bethlehem) had some history behind it, but his hometown of Nazareth was a village so small and insignificant that it was not mentioned in any other sources of the day.  The other gospels have portions of Jesus’ ministry set there, but Mark doesn’t even mention Nazareth except when he is identifying Jesus.  When John announced that one was coming who would be even greater (more popular?) than he was, surely everyone expected Time’s Person of the Year, a great national leader, a great religious figure, someone of fame, power, and stature.  Who would have thought that the man that heaven would have identified as God’s beloved and well-pleasing Son would be this uncredentialed person from the middle of nowhere?

Discussion Questions

  • Does Jesus ever surprise you, coming out of nowhere to join in the work of your life like he did John’s?
  • Think back over your past year. Who would have been your personal “Person of the Year,” the person most influenced your life for good or ill?
  • How carefully do we watch for God or listen for a voice from heaven when those who are seemingly small and insignificant cross our paths?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, January 8, 2012 (Baptism of Our Lord)

 Genesis 1:1-5

Acts 19:1-7

Mark 1:4-11

(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

It’s possible that the way we probably imagine the baptism of John – as people stepping into water, being washed or dipped, and then stepping out again – may not be the best way to visualize it.  Although it is rarely depicted this way, it is just as likely that we should imagine these people standing on the opposite bank of the Jordan from Judea, looking back west in agony over the economic and personal oppression brought by the Roman Empire as well as the deep sense of hurt and resentment at this pagan power having possession of the promised land that was supposed to have belonged to the Jews.  As they stood in the same place the original Israelites under Joshua had stood prior to their entry into the promised land, filled with despair and hope that God would finally do something, they would then come across the river again, just as the first Israelites had done, but this time being washed as they went, signifying that here was a people ready to occupy their promised land once again, not by virtue of their fighting or political skill, but by their repentance, that is, their readiness to be the representatives of God’s gracious law and mercy.   When we are baptized, we too are walking through a little re-creation of the Jordan river, waters that take us from being a people of no homeland to being a people of God’s own land.  Only now the land is no longer a section of real estate, but is instead our lives, remade in the pattern of Christ’s self-giving death and resurrection.  As the Israelites crossed the Jordan to a life of freedom and responsibility, and as John’s followers crossed the Jordan to a life of discipleship and witness, so we carry our baptism with us as a reminder, always speaking to us of God’s hopeful declaration of a promised land – the community of God’s people now and the hope of the life to come.

Discussion Questions

  • Sometimes we dream of spending time with celebrities or meeting famous and important people.  Would we want to meet John the Baptist?  Hang out with him?  Follow his fashion example?  Share his special diet?   If John the Baptist came to your town, or even your church, what would the reaction be?
  • In all of the gospels, John is always the one who “prepares the way” for the coming of Christ.  He also prepares people to hear and receive the good news of God’s love and grace.  How have people done that for you over the years and who have those people been?  And what are some ways you can be that person for others?
  • Notice that verse one is more of a title than a sentence. We might paraphrase it as a sentence:  “Good news begins here!  … with Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God!”  except that the very next verse goes back to a passage of good news from hundreds of years earlier, from the prophet Isaiah.  Doesn’t this also show us that proclaiming the good news doesn’t just start with talking about Jesus, but looking back and seeing how God has been hard at work in the lives of a person or a group of people, preparing them over time to be receptive to Christ once he appears?  How do we see God working like that in ourselves or in others or in our schools or in our families or in the society around us?
  • The Judean wilderness was a rocky desert, watered only by the occasional natural spring, a place where it was easy to become disoriented and dehydrated.  In the history of God’s people, the wilderness had always signified two things:  death to those who were sent there, and the possibility of new life.  When in our own lives do we experience that kind of barrenness?
  • When we hear “a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins” we probably think we know what that means because of baptisms we have seen in our churches, and we know what “repentance,” “forgiveness,” and “sins” are.  So we conclude that in John’s day people with guilty consciences were lined up by the water and by being baptized were no longer guilty for their evil deeds.  But we probably do better to reexamine what the Judeans’ experience with those ideas was.  “Sin” was not just something one did wrong, it was an awareness of a broken relationship with God.  “Forgiveness” was not only the cancellation of guilt, but the restoration of relationship on the basis of God’s freely-given grace.  “Repentance” was an acknowledgement of our responsibility for breaking that relationship in the first place and the desire and willingness to turn in directions that would not disrupt that relationship in the future.  What are our own definitions of these words?
  • When John promises that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit, what does that mean?   In the Christian tradition, the Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity.   To baptize means to dip or immerse, so John says that Jesus will make it so that you are completely surrounded – as close as water is to your skin when you are walking through the Jordan – with the same love that he and his Father share.  What does this kind of promise mean to us?  Are we drawn to the promise of that kind of intimacy and honesty with God that this would bring?
  • Students of Mark’s gospel point to the connection between 1:10 – the heavens being torn open – and 15:18 – where the curtain of the temple (which was a tapestry of a vision of heaven) is torn in two.  Both images – the one at the beginning of the gospel and the one at the end – speak of the complete removal of any obstacle between God and God’s people with the arrival of Jesus.  Yet we still often feel like God is absent from our lives or from the tragedies and injustices of the world.  What kinds of things still separate us like a curtain from God?   Can we have closeness with God at the same time as we experience God’s distance, silence, or hiddenness?

Activity Suggestions

  • Baptism is our adoption into God’s family as God’s child, and God is “very pleased” (Mark 1:11) that this is so.  As a way of testing how your life would be affected if you always had a reminder of that gracious truth, take an index card and write the words of verse 11, starting with your own first name, “_____, You are my beloved child;  with you I am well pleased.”  Fold this index card and carry it around with you all week, in a pocket or purse where you will come across it often.  Then pay attention to how hearing this word from God – a reminder of your adoption – changes the way you think about yourself and the world around you.
  • Take a look at the John the Baptist story in the other three gospels.  If possible, obtain the page from “Synopsis of the Four Gospels” that has all four versions side-by-side or find a column chart of the four versions of the story on the internet.  Notice that there are various differences, but also that Jesus’ baptism is one of the stories of Jesus that is in all four gospels and is a very important part of the gospel narrative.  What might some of the differences mean in terms of the special emphasis each gospel writer is trying to make?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God, you have invited people throughout history to be both servants and children.  Bring us with the Israelites of old, the disciples of John, and Jesus himself, through the cleansing waters of the Jordan to lives of repentance and joy, so that our lives may be places of your promise and that others may be inspired and invited to join us in your gentle and glorious kingdom.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

December 18, 2011–Messed Up Message?

Contributed by Scott Moore, Erfurt, Germany

Warm-up Question

When have you misunderstood someone to the point where it was either funny or embarrassing?

Messed Up Message?

On a cell phone anywhere, U.S.A.— As cell phone technology improves and the phones themselves getting “smarter” with every new version, one thing seems to be struggling more than in the past: text messaging. Newer auto correct features now allow the phone to decide how the word should be finished based on the first few letters and based on entries from previous text messages. The advent of such smart technology and the “failtexts” it brings with it is causing everything from a good chuckle to more serious relationship crises. Without the advantage of someone’s voice to help interpret the meaning of text messages, it seems that communication is more challenging now than ever. “Well, you need a sense of humor, I guess,” said one seventeen-year old. Another user mused, “I don’t use the feature. I don’t want the phone messing up my messages. It’s crazy.”

Needless to say, not only do the texters themselves have to pay closer attention to what they write before they hit “send”, but the readers have to try to be open and forgiving of miscommunications. But only if they can tell it’s a fail message.

Discussion Questions

  • Survey: (please raise your hand) Do you use your text function throughout the day 5 times or less?…..6-10?…..11-25?…..26-50?…..More than 50?   What does that number say about the you, if anything?
  •  What are the advantages of texting over other forms of communicating?  What are the disadvantages?
  • When have you ever missed out on something “important” to you where you were because you were texting and not able to pay attention?
  • When has texting helped you be more present in someone’s life?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, December 18, 2011 (Fourth Sunday of Advent

2 Samuel 7:1-11

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38
(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

An intimidating angel comes out of nowhere with a message for a woman on the verge of adulthood. “God really likes you. God thinks you’re great.” That’s what it means to find favor with God. Somehow this young person got on God’s radar screen. Or rather, God simply put her on the radar screen. God chose her. God’s love makes her special. But somehow she didn’t know it yet. Here she was going about her business of getting ready to settle down with a nice guy from her home-town and maybe start a family and make a go at this thing called life. Now this angel—which comes from the Greek word for bringer of news or messenger—is throwing a wrench into all their plans. A son? How? We’re not trying to have kids yet. Pregnant you say? By the Holy Spirit? Uh huh.

This is a strange beginning to a strange and overwhelming conversation with an angel of the Lord. Mary started out “perplexed”, out of sorts. As the story gets more surreal, she seems to get calmer. It would be easy to think that the average person would just have shut down after that kind of communication at the start. We might even respond with a polite, “Well, thanks for stopping by, here’s the door.” But that’s not what happens here. Before she finds out she will bear Jesus, the Son of the Most High God, Mary has been prepared through God’s loving favor.  God’s loving favor for her precedes her being made ready for the eternal Word of God, Jesus.

Mary is the prototypical (the first example) Christian. She is the first one to be prepared to bear Christ. In fact, she is called that in the Orthodox tradition—theotokos, which means “God bearer”. It is a special term for Mary as the one who bore God, in this case Jesus the Christ. But just as Mary was loved into readiness, we too are loved first by God and drawn into the message of good news of Jesus. For some that comes later in life when we are consciously aware of the message, for others that happens very early on, first in the waters of baptism, with learning about the message of Christ afterwards.

Mary seems a little confused about the message Gabriel passes on to her from God. But Gabriel is able to clear things up. Mary gets it. Not only does she understand clearly what the message actually is but she also accepts it in faith. She offers herself to be an instrument of God’s will, even though this may have meant shame and ridicule among family, friends, and neighbors. The clarity of the messenger and the message reach someone who is open for God’s word. God’s love, Mary’s response. This is certainly something to rejoice about. And, in the next story (Luke 1:39-56), that is exactly what Mary does—sings a song of praise to God for loving her and choosing her to work great things in the world.

Discussion Questions

  • When have you been perplexed by a message someone passed on to you?
  • When has someone dear to you entrusted you with an important task?
  • When have you been willing to change something about your life in order to do something good for others?
  • What kind of message from God would you find “perplexing?”
  • If the word angel simply means ‘messenger’ in Greek (the language of the New Testament), what do you think angels look like?

Activity Suggestions

Playing Gabriel:

Participants create messages (either on paper, or spoken, or sent as text messages) of God’s love and favor and speak them or hand them out to members of the congregation, strangers, family or friends. Some example messages: (Feel free to create your own in the same style but your own words!)

“Greetings, Child of God. You are special. God loves you and wants to do great things with you.”

“Hey there! You know what? God thinks you’re alright. Keep it up. God has big plans for you.”

“Hi, friend. You may not know this but God is with you. All the time. And God wants you to pass that message on.”

“God wants you to know something. Ready? You are so loved! And, you are important.”

Closing Prayer

O God who shows favor to the young, make your love and favor known to us. Empower us to turn and open our hearts and minds to you. Guide us to be faithful servants, like your servant Mary. Let us bear Christ in the world. We ask this in the name of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

June 8-14, 2011– Seeing Jesus Face to Face

Contributed by Stephanie Opsal, West Des Moines

Warm-up Question

Have you seen Jesus in your life?

Seeing Jesus Face to Face

Todd Burpo’s book, Heaven is For Real, has become a sensational “must-read” for many.  Burpo describes his four-year-old son Colton’s emergency surgery and his incredible trip to heaven and back when he loses consciousness during the surgery.  Burpo can see that this is not just a dream.  Colton knows about things he would not otherwise know, such as the locations of his parents during his surgery and the existence of his miscarried sister.  In addition, he describes the true nature of the Triune God and confirms a great deal of Scripture.

This book is becoming popular across the globe, as evidenced by its spot on the New York Times best-seller list, printing over 1.5 million copies and attracting over 56,000 fans on facebook.  What about this book draws so many people’s attention?

People have an eagerness for experiencing the unknown, one reason mystery and sci-fi books and movies are quite popular.  We cannot imagine how great heaven is going to be.  At the mention of this indescribable place where no hurt remains and in which our hope resounds, we jump at the chance to catch a glimpse of God’s majesty via an experience like Colton’s.

The passage in Romans 8:18-25 comes to my mind.  The apostle Paul discusses his current sufferings in prison as a minor step compared to the strong hope he has for the future, unseen glory of heaven that God will soon reveal.  It is so exciting to hear about someone who saw Jesus face to face.


Discussion Questions

  • Are you interested in reading this book?
  • Have you or a loved one ever had a near-death experience?  Do you have any stories from the situation?
  • What do you think heaven will be like?  Are you confident that by Jesus’ death for us you will be there someday?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, June 12, 2011 (Day of Pentecost)

Acts 2:1-21

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23

(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

In this short passage, the risen Jesus appears to the disciples through locked doors to offer them words of peace and encouragement.  But He also offers a much greater gift.  Knowing he will soon ascend to heaven Jesus breathes his Spirit onto them and empowers them do His work in the world.  In the same way, we receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts as we put our trust in Jesus Christ.  In John 14:12, Jesus tells His disciple Philip: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  By the Spirit’s power bestowed upon us by Christ, we can do even greater things on earth to fulfill God’s purposes for us.

We can be just as excited as that little boy in Heaven is for Real.  Colton saw Jesus in heaven, but we can also see Jesus right now, wherever we are, because the resurrected Savior lives in and through all His people!  We are sent by Jesus just as the Father sent Him, to forgive others, love others, and share the truth of humanity’s redemption through Christ Jesus.  The Spirit of God within us directs our paths and accomplishes more than we ever could on our own: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Spend some time in prayer, asking Jesus to reveal His living presence to you and lead you in His plans for your life (Jer. 29:11).

The disciples were overjoyed to see that Jesus was alive and offering them peace, strength, and the direction of the Spirit (verse 20).  We are blessed with the presence of Jesus in our hearts and in our lives.  Strive to see the Lord today.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think would be your first response if you saw Jesus in the flesh today?
  • Describe characteristics of the Holy Trinity including how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all work together as one true God.
  • How can you see Jesus working through your life or the lives of others, even though He is present in Spirit now rather than in the flesh?
  • Do you feel called to do something or change something in your life to become more like Jesus?
  • How can we thank God for giving us the gift of His Holy Spirit?

Activity Suggestions

  • Draw two pictures of Jesus, one of how you think He might look as a human and one of how you think His Spirit would look as He works through people’s lives.  (For example, a person doing a good deed or someone using his gift of art to paint a beautiful picture to hang up in the church or to give to someone in need).
  • Read excerpts from Heaven is For Real and discuss what you think heaven will be like based on what the Bible says about it as well as your own thoughts.
  • Use your Bible and concordance to look up other passages about ways the Holy Spirit lives and works through believers.  What other words to Scripture use to refer to the Spirit; what does that say about the purpose of the Spirit’s work in our lives and world?

Closing Prayer

Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we praise you for rising from the dead and offering all of your disciples the lasting gift of your living presence in our lives.  We humbly accept your leadership in our lives and pray that we  be able to see you working in and through us to do your work in the world while we are here.  We thank you for giving us hope for an eternal home with you in heaven one day.  In Jesus’ precious and holy name we pray, Amen.