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October 9, 2016–Crossing Borders

Anne Williams, Ankeny, IA


Warm-up Question

What sorts of things make you feel better when you’re physically hurting? What about when you’re emotionally or spiritually hurting?

Crossing Borders

shutterstock_387439942Rami Adham, a Syrian-Finnish (yes, he lives in Finland) father of 6 is known as Uncle Toy among Syrian refugee children. Adham collects toys and money in Finland then gets himself smuggled into Syria through Turkey to deliver toys and goods to people living in refugee camps. He has made the journey 28 times in five years. It can be dangerous, as he has to be smuggled across the border both ways each time he travels. It’s not unusual for him to walk six or seven hours at a time, sometimes dodging bullets. He says that Syrians have lost faith in others in the world because of the terrible violence in their country. Adham says no one will ever stop him. He’s completely dedicated to the kids of Syria.

Discussion Questions

  • Would you ever consider doing something dangerous to bring some good to someone else?
  • Do you think what Rami Adham is doing is healing? To himself? To the refugee children?
  • How are Adham’s actions healing?

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Luke 17:11-19

(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.


Gospel Reflection

First of all, let’s frame Jesus’ story by exploring where he is. Jesus is outside of Jewish lands, he’s in a no-man’s-land between the borders of Judea and Samaria. It’s interesting that the village he enters is in that no-man’s-land. Even more interesting is that there are lepers living near this village. Lepers weren’t allowed to live in the towns, having to live in the hills or valleys around the towns they came from. In a lot of ways, lepers in the ancient world were refugees – unable to live in their own homes, often violently driven out of the towns they used to live in. The only way they were allowed to go back to their old lives was to prove to the local priest that they were healed – free of any skin diseases or conditions that might be considered contagious.

So this is where Jesus is, in a town where there are 10 lepers who just want to get back to their lives, with their families, in their homes. Our Bible text doesn’t say how Jesus healed these ten men, but we know he did. Only one of them turned back to Jesus and thanked him.  Notice, the only man who comes back to thank Jesus is a Samaritan.  Samaritans were often seen as enemies of the Judeans and regarded with suspicion. Jesus tells him that his faith has made him well.

It’s not really a surprise that we find Jesus valuing people who are both the refugees of the ancient world and the historical enemy of his people. Luke consistently tells us that Jesus is always there for the poor and the hurting, that his care extends to them no matter who they are or where they are from. Even if they exist on the very edges of society Jesus is willing to be there for them. And it shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus is willing to leave his comfort zone, even the boundaries of his own country, to meet those who need his help.

Discussion Questions

  • If you were one of Jesus’ disciples, how, would you feel about leaving friendly territory and moving into potentially hostile territory to follow him?
  • Who exists outside friendly territory in your world? Hint: this is necessarily a literal question – some spaces are hostile to a person without being violent.
  • Are there ways for you to meet the people who live outside the borders of your comfort zone?
  • Could healing happen if you were to meet those people? What kind of healing would it be?

Activity Suggestions

Grab a bunch of maps, ideally one of your town, one of your state, one of the country and one of the world. The bigger the better. (If you have the space and the resources, have the students draw the maps on strips of butcher paper or poster paper taped together, accuracy isn’t the goal). Spread out all the maps and give your students markers. Instruct them to draw the borders in their lives, the lines that divide us and them. It might a school district border, a line between rich and poor neighborhoods, etc. Reflect together about the borders that exist at all scales of our lives, local, national, global. Reflect further about what it would take to cross those boundaries and get to know the people who live on the other side. What kind of healing would that look like?

Closing Prayer

Gracious and loving God, we know that your presence covers the whole earth and that you are present wherever two or more are gathered in your name. Help us to uncover all of the places where you are, especially if they lie outside our comfortable and safe boundaries. Help us to find ways to cross those boundaries in ways that will bring healing and wholeness to those on both sides of the line. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

February 24-March 2, 2010–Accepting the Challenge

Contributed by Daniel Wiessner, Tacoma, Wash.

Warm-up Question

Have you ever done something that you knew was dangerous?  Why did you do it?  Some possibilities: peer pressure, standing up for a friend, pride in your own accomplishments, just for the thrill.

Accepting the Challenge

A number of sports carry hazards. (Football comes to mind.) This year’s Winter Olympics reminds us of the inherent dangers of a person traveling at 90 miles per hour. The luge track at the Whistler Sliding Center, in British Columbia, was touted as the fastest course around, but speed and a small misstep in practice proved fatal for Georgian Olympian, Nodar Kumaritashvili.

While the only other luge-related death in the Olympics was way back in 1964, Kumaritashvili’s death has raised the more general issue of athletes’ safety in professional sport competitions such as the Olympics.

Kumaritashvili had apparently expressed concerns about the safety of this particular track, but he, like his fellow sliders, took on the risk. In the same way, we all accept challenges which pose some sort of danger, be it social, emotional, or even the possibility of physical harm. Even with the risk, the goal of succeeding in our ventures drives our ambition to go for the gold.

Article source:

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you know anyone who has ever been hurt in a sport? Do you think the growing intensity of sports today makes them too dangerous?
  2. If the chances of serious injury (or even death!) from participating in your favorite leisure time activity increased 5%, would you still do it? 15%? 40%?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, February 28, 2010 (Second Sunday of Lent)

(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.

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Luke 13:31-35

Gospel Reflection

In the gospel lesson this week, Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and begin the climax of the Gospel story.  The Pharisees are warning Jesus about Herod. This is the same Herod who, not long before, was responsible for the death of John the Baptist. Rather than turning tail, however, Jesus gave the messengers another message to deliver: Jesus was going to cure illness and cast out demons like he had been doing the whole time, and then “on the third day” (soon) he will finish his work. Finish his work? Jesus knew exactly what was coming. In the church year, this journey to Jerusalem marks the beginning of the season of Lent, and on Good Friday Jesus will give his life to pay for the sins of the whole world.

Athletes may train their entire lives with dreams of competing at the Olympic Games, despite the dangers of their craft. Similarly, Jesus’ life of selfless acts of saving and healing culminates with his trip to Jerusalem. In the same way that past hazards had not changed his message or direction, Jesus would not be swayed by warnings about a murderous Herod. Athletes risk life and limb for a shot at the gold; Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing that he would give himself as the ultimate sacrifice for us all.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some of your personal goals? What are you doing to reach them? What “dangers” are you facing in your pursuit of these goals?
  2. Have you ever walked into a situation knowing that it wasn’t going to end well, but also knowing that good was going to come out of it?


Activity Suggestion

Talk to someone you know and greatly respect. Ask what hurdles he or she crossed in order to accomplish major life goals.

Closing Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for the talents you have given us, and our ability to meet life’s tough challenges head-on. Please watch us and keep us safe as we venture through this week. Amen.