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Occupation Nation

Contributed by Jocelyn Breeland , Fairfax, VA


Warm-up Question

Is there a cause so important to you that you would risk arrest to defend it?


Occupation Nation

Since September 17, hundreds of protesters have congregated at Zuccotti Park in New York City, holding an ongoing series of demonstrations known as “Occupy Wall Street.”  The protesters are speaking out against economic and social inequality and against corporate greed. Some have called for raising taxes on the rich, ending corporate welfare, protecting Medicare and Social Security, and an audit of the Federal Reserve or its elimination. Their rallying cry, “We are the 99%!” refers to the vast income and influence disparity between the top 1% of wealthiest Americans and everyone else. They say it is time for the 99% to inspire change.    (photo by L Kragt Bakker /

The protesters are largely peaceful, although there have been isolated skirmishes with police. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested. The movement has spread from New York City to more than 70 other cities in the U.S. and abroad.

Politicians and pundits from all parts of the ideological spectrum have commented on the situation. President Obama said the protests reflected frustration that the same people whose irresponsibility caused the financial collapse are fighting efforts to “crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this crisis in the first place.” Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain responded to the protests saying, “Don’t blame Wall Street; don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

At the time of this writing, protesters have avoided an attempt by the owner of Zucotti Park to remove them, ostensibly to clean the park, and the protests continue to spread.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you support the justification offered by the organizers of Occupy Wall Street, that the vast majority of Americans – the 99% – need to be heard regarding solutions to the economic crisis?
  • Do you think Occupy Wall Street can be effective in shaping government or corporate policies?
  • How do you think Jesus would respond to the protests? Would he be in Zuccotti Park with the protesters or do you imagine he would have some other response?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, October 30, 2011 (Reformation Sunday)

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36


(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

It seems everywhere we turn we’re bombarded with sharply divided opinions. Each side appears earnest and is backed up with research, expert opinion, and statistics. In the face of this information overload, how are we supposed to decide who is telling the truth? Is government spending the best way to fix the economy, or is lowering taxes the answer. Is that egg you had for breakfast an excellent, low-fat source of protein or a dangerous dose of cholesterol? How are we supposed to sort out answers to complex questions?

Unlike these topics, the truth that Jesus offers in today’s gospel is unambiguous. If we are really his disciples, he says, we will know the truth and that truth will set us free.

Despite this assurance, the rigors of discipleship can sometimes feel more like a burden than the freedom we’re promised. Discipleship comes with the responsibility to read and understand God’s word, to pray and worship regularly, to show compassion and care for our fellow humans, to forgive our enemies. Add these to all the other claims on our time and attention, and it can be tempting to see discipleship as just one more demand.

But if we live in the word as Jesus suggests, it’s easy to see that discipleship is not the burden. Rather, our burden is a whole host of human ideas and emotions that are binding us like slaves and keeping us from living God’s truth–fear, laziness, apathy, hatred, and peer pressure.

The truth is as simple as it is challenging. As we study God’s word, humbly seeking there the answers to our questions (“How can I serve God?” “What should I do?”), we begin to discover the path of righteousness and know the freedom that Christ’s sacrifice purchased for each of us.

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean to be a slave to sin?
  • What are the things that keep you from living fully in God’s word?
  • What is this truth that will set you free?
  • We say that America is a free country, but are there aspects of American culture that can enslave a Christian?

Activity Suggestions

 In Alexandria, VA, there is a church with a sign out front that reads “Occupy King Street.”  (King Street is the “main drag” in town.) Imagine your congregation decided to occupy a street or square in your community. What would be the focus of your occupation?  What would be your demands? How would your behavior reflect a distinctively Christian vision? Who would speak at your rally? How many people would attend? How would the community in which you live respond to such a public witness?

Now consider completing your plans and making your occupation a reality. What would it take to make your occupation happen?  In your group discuss whether this is the most effective way to work for justice; are there alternatives?  When is such direct action demanded of a Christian?  Perhaps this path seems very difficult or radical. Before you dismiss the idea of such action, try to discern whether Jesus is indeed calling you to a new path of discipleship and freedom in pursuing your cause.


Closing Prayer

Most kind and compassionate Father, who anticipates all our needs, thank you for your Word, revealed in scripture and embodied in Christ. Release us from the bondage of sin. Help us to shake off the fear and complacency that makes it difficult for us to act according to your will. Always lead us in your way. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who is the truth and the way of everlasting life. Amen

March 9-15, 2011–Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Contributed by Jack Saarela, Lutheran Campus Ministry, Yale University

Warm-up Question

Look at the picture below.  What would you substitute for “especially bookstores”?

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

In seeking a thought-provoking picture about temptation to kick off this devotion, I noted that they were almost all one of two general types: (a) photos of women being tempted by food, especially chocolate; and (b) seductive, revealing photos of young, buxom female beauties, presumably representing the most common and compelling temptation for men.

But there are temptations other than overindulging in rich food or engaging in illicit, casual, uncommitted sex. I should wear a shirt like the one in this photo. No matter how many unread books are already on my shelf, no matter the state of our family budget, lure me into a bookstore, and you can be sure I won’t walk out without at least one more book to add to my library.  It’s not exactly “shop ‘til you drop”, but more like, “There’s always room for one more on my shelf”, and “I’ll read it later.”

Discussion Questions

  • We pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” What do you think of when you hear that phrase?
  • What are the temptations that follow you around like your shadow which you can only acknowledge to yourself?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 13, 201 (First Sunday in Lent)

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

(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

Matthew tells us that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Don’t you think that rather strange? The same Spirit that descended and alighted on him in his baptism just a few verses earlier, now seemingly leading Jesus into temptation? What happened to “Lead us not into temptation”?

It’s interesting that the Greek word used by Matthew can mean either “temptation” or “test”. One commentator remarks, “Apparently, Satan tempts, but God tests.”

About what is Jesus being tested by God? God’s voice had been heard at Jesus’ baptism saying, “This is My Son, the Beloved . . .” In announcing Jesus’ birth, the angel had quoted the prophet who said the name of the young woman would be “Emmanuel, which means God with us.” So, how ready is Jesus to be God’s Beloved, to take on the mission given to him of being the very presence of God in the world? What means would he use to fulfill that mission?

Satan prefaced each temptation with, “If you are the Son of God . . .” How much would Jesus really trust the voice from heaven that proclaimed him the Son? Would he base his life on his God-given identity as the Beloved, or would he try to forge his own identity as a wonder-worker or oriental despot?

Matthew doesn’t describe the struggle that Jesus surely must have experienced in hearing Satan’s temptations. Is something really a temptation if it isn’t somehow within our grasp for the taking, and if it doesn’t involve a sacrifice to deny it?

But in the end, Jesus turned Satan down. He would live out his identity as the Beloved and fulfill his mission, not by pulling out the “God card” as Satan counseled. Instead, he would do the opposite. To be God with us, he had to become human before God, just like us. Paul writes to the Philippians that “though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.” He wasn’t going to jump from the parapet of the temple, because flesh and blood doesn’t survive such a jump.

Don’t you find hope in Jesus’ victory over temptation and his passing God’s test? Son of God though he was, Jesus was no different in this respect from you and me. Temptation was as strong, as real, for him as for anyone of us. And being in human form, his power to resist was no greater than ours. Temptation strips all, including even Jesus, of any power of our own to save ourselves. Why else would Jesus teach us to pray for God to deliver us from evil?

Jesus relied on his God-given identity as the Beloved, and on all of God’s promises in Scripture, to pass the test and resist Satan’s tempting offers. All alone out there in the wilderness with Satan, that’s all Jesus had to rely on.

When we face our own temptations, whatever they are, that’s all we have to rely on too. But it will be enough.

Discussion Questions

  • High school students interviewed in an episode of Real Faith TV list drinking, drugs, sex before you’re ready, and cheating on test as the Big Four temptations in their lives, and the lives of their peers ( Do you agree?
  • Do you think there’s always something deeper going on when we are tempted? That is, some dissatisfaction with out lives as they are that makes us particularly vulnerable to temptation?
  • Not many of us consider ourselves “rich”. But by the standards of our world, most of us are quite comfortable. I would argue that the greatest temptation for us in our society is to rely on our affluence for our security. See I Timothy 6:6-10.  What do you think?

Activity Suggestions

Watch the “Marshmallow Test” and have a good laugh! See yourself in it!

Participants might also discuss whether they would eat or wait–and why.

Closing Prayer

Loving God, in the desert you called our Lord to the way of trust and service, rather than of presumption and power.  You  promised Him your sustaining presence.  Strengthen us in all our temptations, preserving us most of all from despair.  You, who know our weakness, forgive our failings and renew us daily, that our lives may be signs of your care for all creation.  We make our prayer in the name of Him who has walked the way of temptation before us, Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

October 27-November 2, 2010–Searching for the Truth

Contributed by Dennis Sepper, University Pastor, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma Washington

Warm-up Question

How do know if something is true?

Searching for the Truth

With the November 2 election drawing near, if you are anything like me, you are tired of the political ads on TV, on the web, and in print.  We all may be at the point where we do not listen to them anymore.  In addition many of us simply do not trust the truth of claims made by one candidate against another.  Stretching the truth, quoting out of context, and old fashion mudslinging now seem to be the norm of every election cycle.  How can we tell if a candidate is telling the truth?  One way is to visit websites like , a project of the University of Pennsylvania which follows political commercials and, as the title says, checks the facts to make sure candidates are telling the truth.

But we must also consider that we live in a time when some scholars and philosophers tell us that truth might no longer be “objective” and thus true for all.  They argue that more and more truth is defined by a community of people.   Maybe that is why, in a survey done is August of this year, nearly 1 in 5 Americans said that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, even though during his campaign there was a large controversy over a statement made by his Christian pastor in Chicago and he has on more than one occasion stated the fact that he is a Christian.  There simply exists a certain community of people in our country for whom believing the President is Muslim is a true fact and they cannot be persuaded differently.

Also, with advances in computer software, one can now edit a picture, cutting and pasting from other pictures so to make a new compilation which looks “real.”  When it comes to truth we can’t even trust our eyes anymore.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever questioned the truth of a statement made by a political candidate or other adult?
  • What do you think about the idea that truth is defined by a community of people and is not “objective” and true for all?
  • Have you ever been fooled by a Photoshopped picture?  How did it make you feel when you found out the photo was not true?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, October 31, 2010 (Reformation Day)

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36

(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

The Reformation Day Gospel text comes from a section of John’s Gospel where Jesus is in a series of controversies with the religious leaders of his time.  In this particular section the religious leaders are questioning the divine commissioning of Jesus.  Jesus argues that he and God are one and that his life, words, and teachings come from God and are true.  The religious leaders believe that authority and truth come from the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, which contain the law).

In our text Jesus challenges us to think about truth in another way.  Jesus states, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.”  What Jesus is talking about is continuing in a relationship to Jesus.  In John’s gospel our relationship to Jesus is of prime importance.  As we abide in Jesus and Jesus abides in us, we know the truth of the Gospel (see John 15:7 where John uses the same image) and that truth is what sets us free.  We seek the truth by staying in a close relationship to Jesus and as we continue in Jesus, the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us.

The truth of the gospel that led Martin Luther to reform the church came from his relationship to the living Jesus.  All his life Luther knew “about” God and the God Luther knew was an angry God.  Luther could find no grace, no peace.  Then, while working on a lecture series on Romans, as he was reading and studying Romans 3, the Spirit opened Luther’s eyes and heart and mind—the gospel truth touched Luther in a new way.  Luther’s relationship to Jesus caused him to see the Bible in a new way.  Luther discovered the truth and the truth set Luther free.

It isn’t what we know “about” God that sets us free, it is our faith, our trusting relationship with Jesus that sets us free and saves us.  The truth is Jesus.

Discussion Questions

  • Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines truth as “the body of real things, events, and facts; a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted a true.”  Do you agree with this definition?  What does the word “truth” mean to you?
  • Can there be “truth” without evidence, facts, or proof?  If so, how do we then know if that something is true?  Could it be that it is something that works in our lives and in our living?  In our relationships to others?
  • On most Sundays in worship we recite the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds.  These are summaries of what we hold to be true about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  However, which comes first, our relationship with Jesus and God that causes us to speak the creeds, or the creeds that teach us the truth about God in an objective way?
  • How do we nurture our relationship to Jesus and keep it strong and alive?

Activity Suggestions

  • Since this is Reformation Day, you might want to be prepared to share a brief biography of Martin Luther.  You could especially highlight the freedom Luther experienced when the truth set him free.
  • We usually think of truth the way Webster’s Dictionary defines it above, as a series of facts or propositions.  Jesus speaks of truth as a relationship with him and God.  Using an online Bible Concordance or search engine look up “truth” and see how Jesus uses the word in other parts of the Gospels.  To get you started, here are some passages in the Gospel of John 1:14-17; 4:23-24; 14:6; 14:15-17.  What is the nature of the truth Jesus speaks in these passages?

Closing Prayer

Gracious and loving God, your Servant Jesus said that he is the way and the truth and the life.  May we always abide in Jesus and Jesus in us, that we might be faithful disciples of Jesus following wherever he may lead us.  Keep us in your truth that we might enjoy the abundant life you promise.  In your Holy Name we pray.  Amen

April 7-13, 2010–Life Out of Doubt

Contributed by Bob Chell, Lutheran Campus Ministry at South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota

Warm-up Question

As children, we sometimes misconstrue reality because we misinterpret what we see:  “Dad took me to watch firefighters train on an abandoned house. For years I thought firefighters drove around looking for run-down houses to burn and was scared they would burn down our house.”  

Sometimes we are mislead:  “When I was little, my Dad told me that the tune played by the ice cream van was the ice cream man letting everyone know that he’d run out of ice cream.”

What have you believed which turned out to be untrue?

Life Out of Doubt

A young woman lay dead; nearby, an abandoned truck was stuck in the mud.  The investigation was quick.  Within hours, police had suspects and by evening Greg Taylor and Johnny Beck were in jail, charged with murder.  Both were crack addicts who admitted they were only looking for their next high.  Johnny Beck was released before trial for reasons which are unclear. Greg Taylor was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.  That was sixteen years ago.  A month ago Greg Taylor was released from prison upon the recommendation of a special innocence panel which found “clear and convincing evidence” that Gregory F. Taylor was innocent and had been convicted based on flawed evidence and unreliable testimony.

Source:  (

Discussion Questions

  • Had this been you or someone you love, would you be grateful or bitter upon release after sixteen years?  How would you reconcile the two feelings?
  • Have you ever had first-hand knowledge of a news story that didn’t match what you heard in the media?
  • Have you passed on a story you later learned was untrue? What were the consequences for the person in the untrue story you passed on?  For you?
  • Did you take any action upon learning the story was untrue?  What was the result? 

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, April 11, 20110 (Second Sunday of Easter)

Acts 5:27-32

Revelation 1:4-8

John 20:19-31

(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

Thomas stands in a long line of doubters stretching back to the beginning of the faith.  Abraham was skeptical that God could deliver on the promise of a son while Sarah, his wife, laughed in God’s face.  Moses doubted he could accomplish what God called him to do.  Gideon demanded proof.  Elijah ran away.  Jeremiah and Job—even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion—struggled with doubt.  One theologian notes that the only people in scripture who are certain of God’s will stone the prophets and crucify Jesus.

Doubt is not an enemy, but a friend.  Doubt keeps us from being a sucker for every get-rich, get-beautiful, get-saved scheme that comes along.  The danger is that, surrounded by pop-up ads and bogus invitations to wealth and intimacy, we will become cynical and cease to believe anything.

Yet, it is doubt that pushes us forward in life and faith.  Doubt is a way of life for high school and college students:  Doubting your major, doubting your current romance, doubting there will ever be a romance, doubting your career plans, doubting your faith.

Doubt is useful when it pushes us beyond the superficial to the substantive, when it pushes us to ask hard questions and look at life, and ourselves, with clear and open eyes.

Doubt is at the heart of education.  It drives the scientific method.  How does this work…what would happen if…can I prove…?

In our personal life doubt keeps us awake at night and commands our attention. It is unpleasant but useful, drawing us to attend to those things most important in our lives.  Doubt pushes us to change and grow.  It forces us to ask hard questions about faith, family, and vocation, the things which define who we are.

Doubt is not the end but the beginning.  Most of us, when plagued by doubt, try harder to figure it out, to think it through, to discern the truth—and we should.  Whom we choose as a life partner, the career we choose, the faith we embrace will shape and change the rest of our lives.

Easter isn’t about happy endings, Jesus springing up three days later so we can have Easter eggs, a new outfit and time off from school or work.  Easter is about a God who stands with us, suffers with us, even dies with us.

The poet Gerhard Frost once wrote: “Doubt gnaws at faith but faith gnaws back, and faith has better teeth.”  God’s promise is that Jesus can and will break through the locked and shut doors of our lives, the prison of doubt we live in.  Jesus comes through the wall, breaks in, and speaks “Peace be with you.”  God’s peace isn’t a promise that there will be no doubt, pain, struggle, indecision, or any of the other things which are part of being human, part of being in relationships. God’s peace is a promise to walk with us, to strengthen us, to sustain us, to forgive us, to challenge us.

The time for hunting Easter eggs is over, but if we are hunting for God working in our lives, we need only look where we doubt.  There we will find God’s Spirit moving us to growth and faith.

Discussion Questions

  • Recall a time when you thought you would never be happy again.  Was God at work in you and others?
  • How do we discern when doubt is useful and when it is useless?
  • If doubt is a good thing, can we be certain about anything?

Activity Suggestions

  • Ask several persons you love and trust if there was ever a time when they wanted to run away and leave their life behind because they were embarrassed, ashamed or in deep pain.  Ask what enabled them to survive that time and, looking back, how they see that God was at work in their lives during that time.
  •  Reflect on a time when you were so unhappy you wanted to quit, give up, move, and get away from doubt and pain.  What enabled you to survive?  Is there a learning there for your faith?  for your future?

Closing Prayer

God of grace and mercy, we want to believe and trust your promises.  Give us courage and perseverance to confront the doubt and pain and brokenness in our lives.  Give us, also, the wisdom to know when to let go of broken dreams and move on.  Move our hearts to forgive others and ourselves, so we may live with Easter joy.  Amen.

November 18-25, 2009 – The end is coming… hang on, folks!

Contributed by Pastor Jay Gamelin
Jay is pastor of Jacob’s Porch, an ELCA Campus Mission to The Ohio State University

Warm-up Question:  Do you worry about the end of the world? If so, what’s your worry? If not, why not?

bomb-blast_PART2_180On November 13, movie theaters across the country premiered the film “2012” to fill the eyeballs of theater goers and pockets of the producers.  A big budget eye-candy movie brings to public consciousness the prediction by ancient calendars (or we should say calendar) that the world will come to an end on December 21 or 23 of 2012. Discovered in the Tabasco region of Mexico, the Olmec or Mayan calendar is based on cycles of 5,125 years, the current period to end in 2012.

Most serious scholars give very little credence to the theory, but this has not stopped a burgeoning business based on the 2012 legend. The numbers of books offering proof, theories, research, and even survival guides has exploded. Blogs are now offering proof and advice as well as others critiquing the theories. Some preachers are beginning to preach apocalyptic message and are asking parishioners to prepare for Jesus’ second coming.

It seems that the end of the world sells and we all have our theories as to what makes the world end. Apocalypse and post-apocalypse films have always been a popular theme in movie theaters this year. Terminator 4 followed the story of John Connor into an apocalypse by mutant robots. The Road, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, follows a man and his son through a post-nuclear holocaust world and is soon to be a motion picture released this winter. Zombieland is a comedy following road-trippers through an apocalyptic world of zombies.

It hasn’t been since 1999 and the Y2K worry that we have seen such hype over the purported end of the world. Or 1973 before that. Or 1911. Or 1844. Or 1266… or…

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think there is validity to the claim that the end comes in 2012? Why or why not?
  2. Why do you think people are so interested in the end of the world? What fascinates us about this subject?
  3. Do you think it is possible to predict the end of the world? Why or why not?
  4. What, if anything, do you think is most likely to create an end of the world scenario? What is not likely, in your opinion, to do this?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 22, 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

It seems there is always someone predicting the end of the world. If it isn’t cataclysmic ice storms suddenly freezing New York then it is a giant meteor flattening New York, or an infectious disease infecting New York, or a giant bomb blowing up in New York. The point is, stay out of New York. (Just kidding!)

Seriously, what people like to deal in is fear. And what is more powerful for creating and stirring up fear than the unknown? It is just like us that we want to have the very date pinned down when the world goes to heck in a handbasket. We want to sell books about it, show movies about it, read about it, convince others about it. Seriously, if the end of the world is coming, why are they selling a survival guide for $49? What are you going to do with the money?

It feels good to be able to stand on a street corner and shout, “the end is near!” and be so sure that all the signs point to biblical codes and secret texts that tell a special truth that others are not aware of. We just want to know.

Many have trusted these prophecies in the past. Over and over again, prognosticators have combed through the Bible and seen the signs in the stars and the current political climate and determined that the time of the end of the world has come. It happened throughout the first 4 centuries of Christianity. It happened after the fall of the Roman Empire. It happened when the year 1000 hit. It happened during the Crusades. It happened in 1844 when William Miller proposed he knew the end of the world, was wrong, and people formed a church about it anyway called the Seventh Day Adventists. (Note: Today’s Adventists do not believe this, it is just a part of their history.) It happened during World War 1, World War 2, during the Oil Crisis, during Y2K, and now 2012. We love to fear what we do not know, and thus we try our best to know and predict the future so that we are not caught off guard.

Usually when we read the books of Daniel and Revelation, we instantly turn on our freak-out meter. Both describe crazy animals and demons and destruction and wars. They talk about signs and seasons and desolating sacrileges and numbers and beasts. These “apocalyptic” texts, as they are called (add that to your SAT vocabulary), seem to be about pointing to perfectly knowable and predictable signs that become a road map for our understanding. But is this really what they are about? Is God that easy to understand?

The texts this week seem to be about establishing Jesus as a king. Both point to Jesus as our heavenly ruler, a king who is in charge. And again in John, Jesus continues this prediction with an unusual tete-a-tete with Pilate about kingdoms and rulers. The story here is about establishing who Jesus is and where his authority comes from… and this is good news!

Instead of focusing on trying to decipher the mystical meanings of all the stories in Revelation and Daniel, it is good to focus on the end results — the good news.

No matter what is described, in the end Jesus is king and God is victor. What is described, whether as a historical prediction or a beautiful allegory, is not a thing to be feared but a thing to wonder about and expect and rejoice in. The whole story God shows us from Genesis to Revelation is that God was there in the beginning loving us, God was there throughout history loving us, God sent a Son — Jesus — to show how loved we are, and God will come again to love us still.

We don’t need to fear the end, whatever or wherever or whenever that may be. We instead can rejoice that our king is Jesus, a Jesus who loved us while we were yet sinners, who redeemed us not when we deserved but solely out of love and grace, and who is resurrected so that we may live to love and serve God and the world freely.

As the angels said when the disciples saw the tomb rolled away, “fear not”, for this is good news.

Activity Suggestion

Surviving the Second Coming

(Note:  This activity is to be done in fun and jest. While it is not my intention to be irreligious, in an effort to shift our hearts and minds from fear of our Lord’s coming to joy, we can allow a hint of fun and laughter to dispel what could be a very scary subject. I invite you to let your hair down, or loosen the tie, or perhaps both, and have fun with this activity.)

As a group, work together on a “Surviving the Second Coming of Christ Manual”. Some things to consider:

  • What are the necessary items you want with you at all times, in case Jesus should suddenly pop up? (suggestions: Bibles with every verse underlined to prove you read it, a piece of the true cross, a “Jesus is my homeboy tee”, any indulgences previously purchased, and a corroborating receipt, etc.)
  • What sort of résumé and documents do you need to prove your worthiness? (suggestions: baptismal photos and certificates, confirmation certificates, number of times in church attendance documentation, any extracurricular activities within the church — remember, softball doesn’t count… etc.)
  • What are some important steps to consider in preparation? (suggestions: get a letter of recommendation from a pastor or a high ranking official like a bishop or the head usher or Mel Gibson, destroy all copies of any CD from America Idol Alumni so that “we have no other idols”, keep an autotuner ready so that when you sing with the heavenly hosts you’ll be in pitch, research angel wing care, etc.)

Process:  Think of all the pictures we have in our heads already about what things “are supposed to look like.”

  • Where do these images come from?
  • Where do these thoughts come from?

Some images and thoughts are based in scripture, others in legend or fiction. But to be sure, if we can imagine what it will be like, it is likely that description probably still comes up short. No matter what we say or do, it is God who justifies us and makes us whole. So no matter what we do to “prepare”, in the end none of it matters to the incomparable love and redemption of Jesus. This is not just good news, it’s great news! Thanks for having fun!

Closing Prayer

God, thank you for loving us to the end. Help us to let go of our fear and anxiety and learn to watch and wait with joy. Your kingdom come! Amen.