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January 13-19–Salvation Army Victim of a Hoax

Contributed by Sylvia Alloway, Granda Hills, CA

Warm-up Question

Do you have everything you need? If not, what do you think is lacking? Are all needs physical? List some non-physical needs.

Salvation Army the Victim of a Hoax

We have all seen the familiar red pot and patient bell ringer in front of stores at Christmas. Collectors for the Salvation Army receive gifts ranging from a few coins to hundreds of dollars. Forty per cent of the aid association’s capital comes from the humble red Christmas pots.This year, however, the Army’s Charleston, S. C. chapter was the victim of a baffling hoax. A seeming act of great generosity turned into a great disappointment as a check for $25,000 bounced after the group had already spent part of it on the needs of some 100 families.

081020-SalvationRedKettle-hmed-456p_hmediumOther charitable organizations in the Charleston area received large checks, supposedly from Force Protection, Inc., a manufacturer of armored trucks, but only the Salvation Army cashed theirs. Force Protection knew nothing about the “gifts,” which were drawn on a bank account closed months before. The case is being investigated, but no arrests have been made.

The loss means a lack of funds that will translate into less help for the poor, even as the recession brings more and people to the door of the nationally known charity.


Source: Associated press article from 

Discussion Questions 

  1. What motive could someone have for giving bad checks to a charity?
  2. If you came face to face with the person who committed this fraud, what would you say to him/her?
  3. Some believe that fewer and fewer people care about doing right simply because it is right. Do you agree?  If lying, cheating and stealing are on the rise, what, if anything, can the church and/or  individual Christians do to stop this trend?


Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, January 17, 2010 (Second Sunday after Epiphany)

(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.

 Isaiah 62:15

I Corinthians 12:1-11

John 2:1-11 

Gospel Meditation 

So there was the wedding party and all of a sudden they ran out of wine. What’s the big deal? Couldn’t they drink something else?  No, they could not. Wedding parties of the day were huge, week-long affairs to which the entire community was invited. By the rules of hospitality, the host was expected to provide generously for his guests. Not to do so was a social error so great that it could ruin a family’s reputation. 

Many people interpret this story to mean that Jesus approves of marriage and he most certainly does. Others say it proves that God has nothing against good times, which is emphatically true, as well. 

But Jesus is also responding to a serious social need. And look how he responds. The “master of the banquet” (similar to what we call the “best man”) is so impressed with the wine that he takes the groom aside to comment on it. “You have saved the best until now.” Jesus can turn the plain and ordinary into his best. In this way he reveals his glory! 

The world can only give us bounced checks – IOUs for happiness and contentment which can never truly fulfill our needs. Depend on worldly glitter and gadgets for lasting satisfaction and you will come away empty every time. But Jesus’ presence can turn the “water” of our lives—broken promises, dead-end ambitions, and foolish desires—into his celebratory wine.  From Him flow new promises, ambitions, and desires, which lead to inner peace and joy that are not dependent on outward circumstances. 

And since we receive both physical and spiritual blessings from God, does it not make sense to share them? Many in our own neighborhoods are physically hungry. Even more suffer from spiritual want. Like the Salvation Army, let us continually give both physical comfort and the message of the Gospel to those in need. 

Discussion Questions 

  1. Think about the benefits of knowing and serving Jesus as our Savior. List and talk about some of them.
  2. What does it mean to be in need? Compare what we think we need to what we really need. Discuss the needs you mentioned in the warm-up question. How do we satisfy these needs?
  3. In a time when more and more people are without even the basics of life, the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations are stretched to the limit as to how many they can help. What can your church, your Sunday school class, and you personally do to help the poor of your community? 


  1. Plan a project for your church or youth group that will help the poor of your community. Some examples: You might sponsor a food or clothing drive (especially focusing on clothes for children, babies, or adults going on job interviews).  Cook and serve a monthly evening meal in the church hall.  Offer babysitting service for the children of parents who are searching for work. Try to make it something that will bring you face to face with those in need. 
  2. Plan a project that will fulfill spiritual needs.  Some examples: Go door to door telling people about your church and/or passing out Bibles.  Read or act out Bible stories for children.  Sponsor a youth concert with Christian music. 

Suggested songs: Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Give Thanks (with a Grateful Heart)

 Closing Prayer

Merciful Father, who supplies our needs with your best, turn our hearts outward. Open our eyes to the needs of those around us and, out of the help, love, and encouragement that you have first given us, help us to give generously to all. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, we pray.  Amen.

December 10-17, 2008 – Ring those bells!

Warm-up Question: Have you seen the Salvation Army Bell Ringers? Do you toss something in the kettle? Why or why not?

Have you seen them out there? The Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Ringers? Volunteers who stand on corners every Christmas season, in front of grocery stores, malls, and convenience stores ringing bells hoping to have some change dropped in. Have you wondered, what’s it for; how did it all begin?

The Salvation Army church and charity began in England in 1865, seeking to reach out to the marginalized in society; alcoholics, drug dealers, and prostitutes. Today the Salvation Army is most recognized by its Christmas Red Kettle Campaign. The ‘kettle’ started in 1891 in San Francisco, CA by Salvation Army Officer Captain Joseph McFee to raise money for Christmas dinners for the poor in San Francisco. Originally, a crab pot was hung from a tripod and passerby’s were encouraged to ‘keep the pot boiling’ by donating to the fund designated to feed the poor.

Since it’s inception, the red kettles have sought to raise money for the poor each Christmas season, using the donations to purchase toys for children, provide meals and assistance to the poor, and provide utility and home subsidization, disaster relief, drug treatment, and senior and child care to families in need. Since 2004, the campaign has brought in nearly 100 million dollars a year to fund these projects. The Salvation Army has helped 37 million people, and 83 cents of every dollar goes directly to those who are in need of it.

Next time you hear those bells you will know their story, its rich history, and think about the Christ-centered impact that it makes on our world and communities. It’s an announcement that tells us “Christmas is coming. Take care of those who need Christ’s promises and hope most of all.”

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever donated to the red kettle campaign or wondered where the money went?
  • What do you think of the volunteers who patiently ring the bells? Imagine that you were ringing the Salvation Army bells. How would you feel? What would you hope for or think as people passed back and forth by you as they shopped?
  • Given the downturn of our economy, how important do you feel it is to give this Christmas season? To think of the needs of others?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, December 14, 2008.
(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

In the Gospel we find John the Baptist ringing those bells. Not literally of course. He was proclaiming the excitement of the one to come after him, our Lord Jesus Christ. People knew John was sent from God. Their curiosity was peaked as they saw what this man was doing and saying. The priests and the Levites came to question his intentions. “Who are you?” they asked. They wanted to know why he was baptizing people. John told them, “I am the voice on one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.”

John the Baptist shared of the one who was to come after him and proclaimed that he was not worthy to untie his sandals, like the red kettle bell ringers who remind us of Christ’s good news to come during the hurried Christmas season. John the Baptist was the proclamation of that time, baptizing and proclaiming to Jewish leaders of the time that the Messiah was coming and the world was about to change.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel the anticipation of Christ’s presence during this holiday season?
  • How do you imagine the priests and Levite’s responded to John’s proclamation, especially since he was not one of them?
  • What can you do to proclaim Christ’s message to help the marginalized and needy in your community? What good news and actions are needed most right now?

Activity Suggestions

Volunteer to ring the bells this Christmas season get on the Web site to sign up to volunteer.

Keep in mind and in front of everything else going on around you the needs of people in your community and in other places of the world. Create a prayer list for your group to use. Create an action list of things you can do individually and as a group to be Christ’s good news and hope in the world, especially for those in need. Learn more about what you can do through the ELCA Web sites:

Closing Prayer

Blessed Savior, we anticipate your birth with great excitement and promise. Thank you for coming to greet us through your humble birth. Help us to extend that gratitude and kindness to those who need to hear and experience hope, faith, and salvation. Bless those who feel like they live their lives on the fringe. Enable us to extend graciousness and generosity to their lives. In your name we pray. Amen.

Contributed by

Angie Larson
Clive, IA