Contributed by Steven Alloway
Granada Hills, CA
Warm-Up Question: Did you ever have to give anyone bad news, or tell them something you knew they wouldn’t want to hear? How did you tell them? How did they react?
A long, healthy life certainly has its advantages — but it can also cause unexpected problems. 107-year old Larry Haubner has lived at the Greenfield assisted living center in Virginia for five years. Now the cost of living in the center is about to drain his savings, for the second time. Two years ago, Haubner’s money began to run out, so his friends at the center collected donations totaling $56,000, so that Haubner could continue to live at Greenfield, rather than have to go to a nursing home. They thought this cash reserve would last the rest of his life.
But now at 107 years old, Haubner is still in good health and shows no signs of slowing down. A self-described “health nut,” Haubner exercises daily, eats right, is not on any kind of medication, and can lift his walker over his head. He never married and has no family of his own, but he is beloved by the other residents of Greensfield and their families, who have adopted him as their own, bringing him Christmas and birthday gifts. And of course, coming to his aid in his hour of need.
Now that the $56,000 previously raised is expected to run out in November, Haubner’s friends are once again rallying together to raise the funds to keep Haubner at Greensfield. So far they have raised $7,000. Carol Ewing, who holds Haubner’s power of attorney, has opted not to tell him that his funds are dwindling, and that he may have to move to a nursing home. “I don’t want to worry him,” she said.
- Why do you think Larry Haubner is so well-liked at Greensfield? Why do you think so many people are willing to work so hard to help him stay?
- Would you donate money to Haubner to help him remain at Greensfield, rather than go to a nursing home? Why or why not?
- Do you think Haubner should be told about his financial situation, what’s being done to help him, and what will happen if not enough money can be raised? How do you think he would react? Would you want to be told if you were in his situation?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, July 12, 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 comic Agnus Day.
This is a difficult passage to study. It seems fairly straightforward: the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist. How Herod was manipulated into cutting his head off, against his better judgment. But what does this mean for us? What can we possibly take away from this story, to use in our own Christian lives? To understand it better, we need to go to the Old Testament lesson, in Amos.
The different lectionary readings for each week often share a common theme or similar message, if you look for it. And sure enough, as we read about Amos, a pattern begins to emerge. Amos, like John, was called to deliver God’s message to the people of Israel. Both messages contained proclamations of God’s displeasure, which angered the kings at which their messages were directed. As a result, they had to deal with the consequences of preaching God’s message to unwilling ears: Amos was told to leave and never return; John was imprisoned and beheaded. But both delivered God’s message and refused to back down in the face of adversity and threats.
But the application to our own lives is still a difficult one. Delivering prophesies to evil kings and being exiled or beheaded for our trouble is not something that’s likely to happen to any of us. To get an even clearer picture of what these passages mean for us, as modern-day Christians, we need to turn to the New Testament lesson, in Ephesians. There we see, in verses 4 and 5, “just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Just like Amos, and just like John, we have been chosen by God to do his will and proclaim the gospel. Before the world began, God had a purpose for us. Now we need to fulfill that purpose and mission, and do whatever tasks and challenges are set before us.
The things God asks us to do are not always easy. They are not always enjoyable. And they may not make us particularly popular. Serving God can be a difficult, even perilous task.
But the Ephesians text contains something that the other two passages do not — the up side. We have the grace of God. We have redemption through Christ’s blood. We are forgiven all our sins. Though we can’t always see it from where we stand, we are a part of God’s work to unite all things in God’s kingdom in heaven and on earth. As God’s plan and promises are fulfilled, we can be confident of a divine inheritance as children of God — eternal life surrounded by God’s love.
So when things are rough and doing God’s will and desire for us seems daunting and difficult, remember that it’s all part of God’s plan. God is always in control. God is always with us and present, never abandoning us. The things of our life in this world are entrusted to us to use responsibly and generously to God’s glory, but they won’t last forever. God’s kingdom, though, is eternal.
- In today’s world, culture, and society, God isn’t likely to hand us a prophesy to deliver to the people, as God did with John and Amos. What are some things God might ask us to do in our own lives, and how can we do them? How can we spread God’s message of salvation, forgiveness, love, and justice?
- In today’s world, culture, and society, we also aren’t likely to face imprisonment or execution for doing the will of God, but persecution still exists. What are some ways we might be persecuted or ridiculed for doing God’s will? How can we find and have strength in the face of adversity? In what ways can we be faithful witnesses and at the same time respect other people and be attentive to the needs of others? How do we share the gospel in the face of opposition or discouragement?
- Living without Jesus in your life is like living without any savings or resources. No security of any kind, and the looming threat of losing everything at any moment. What are the blessings and promises of your faith that keep you going… that give you hope that stretches beyond life?
Get into pairs or groups of 3 and practice telling each other about your faith. Talk about your belief in Jesus Christ. How do you understand God?
Come back together and talk about what seemed to flow easily from your heart and faith. What was difficult or presents a challenge for you?
Lord, help me always to serve you and do your will, no matter how difficult it gets. Help me to spread your word and be a living example of your love and justice, even in the face of adversity. And help me always to remember your promise of eternal life with you. Amen.