Contributed by Pastor Seth Moland-Kovash
All Saints Lutheran Church
Warm-up Question: People often talk about the importance of making a good first impression. Do you think it’s really all that important or not? Why?
One of the hallmarks of the legal system in this country is the idea of a trial by a jury. Part of that process is that the jury is supposed to be impartial; they are not supposed to have made up their minds about whether you are guilty or not guilty before the trial starts. They are supposed to make their decision based on the evidence and what they hear in the courtroom, not on what they knew about the situation before the trial even started. We often talk about this in terms of an impartial jury: you have the right to be tried by a jury who is impartial, who has not already decided whether you are guilty.
Finding an impartial jury can be difficult sometimes when cases get a lot of media coverage or are very high-profile. When celebrities or major politicians are on trial, or when crimes get a lot of coverage, it can be hard to find 12 people who are impartial. Sometimes defendants gain the right to move a trial to another city, county, or even state, so that they can find a jury of people who have not already made up their minds or been influenced by the media or other people in the community.
Consider the difficulty in finding unbiased, fair, impartial jurors for the following cases:
A story of trying to find an impartial jury in the case of someone accused of starting wildfires in southern California that ended up killing 5 firefighters.
- Rod R. Blagojevich, now former governor of Illinois, was impeached under accusations of criminal corruption, wasting taxpayer money attempting to sell Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat. Blagojevich has made the rounds of TV talk shows, radio shows, and has been highlighted in newspapers and Web publications around the world. He is still awaiting trial.
- Or talk about a court case in your area that everyone seems to know about, or has strong opinions about.
- Why is having an impartial jury so important? To the defendant? To all of us?
- If you had heard a lot about a case, like the wildfires or political corruption in these stories, would you be able to judge someone fairly who was accused of the crime? How difficult would it be for you to put aside your assumptions and weigh the information and arguments of both sides?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not at all; 10 being always open and receptive), how open are you to receiving new ideas, opinions, or different views from other people? How would you decide that a person was trustworthy or worth listening to?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, April 26, 2009.
(Text links are to oremus Bible Browser Oremus Bible Browsernot 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.
One of the hardest things about learning anything new is when we think we already know the answer. We think Sarah’s mean and snobby so no matter how she acts toward us, we are not going to like her. We think something that weighs more should fall faster than something that is lighter, so we won’t believe it until we see it — sometimes we don’t even believe it then!
The same thing is true about God. We think we know things about God, and it’s hard to hear or accept anything new. We may think that God could never love us because of the bad things we’ve done, so it’s hard to hear that God will always love us, no matter what — end of story!
In today’s Gospel reading, Luke 24:13-49, two followers of Jesus are walking along the road after what had happened in Jerusalem on the day we call Good Friday. They hadn’t heard about Easter yet. They thought Jesus was dead and everything was over. The Gospel lesson tells us that Jesus came along and walk with them, but “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”
Eventually, the two people recognized Jesus and he explained everything to them. But maybe they needed a fresh, unbiased start — sort of a do-over. Maybe they needed to not see him as Jesus for just a minute so that they could get past their preconceived ideas and assumptions about his death. Maybe they needed their eyes to be closed for a little bit, so that they could be opened again and see something completely new!
- What would it be like to meet someone walking along the sidewalk who you thought was dead?
- Do you think these followers learned the lesson of Jesus’ resurrection better because they had to learn it this way? What impression would this situation have made on you if you had been one of the people walking on the road with Jesus?
- How would you go about telling the story of Jesus in a believable, trustworthy, truthful way? How would you tell it to different people? A stranger? A close friend?
- Arrange with your congregation’s Sunday school leaders to teach Sunday school for a day, especially the very young kids. They will love having youth around to teach them. And you’ll get to teach young children something completely new… it’s all new to them!
- Create a list of things you believe or know about God. Create another list of questions you have about God. Use the lists to stir up discussion, study, curiosity, and prayer.
Faithful God, we thank you for always finding ways to reach us and to teach us. We pray in the name of your risen Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.