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Faith Lens

October 28-November 4, 2009 – Signs of the times

Contributed by Pastor Seth Moland-Kovash
All Saints Lutheran Church
Palatine, IL

Warm-up Question:  How easy do you find it to forgive a friend when something bad happens that is clearly their fault?

surgeons200Finding fault and placing blame are things that all people do. Somehow it just seems to make us feel better when we can place the blame for someone on someone’s shoulders. Of course, it only serves to make us feel comfortable if we can place the blame on someone else’s shoulders. There are times when placing blame isn’t just a matter of words, but of serious consequences: sometimes thousands or millions of dollars, or other punishments.

One way that this happens is through medical malpractice lawsuits. A doctor or hospital can be sued for malpractice if a mistake is made in treating a patient or something is overlooked that should have been seen or treated.

One current proposal that is part of the debate on the healthcare system as a whole is to limit the amount of money that could be awarded to patients or families in malpractice cases. Called “tort reform,” one proposal would limit the amount of money that people could win to $500,000 for punitive damages and $250,000 for “pain and suffering.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this change would save the government $54 billion over the next 10 years.

Some say that the legal awards need to be limited to be reasonable and to cut the costs that doctors have to pay for malpractice insurance. Others say that there is no amount of money that should be considered too great for the family of someone who has died because of malpractice. 

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think? Should there be a limit on the amount of money that a doctor or hospital would have to pay in a malpractice case?
  2. If someone you loved died because of a clear case of malpractice, how much money do you think would be a fair punishment?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 1, 2009 (All Saints Day).

(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

Lazarus was dead. He was dead and buried and in the tomb. Jesus was late. The emergency message had been sent, but Jesus wasn’t there at the right time. Mary (Lazarus’ sister) said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” What do you think that she felt Jesus could have done? Whether she was right or not, she felt that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had gotten there in time. Perhaps there was a hint of blame in her statement.

Where is God when it hurts? Why doesn’t God seem to be around to help me now like he helped all those people in the Bible? These are common questions that come to our minds when something bad happens. We want to know where God was and why God let that thing happen. In this story, we see that people even during the Bible times had the same experiences. Mary wanted to know why Jesus hadn’t gotten there in time. She wanted to know why this bad thing had to happen to her family. She was in pain.

And Jesus had healing for her pain. It wasn’t like anything she could have imagined. She imagined that, if Jesus had been able to get there before Lazarus died, then Jesus could have healed him. But once he was dead, Mary thought that was the end of the story.

Today, on All Saints Sunday, we remember again that death is not the end of the story for any of God’s saints. Your grandmothers and grandfathers, any of God’s children who have died, are alive again. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Nothing can separate us from God’s love; not even death (Romans 8:37-39).

Discussion Questions

  1. Tell about a time you were in pain and wondered whether God was even there.
  2. Have you seen signs that God is there in painful times? What do those signs look like? (Hint: Look at the other people in the room… they may be the signs for you)

Activity Suggestion

Create an “All Saints” remembrance with your youth group. Bring a memento or photo that makes you think of someone who has died. Tell your friends about that person. Say, “I am thankful to God for ________ because __________.”

Closing Prayer

Good and gracious God, we thank you for all the saints you have given us who have shown us your love and your mercy. Help us to continue to live as your faithful children until the day when we are reunited with all your saints. Amen.

(Or use the prayer for the “Rememberance of the faithful departed” found on page 82 of Evangelical Lutheran Worship.)

April 8-15, 2009 – Obamania: The European tour part II

Contributed by Jocelyn Breeland
Fairfax, VA

Warm-up Question: If you could be a groupie, which celebrity would you follow?

President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Europe, the first of his presidency, created a public frenzy that recalled his visit to Europe during the 2008 presidential campaign.

True, there was a lot of real work to be done this time, at the G-20 summit and in meetings with British, Russian, and other heads of state. Pundits (an expert, commentator, or opinion-leader) are divided over the value of what was accomplished. Most agree that the tone of the gatherings was more productive than would have been possible during the Bush administration.

Based on the news reports, Americans could be forgiven for thinking the trip was more a tour by American royalty than an opportunity for serious work on the critical issues of our time.

The screaming crowds that greeted Mr. Obama and his wife at many stops provided plenty of “distraction” for the news media. Reporters seemed transfixed by the first couple’s every move, especially Mrs. Obama. Breathlessly, they reported that she touched the queen! That she wore a sweater to Buckingham Palace! That she got emotional while speaking with a group of adoring school girls!

Of course, some maintain that, despite the conspicuous display of admiration, not much of importance has changed in the relationship between the U.S. and its European partners. Yes, there were adoring crowds, but there were also large violent protests.

Discussion Questions

  • Should European public opinion matter to Americans?
  • What is it about President Obama that inspires such adoration?
  • Are those who put President Obama on a pedestal setting themselves up for inevitable disappointment?
  • What are your impressions of President Obama and his wife? How do your impressions shape your expectations of President Obama’s leadership?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, April 12, 2009 (Easter Sunday).

(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

Jesus’ followers were frightened and confused by his death. They’d served with him for three years, so the confusion didn’t result from not knowing Christ well enough, but from not yet comprehending the way he had transformed their lives. On Easter morning, Jesus gave the disciples the key to understanding what the prophets of the Old Testament had foretold, and what he had been trying to explain throughout his ministry.

The story is simple; its meaning is earth-shattering. The tomb is empty because Jesus, once dead but now alive, has left. Skeptics said someone must have moved the body. But the miraculous resurrection isn’t the only (or even the most important) headline of this tale.

The amazing story that God begins to reveal on Easter morning is what Jesus’ victory over death means to each of us. It’s as if he gave us a beautifully wrapped present at Christmas, and at Easter we get to open it and see what’s inside. Later, as we grow in faith we, like the disciples will understand and appreciate this gift more and more.

Because God sacrificed his son for us, we have the assurance of eternal life. We can be sure that our creator, who can bring life from death, can protect and reclaim us no matter how dire our situation. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, our sins are forgiven. With this certainty, we can boldly do whatever God calls us to do.

On Easter morning, the disciples were grieving and fearful. But we, who know the rest of the story, truly the greatest story ever told, can joyfully express our thanks to God for this gift. Alleluia! He is risen!

Discussion Questions

  • What in today’s Gospel makes the greatest impression on you?
  • Mark 16:8 says the women said nothing about what they saw, because they were afraid. What of?
  • If the disciples had fully understood what happened Easter morning, how do you think they would have reacted?
  • How is your relationship with Jesus different from that of a celebrity groupie?

Activity Suggestion

Jesus Christ, the rock star, is going on. Create the official tour t-shirt. What words or images would appeal to Christians? What would draw the attention and appeal to non-believers?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God, this week we are celebrating your greatest gift to us — the life and sacrifice of your son Jesus. Words alone cannot express our intense gratitude. But in our songs, in our prayers, and in the way we care for each other and the world, we praise you, and glorify you. Thank you for continuing to walk with us everyday. When we’re in trouble, comfort us with the assurance of your love, and the promise of life everlasting. In the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns, now and forever. Amen.