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May 20, 2012–Caps and Frowns

Contributed by Paul Henrickson, Salem, VA


Warm-up Questions

What if Jesus prayed for you?

  • Would it be the same as the prayer in John 17 which he prayed for his disciples?
  • Would he pray that you would be “sanctified?”
  • Would Jesus pray for your PROTECTION or for your PURIFICATION or both?

Caps and Frowns

Begin by reading following online articles about job prospects for new graduates.  Note the chart “Caps and Frowns:  Job prospects for the class of 2012.”

Whether you’re in high school or college, the employment outlook is not encouraging.  This raises some important questions for people of faith.

  • Would God really call us to be unemployed?
  • Do we need a broader understanding of “calling?”
  • How do faithful people respond to the “new economic reality?”
  • What is our true “vocation?”


Discussion Questions

  • What do you envision as your future?
  • What is your dream?
  • What are you planning to do after graduation from High School/College?
  • What is your calling?
  • Are you looking for security or meaning?
  • Do you want to be Protected or Purified?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 20, 2012 (Seventh Sunday of Easter)

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

1 John 5:9-13

John 17:6-19

(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

This is part of the “Priestly Prayer” of Jesus in the 17th Chapter of John.  These four verses seem to sum up the core of the prayer of Jesus for his disciples – for Jesus’ disciples today:

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.*  They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth

There are three points worth noting:

We are IN the world, not OF the world.

  • We have been claimed by Christ to be those redeemed.
  • We are no longer under Satan’s rule (this world), but God’s rule.

We are protected.

  • “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
  •  The power of evil gets too little attention from today’s Christian.
  • From Luther’s Large Catechism: “If you could see how many daggers, spears, and  arrows are at every moment aimed at you, you would be glad to come to  the sacrament as often as possible.”

We are being “made holy.”

  • We have been “sanctified – made holy”  from Late Latin sanctificāre, from Latin sanctus holy + facere to make

Discussion Questions

  •  How would you live your life today if you really believed that God was doing His work on you to “make you holy?”
  • What does it mean for you to be IN the world not OF the world?

Activity Suggestions

  •  Write a prayer that Jesus might pray for you.
  • Imagine a day in your life where your sanctification was a 24 hour activity.
  • Read the newspaper and find places where sanctification is required.

Closing Prayer

There is no better prayer for protection and sanctification than Psalm 141.  In your group, slowly read the psalm together as a prayer, perhaps pausing briefly after each verse.  As you read, think of those who are in particular need of God’s care, and pray for them.

May 20-27, 2009 – GM closes 1,100 dealerships

Contributed by Jay Gamelin
Pastor of Jacob’s Porch, Lutheran Campus Ministry to The Ohio State University

Warm-up Question: Share a time when something happened that was just not fair, that you had no control over. For instance, a car wreck, getting blamed for something you didn’t do, etc.

It seems all we hear about is news about the economy these days. When we hear all the news, we hope that somehow the biggest fallout will pass us by. We hope we will keep our jobs as long as we keep working hard, keep our heads down, and hang on. But for 1,100 Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler dealerships, suddenly they are no longer hanging on but have become a part of the growing statistic of pink-slipped people.

After filing for bankruptcy, Chrysler has been waiting for the results of the government’s plan to help the automaker recover. The decisions are not Chrysler’s, they can only wait and see what recommendations come through. The government put into place one recommendation asking for 1,100 dealerships to close by the end of the month. With the potential of 40,000 jobs lost, many people are in fear for their financial lives. The news comes in the mail this week via letter to the dealerships. Perhaps a mail carrier has never been watched more closely at a Chrysler dealership than on May 15.

Many men and women around the country are also watching their mailboxes, in-boxes, e-mail, and inter-office memos closely waiting to see if they are the next people cut in the continued need to trim budgets in a weakening economy. Tension runs high in many places as people worry, “will I be the next to receive the luck, or perhaps bad luck, of the draw?”

Discussion Questions

  • Do you know anyone who has lost a job or had to accept a cut in salary, pay, or work hours because of the economy? How are they dealing with the change?
  • What if this situation happened to you? How would you feel? Would you be angry? Frustrated? Relieved? What sort of changes do you think you or your family would need to make to cope?
  • Do you believe in luck? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think good things keep happening to some people and bad to others? Is there a greater design to it that some are given blessings and others are not — on purpose?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 24, 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.)

Gospel Reflection

Reading the Gospel lesson again, I am reminded that I have always felt bad for Barsabbas. I mean seriously, the poor guy is obviously someone who has followed Jesus for a long time if he is to be considered a choice to be apostle. He is named “Son of the Sabbath” which is a really cool name, and here he is passed over because he drew the short straw. Man, that just stinks for him. Now he is not an apostle simply because of luck?

Perhaps, but also perhaps the world spins on its own and God chooses moments to intersect the kingdom of heaven with the kingdom of earth in actions like healings, tremendous coincidences, visions, and prophecy, to name a few. We call them miracles because, well, they do not happen all the time, right? It seems that God does intervene sometimes, but not in others. How then does God choose when and how? Why are some healed and some not? Why do good things happen to some and others, well, seem to “draw the short straw”? What happens? Is it luck, a choice, or God’s action?

There is no perfect answer to this question, but we can take reassurance in one interesting thought: for every person healed or raised from the dead or freed from slavery, all of them still suffered the ultimate end, death. Yes, we glimpsed the kingdom when Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he eventually died anyway. Yes, Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead and all wondered and praised God, but she died eventually too. I have known friends who have recovered from cancer and yet in their old age they still moved on into death. It seems that no matter what little thing befalls us in this life, the good and the ill, in the end we all have our ticket punched and none of us live forever. (Just ask Voldemort.)

How is this good news?

These glimpses of the kingdom, these tiny, infrequent moments, are not rewards for people who have been good or bad, they are signposts for what God wants to do in total. We can see that if God wants to raise one of these from the dead, this is a sign that God can do this for all of us. Ultimately we know this through Jesus who was raised from the dead so that while we know death we will not have fear. We are all blessed to receive the miracle of Jesus’ grace. For all that luck or blessing or miracle or curse or whatever we may call it on this side, in the end we are all victorious. We are all blessed. We are all given the gift of new life.

I am not sure I believe in luck. I am not even sure that God played a hand in picking Matthias over Barsabbas. Maybe it just was, for good or bad. Or maybe this was the hand of God in this small instance, a miracle, picking the right one for the job. I just don’t know. Instead, rather than seeing the small picture, I choose to see the big picture. Remember that we are all chosen, straws or not, to be God’s children. This isn’t luck. It’s a blessing.

 Or was it luck? It seems that the text wants us to consider that God had a hand in how this drama unfolded, that the true apostle would be picked by divine providence and the right one would become the apostle. But does God work this way? Is God really the one pulling all the little strings of every moment of every action?

Discussion Questions

  • How do you think it would have felt to be Barsabbas? What do you think you would have done? Been mad and left? Stuck around? Accepted the decision? Been bitter?
  • The good and the bad that happen to you… do you think they all come from God?Do you tend to call good things luck and bad things God — or vice versa? Why?
  • Is God is at work in every little thing? Why or why not? Do you think God works to bless some people in special ways? Do you think God tries to challenge, maybe you’d even say curse, others?
  • What do you think when you ask God for an A on a test, or a good job evaluation, or a faster solution to a problem and it doesn’t happen? Who do you blame? God? Do you think it’s life, luck, blessing, or curse?
  • What do we do when we pray for healing for someone and it doesn’t happen? Is this God? Life, luck, blessing, or curse? Does healing occur sometimes in a way that we don’t think of or ask for? How?


  • “We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?”  Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)
  • “It is bad luck to be superstitious.”  Andrew W. Mathis
  • “Luck favors the prepared, darling.”  Edna Mode in The Incredibles
  • “I have a lot of luck, it’s just not always good luck.”  Carter Terry
  • “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  Seneca, Roman dramatist
  • “Shallow [people] believe in luck, believe in circumstances. Real [people] believe in cause and effect.”(ed. “men”)  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Activity Suggestion

Lucky Straw

This is a wishing game. It is a simple test, for good or ill. Everyone think of a hope for the coming week, a wish, so to speak. They can be as simple (“I want to be really happy”) or as complex (“I want to grow wings and shoot fireballs from my eyes”) as they wish, but it has to come true this week.

Give people a chance to consider their hope, then write it down on a slip of paper. Give everyone a few minutes to look at the slip of paper, concentrating really hard, REALLY wanting it to happen. Now throw all the slips of paper into a hat or container. Mix them all up telling them that whatever they draw out will come true. Have each person pull one out and read it out loud.


  • Do you think it is going to happen? Why or why not?
  • Is this a trustworthy process? Why or why not?
  • Come back the following week and discuss whether the wish came true. Why do you think it did or didn’t?
  • Do you think God or luck played a hand in this?

Closing Prayer

Holy God, for all the good and bad that comes in the world, I know that no matter what, you are our Father, and of you we will have hope that we will rest eternally in you. Thank you for whatever blessings we have been given, forgive us for ascribing good or ill to you that is not yours, and give us confidence to follow you, for good or ill. Amen.

February 18-25, 2009 – Mom’s singing wins career makeover contest

Contributed by Steven Alloway
Granada Hills, CA

Warm-up Question: Have you ever made any major changes to your appearance, or your lifestyle? What changes did you make? Why did you do it? How did the people around you react?
 After losing her job in 2007, Nicole Nagy decided to go back to school and become a nurse. But times are tough and her family was behind on their mortgage, so finding the money to pay for tuition seemed unlikely. But Nicole found the solution in an odd place — a contest called Careereoki. The contest invites people to make a video singing about their intended careers, in order to win a “career makeover” that includes a scholarship, résumé help, and a $100 gas card. Nagi appears in the video with her husband and three children, wearing a nurse’s uniform and singing, “A Bad Case of Nursing Blues.”

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day

Gospel Reflection


This was an important event in Jesus ministry. He had been known as a teacher, healer, and prophet, but now he reveals himself as something more. There he is, sitting with two of the greatest prophets in history, his face shining with the glory of heaven. Surely, this is the Son of God.
But why did he do it? Most of Jesus’ other signs and miracles were to help others: feeding them, healing them, things like that. But now, he takes just three disciples with him to a secluded place, shows them all of his heavenly glory, and then warns them not to tell anyone. Why would Jesus do that?

First, we must keep in mind that Jesus did not perform signs and miracles for himself or fame. He was twice tempted by the devil to do so, by turning stones into bread and by jumping off the temple roof, and he adamantly refused. And his miracles were not just for the physical benefit of the people he healed. They were for the spiritual benefit of the people who witnessed the miracles, and ultimately, of us, as believers.

So Jesus was transfigured (changed in form and appearance) physically, so that Peter, James, and John could be transfigured spiritually. They saw Jesus in all of his glory so that they themselves could be filled with the Spirit, and ultimately be encouraged and energized as witnesses in the world. But then again, if that’s true, then why did he tell them not to say anything yet? Because it wasn’t time. The world wasn’t yet ready to know of Christ in all of his glory. Even the disciples weren’t quite ready.

When Peter saw Jesus, talking with Moses and Elijah, he wanted to set up booths or tents for them, places for them to stay, for a night, for a week, or for as long as they could. Peter wanted to camp out and remain in this one glorious moment. Perhaps he wanted to stay there and learn from these prophets of ages past. Perhaps he wanted to bring the other disciples to see Jesus in all his glory. But whatever he wanted, it wasn’t what God had in mind. The purpose of the transfiguration wasn’t so they could remain on the mountain, but so that they could go out into the world, filled with the Spirit through what they had seen.

If Peter, one of Jesus’ closest companions, had this reaction to Jesus’ transfiguration, how would the other disciples and the rest of the world react when they heard about it? They’d all want to see it for themselves, and maybe even keep it to themselves. They’d crowd around and yell for Jesus to bring Moses and Elijah in for a panel discussion. They’d try to make him their ruler, and beg him to set up a kingdom here on Earth, as they often did.

But it wasn’t time for Jesus’ full glory to be displayed to the world. First he had to be humbled, to suffer and die on a cross for our sins, and then his full glory would be revealed through his resurrection and ascension. Then he charged his disciples with spreading the news of his glory to all the nations of the world. With this new responsibility and job, Peter, James, and John were equipped with an amazing story of their experience with Jesus on the mountain, in all of his heavenly glory for the sake of the world. For what purpose? So that we all might be transfigured and changed by God’s love for us through Jesus Christ.

Discussion Questions


  • Which of Jesus’ signs and miracles would you say you’ve been most changed by?
    Which one speaks to you the most, personally and spiritually? Why?
  • If someone showed you something incredible, then warned you not to tell anyone about it, do you think you could keep your mouth shut? Or would you spread the news to everyone? Who would you tell, email, call, or text first?
  • Why do you think Jesus chose three specific disciples — Peter, James, and John — out of all the others to witness his transfiguration? How do you think they were transformed or given a “makeover” by witnessing it?
  • How is Nicole Nagy’s “Career Makeover” for her vocation of nursing like our transformation as children of God for our vocation of spreading the gospel to those around us? How are they different? 

Activity Suggestion

  •  Find some of the other places in the gospels wherein Jesus charges people not to tell anyone about the miracle he’s just performed. Do they tell? Why does Jesus warn them not to in each instance?
  • Make your own video or skit about Jesus’ Transfiguration, and the reactions of the disciples, both at the time, and after Jesus’ resurrection. Include a song or two if you want.

Closing Prayer

 Lord Jesus Christ, transform me. Fill me with your Spirit and guide me, so that I can do the things you ask of me: to serve you and all people, and to spread your word of love, forgiveness, hope, and new life. Amen.

The top five finalists were chosen by a panel of judges who based their decision on originality, creativity, and humor. Then the winner was selected by the listeners of a local radio station, who voted for their favorite video on the station’s website.

“It was a way to connect to job seekers,” said Kimberly Cornett, Vice President of Workforce Central Florida, who helped sponsor the event. “And also for job seekers to take a little break from the stress of unemployment.”

Discussion Questions

  • Would you videotape yourself singing and dancing in order to get into the career you wanted or get a promotion? What would you sing?
  • Do you think the contest is a good idea? How do you think it will help more people find jobs? What are the downsides?
  • If you had the means, how would you help people who have lost their jobs and are looking for a new career? What would you do for them? What would you ask them to do?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 1, 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.)