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September 30, 2012–asSALTed

Contributed by Angie Larson, Clive, IA


Warm-up Question

What is your favorite use for salt?


The Salt Institute has discovered that there are more than 14,000 uses for salt, or to use the scientific name, sodium chloride.  Salt gets a bad reputation these days from being overused.  It’s been in the news lately because of being reduced in school lunches.  While too much salt is certainly bad for you; it is essential for our survival. Our bodies do not naturally make sodium chloride so we need to consume it in order to make blood, sweat, digestive juices, and tears.

Salt also has historical significance. Salt was used as one of the earliest forms of money and trade; at one time the value of an ounce of salt was an ounce of gold.  Roman soldiers were partly paid in salt.  It has been used as a preservative to help food stay good for longer.  Salt has been used as a flavoring agent.  Have you ever put a tablespoon of salt in a glass of chocolate milk?  It helps change the flavor of the veggie’s you might not want to eat or makes your popcorn delicious.

Salt can be used as a cleaner.  You can use salt to clean your bathroom or polish tarnished brass or copper.  Salt has healing properties.  You can use it as a mouthwash to clear up canker sores or as an antiseptic.  Salt keeps us safe.  Salt is spread on icy roads and highways to keep our feet and cars from slipping.  It is used to soften our water, removing chemicals that we don’t want in our water.  Salt can also put out grease fires, drive away ants, kill poison ivy, and deodorize your shoes.  The Bible mentions salt a number of times, but what exactly does that mean?  It has so many different uses.


Discussion Questions

  • What was a new use of salt that you didn’t previously know?
  • If you were one of the italicized uses for salt, what would you be?
  • How has your perception of salt changed after looking into it more deeply?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, September 30, 2012  (Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

James 5:13-20

Mark 9:38-50

(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

What is it about salt?  Though salt is timeless and used in the Bible, like water and wine, it is not commonly used in our worship services.  Jesus calls us salt. In the text for today, John warns Jesus that someone outside their small band of disciples is casting out demons in Jesus’ name.  John is concerned that there are people who are against the work which Jesus and the disciples are doing.  That is a valid worry; some were against Jesus.  However, Jesus offers up a positive judgment, “if they are not against us, then they are for us.”

Jesus then tells the disciples to look at temptations to sin.  He says it is better to remove the part of you that is sinful then to let the whole be spoiled.  Salt, as we looked at before, can be used as a preserving agent in meats to keep them fresh for long periods of time.  If the salt ceases to do its job the whole slab of meat may spoil.  It is better to remove the poorly salted portion which has gone bad than to lose the whole piece.

Jesus says, “Have salt in yourself”.  What does this mean?  Salt has many uses.  Can we be a preserver of others or of ourselves by standing firm in the gospel?  Maybe we are called to cleanse ourselves from that which we know draws us to sin?  Perhaps we can be flavor, being creative, adding interest and depth to the world.  Maybe we are healers; reminding others of what Jesus has done for them.  Maybe we keep people and ourselves safe, by recognizing what is not good with the world, working to avoid it in ourselves, and fixing it if we can.  Jesus says, “Salt is good… and to have salt in yourself.”

Discussion Questions

  • When Jesus says to “have salt in yourself” what property of salt do you think that applies to?
  • Having read the Scripture text, what do you think was the disciples’ original reaction?
  • How can you serve as ‘salt’ to another person?
  • In what ways do you need to preserve yourself?


Activity Suggestions

  • Play with some salt. Get a couple of different kinds, sea salt, table salt, rock salt.  Have students create art using the salt, paper, and glue.
  • Eat some salt.  Offer some salty snacks such as pretzels, chips, or even pancakes.
  • Experiment with some salt.  Get an old fashioned ice cream maker and have the students make ice cream throughout the class.  Watch how the salt, combined with the ice, makes the cream freeze.
  • Spread the salt.  Give your students a little bag of salt with a reminder to ‘Have Salt in themselves and be at peace with one another. Mark 9:50”

Closing Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for blessing us with this time together.  We are salt and salt is good.  Help us to see your activity in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Help us to see our many uses and the variety of ways we can be of service to you and to others. Please use us Lord for your kingdom. Amen.


February 2-8-2011–The Souper Bowl

Contributed by Kelly Derrick, St Philip Lutheran Church, Roanoke, VA

Warm-up Question

Are you going to watch the Super Bowl?

The Souper Bowl

On Sunday, February 6th, millions of Americans will watch the Super Bowl, the NFL’s final showdown between the Steelers and the Packers.   Also on this same Sunday, thousands of young people in America will participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring.

The Souper Bowl of Caring began in 1990 in Columbia, SC, as a ministry of 22 congregations seeking to answer this simple question: “Why not use Super Bowl weekend, a time when people come together for football and fun, to also unify the nation for a higher good: collecting dollars and canned food for the needy?”  The movement is now the nation’s largest celebration of giving and serving.  Young people are the primary leaders of this food drive/service blitz movement.  Groups are encouraged to collect both donations of cans of food (really any non-perishable food will do!) as well as monetary donations.  Most often, the money is collected in soup pots (makes sense, huh?).  All of the food and all of the money collected is kept within the local community.  Each group decides to whom the food and money will go.  Each group also reports the totals of their collection to the Souper Bowl of Caring so that a national total of food and money is tallied.

Along with collecting food and funds for hunger agencies in their own area, groups are encouraged to participate in a Service Blitz.  The reasons for doing a Service Blitz are, in part, because it “helps youth connect the contents of their soup pots to the individuals directly benefiting from the dollar and can donations and gives youth exposure to poverty, hunger, homelessness, and injustice in their own community.”

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring?  If so, what did you do? What was it like?  How did it make you feel?
  • What is your congregation doing to respond to hunger in your community? Around the world?
  • The Souper Bowl of Caring believes that young people have the ability to serve and should be given opportunities to lead their communities in helping others.  How has God gifted you to lead?  Does your congregation empower you to serve and to lead?
  • The Souper Bowl of Caring also believes that hunger and poverty have a negative impact on individuals and the communities in which they live.  Do you think that hunger and poverty actually do have a negative impact on your community? If so, how?  If not, why not?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, February 6, 2011 (Fifth Sunday and Epiphany)

Isaiah 58:1-9a [9b-12]

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 [13-16]

Matthew 5:13-20

(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

Be salt? Be light? Huh? Over the years, many people (including some scholars) have been confused by these words from Jesus.  How are we to be salt and light?  What does that mean?  Maybe it has something to do with the good works Jesus mentions?

This passage from Matthew is part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  To really oversimplify, the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ instructions for those who follow him – what to believe and, much more important, what to do.  Following Jesus requires a response from us!  Jesus has certain expectations for how his followers will act.  Faith is not just about belief; faith is about action.  So, what is it that we are supposed to do?

Jesus says that we should do good works and that our righteousness should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.  So what does Jesus mean by righteousness?  God’s righteousness is about covenant: God keeping the promises God has made to the people, most important God’s promise to save the people.  God’s righteousness is about God’s action on behalf of God’s people – saving, freeing, helping, assisting, raising up.  Most often God’s actions were on behalf of the poor and needy.  As God’s people, our righteousness should be like God’s righteousness.  When Jesus says we should act in righteousness, he means that we should act as God acts.  Like God, we should be concerned about – and act on behalf of – those who are poor and needy.  Righteousness is doing justice for the poor, the helpless, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, and the resident alien – all of those who are the least, last, lost, littlest, and lifeless within the community.

So, how do we act in a righteous way?  I think the words for today from Isaiah give us some hints.  The prophet says that God wants us to worship in this way: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into your house, to cover the naked and not to hide yourself from your own kin.  Look at all those verbs; that’s lots of action!  Then, Isaiah says, your light shall break forth like the dawn!  Sounds a lot like being light to me!

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think Jesus means by being salt and being light?
  • At the end of the Lutheran baptism service, the pastor often says this from Matthew 5:16: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  What does baptism have to do with doing good works?
  • What do you think Jesus wants us to do?
  • What does the Souper Bowl of Caring have to do with doing righteousness? With letting your light shine before others so they can see your good works and glorify God?
  • The Souper Bowl of Caring believes that there is joy in serving?  Do you feel joy when you serve?  Should this be our motivation for helping people who live in poverty and hunger?  Are there others reasons that we should help people who are in need (hint: does God have anything to do with it!?!)?

Activity Suggestions

  • Consider watching the Hunger Education video that is part of the Souper Bowl of Caring or taking the Hunger Quiz. Are you familiar with these hunger statistics?  How did you do on the quiz?  What surprised you?  Was anything particularly shocking to you?
  • Using 100 of anything (pennies, beans, crackers, pieces of paper, people), show visually how the world divides resources by using the World of 100 Statistics.   Or you can watch the video: The Miniature Earth (with similar info; they also have a statistical list on their homepage).

Closing Prayer

Gracious and loving God, thanks for your many gifts to all of humanity.  Help us to use the gifts you have given us to be light in the world.  Empower us to see those who are hungry and poor as your children and our neighbors.  Help us to help all of your people.  Fill us with your Holy Spirit, so that we can feed hungry people today and work for a world in which there are no hungry people at all.  Amen.

September 23-30, 2009 – New poll claims two-thirds of Americans angry at government

Contributed by Jennifer Krausz
Bethlehem, PA

Warm-up Question:  Is our current government doing a good job running the country? Why or why not?

disagreeing-hands200A recent national poll found that Americans are largely angry at their government and disappointed by the lack of ideas from both political parties.

Although Republicans, who are currently out of power, were angriest at 90 percent, 44% of Democrats identified themselves as somewhat or very angry. 78% of independents were also somewhat or very angry with their government.

59% of respondents across all political parties said that they were more angry now than they had been during the previous administration. And 60% say that neither Democrats nor Republicans have the answers to the problems the country currently faces.

30% of respondents said they were not really angry, including 10% who were not angry at all.

The poll did not seem to answer the question of why respondents were angry. Many Americans seem preoccupied with economic conditions, which have been slow to improve. Health care reform has also been a deeply divisive issue.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think people are so angry with the government right now?
  2. Do you think their anger is reasonable, even if you are not angry yourself? Why?
  3. Given what you know of the two major political parties (and trying to be objective and respectful in your response), what do you think most Republicans are angriest about? What do you think most Democrats are angriest about?
  4. Do you think it’s easier to get angry, or to be satisfied with the way things are? Is it easier to be against something or someone who you don’t agree with completely or who is different than yourself, or to find a way of trusting and working together?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, September 27, 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.

Gospel Reflection

Here’s a rough church history lesson in 3 sentences:  The church started out as fairly unified; yes, there were major conflicts, but they managed not to immediately break off into major different sections. A significant portion evolved into the Catholic Church. Luther started the Reformation, and the Christian church has spawned hundreds, if not thousands, of different denominations, off-shoots, and factions.

Throughout history, people have fought bitter and bloody battles over religious differences and divisions.

So, what would Jesus think of all our different varieties and flavors of faith, theology, and traditions?

We walk a fine line between theological correctness and the unity of our belief in Jesus Christ. We walk a fine line between upholding our own familiar traditions and practices and being open to the traditions and ideas of others. In each case, both are important. We can disagree on how to baptize, how to take communion, build structures and organizations, and many other things, but let’s hope we never disagree about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who showed us how to live as compassionate servants, died on the cross for our sins, conquered death, and who gives us eternal life by grace through faith — a life-giving gift for everyone.

collaboration_hands200Jesus took it even further than that though. He suggests that just because someone isn’t ‘one of us’ doesn’t mean we should reject that person’s actions or intentions. If they are showing unselfish compassion and concern for others, give thanks and don’t shrug them off. If they are trying to help or care for us, then accept it and give thanks. Encourage them; don’t reject them. It is possible for others to do God’s work even though they are not members of our denomination or official members of our congregation.

Jesus asks us to seek peace and justice in the world, both outside the church and within it. What would churches everywhere be like if we were to do as Jesus told his disciples in this case? What would it be like if we treated all people — professing Christians or not — with the same sincere respect and compassion Jesus demonstrated? What if we encouraged and supported all people to live boldly in ways God desires for us.

Discussion Questions

  • From your perspective and faith, how do you think God wants all people to live — throughout the world? Try to be specific.
  • What are some of the burning current issues and problems in the world and in our country that we can be working on together even though we come from many different perspectives of faith, culture, life experience, and politics? In what ways does our Lutheran Christian faith influence our participation and what we do?
  • What do you think different denominations and faith groups can do to be more unified or to work together? Name some examples of how the ELCA is working with other churches or faith groups. What if it means sometimes bumping heads over theology, beliefs, traditions, or values? How should the church work through times of conflict or disagreement with others (or each other)?
  • How does grace, forgiveness, and compassion enter into all of this?

Activity Suggestions

Are there inter-faith groups in your community (e.g., local council of churches, informal unity groups, ministerial groups, youth ministry leader groups, ecumenical youth ministries, etc.)? Find out if your church has a representative and invite him or her to speak with your class for a few minutes about the group and what it does.

  • Where do they find common ground and support for each other, and where do they tend to disagree, or agree to disagree?
  • What are the benefits of working together even when you do not see eye-to-eye on everything?


Make a list of denominations, faith groups, or religions that you know little about but that make you feel uneasy or stir up strong impressions and feelings within you (e.g., mistrust, anger, suspicion, curiosity, or even hostility). Choose one or two and find out more about its specific beliefs and practices. Sources for more information or links to other faiths and denominations:

Sometimes, getting more information helps us feel less uncomfortable about something and helps us sort through information or perceptions that may not be accurate or true. If possible and appropriate, invite someone from that faith or denomination to meet with your group for mutual learning. Be careful not to make it a battlefield for trying to convert each other or for argument.

Closing Prayer

Dear God, we thank you that you have made us all so different in so many ways. Help us to remember that we all worship the same God, our creator, who loves us in spite of how we often disagree with each other. Let us find unity in our faith through your Son, Jesus Christ, who showed us how to live with compassion and forgiveness for each other, and gave up his own life for the sake of all people. Amen.