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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.

March 4-11, 2009 – Botshabelo, Africa… a place of refuge

Contributed by Angie Larson
Clive, IA

Warm-up Question: What would you do if you were to do something different with your life?

In 1990 the Cloete family decided to dramatically change their lives. Marion and Con were successful business professionals in a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. They owned a five bedroom home, swimming pool, and had many wealthy friends. After intense fighting in their country, many black children were left as orphans. Marion and Con decided to open their home to 30 children left without parents, much to the dismay of their affluent neighbors during apartheid in South Africa. They helped the children get to and from three schools until their home became a school where Marion served as the teacher.

The Cloetes were bombarded with requests for help from single mothers and other orphans as word spread of their kindness. They found themselves in personal conflict between their sense of moral responsibility and their disapproving neighbors.

In December, the Cloete family, Marion, Con, and their three daughters, Leigh, Nicole, and Shanna, decided to walk away from their affluent life and opened a community called Botshabelo, which translated means ‘place of refuge.’ They spent their life savings to buy a hundred acre farm to build a place for orphans to live and receive education. It is now home to over 1,000 people who have sought refuge and education in Botshabelo.

A documentary named, “Angels in the Dust,” was made about the Cloete family in 2007. “We face challenges, not problems, we are the custodians of this planet,” says Con Cloete. They had what many dream of having in their life in Johannesburg, but have found so much more in the care of children without parents.

Discussion Questions

  • What is your initial reaction to the Cloete’s change in lifestyle?
  • Do you think this kind of thing could happen in America? Why or why not?
  • If you were going to give up your life for another group of people, who would you make the sacrifice for? Who do you feel particularly concerned for?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 8, 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

In the gospel, Jesus tells of his own upcoming betrayal and death. Then he asks us a profound question, “for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” We work so hard to gain the whole world. We strive to be competitive, bump up our credentials and resumes; we work to get better clothes, better electronics, better jobs, more affluence. And for what? What do we gain? We are bombarded with over 3,000 advertising messages a day telling us that we need more of ‘the world’ — more stuff and prestige. The Cloete family was pressured by their neighbors not to reach out to those in need because of “how it looked.”

Jesus asks us a hard question. He wants us to look at what we are striving after; what are we are trying to gain. Are we trying to gain popularity, wealth, approval, or power? He reminds us that he has a better way. It is better for us to lose our life that we have planned out and to trust him in a radical and awesome way that suggests a very different kind of life.

Jesus can do great things with our lives if we let him take control. Try to look for Godly things, not human things, and let go of what’s preventing us from listening to Jesus in our lives. Let go of what keeps us from listening to people in need and responding with the love that God has demonstrated with us through Jesus.

Discussion Questions

  • What human thing, emotion, or quality are you seeking after? What do you secretly desire or envy?
  • How hard is it for you to “give it to God”; to trust God and follow? Does it depend on the situation? How?
  • What can you do to proclaim Christ’s message to help the marginalized and needy in your community? In the world?

Activity Suggestion

  • Play the Toby Mac song “Lose My Soul” and print off lyrics for youth. Discuss the songs lyrics and how they are taken from the gospel text.
  • Learn more about Botshabelo on their Web site,
  • Watch the documentary “Angels in the Dust” about the Cloete’s life-changing project.
  • Talk about the possibilities for during a year of service sometime after high school. Check out some of the ELCA volunteer opportunities for young adults.

Closing Prayer

Blessed Savior, help us to identify the ways in which we are seeking the world’s ways and not yours. Guide us in the ways you would want us to live our lives. Aid us in helping others in our world according to your loving and just will. Thank you for giving us the opportunities to serve and witness for you while on this earth. In your name we pray. Amen.