Thursday, September 19, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Peace and Prayers for Everyone

One of this week's scripture passage from the New Testament is a bit of a challenge for me. Maybe it is for you, too.  

Near the back of the Bible, in the books of the New Testament, are the epistles. These are letters mostly believed to be written by Paul (or one of his followers) to communities of Christians in other places.  The book of 1 Timothy is Paul's letter to a young many named Timothy who was in the town of Ephesus in Macedonia, where they had begun a church. 

Paul's letter contains instructions on how to teach the new believers in Christ who lived there. 

Read 1 Timothy 2: 1-7 

His main instruction - Pray for everyone.  Yep, everyone. Every single person whether we like them or not. Pray for every single stinking person - the evil people, the people that cause harm and chaos in the world.

Paul tells Timothy to teach the people to pray with no exception. 

That's the challenging part. For me, one of the hardest things to reconcile is that God is for everyone.  Even the terrible people.  
It's easy to pray and give thanks for our parents and other family members, our friends, teachers, doctors, and the leaders of our country who we support and uplift.  We are thankful for their care. We want the best for them and we ask that God would give them the wisdom to do their work in the best possible way.

It is difficult, however, to understand how to pray for those who hurt us. We know there are evil people who do evil things. We don’t give thanks for the evil things they do, but we can pray that they will accept God’s love and turn their lives around for the better.

Through his letters, Paul is calling for peace in the church and says praying for everyone is a way for people to achieve it 
The word peace in Hebrew is Shalom. In Greek, the word is "Eiríni" and has a broader meaning than the absence of conflict. It means wholeness, health, prosperity, and good fortune. It is closer to the phrase "the common good."  I think that this is the kind of peace that Paul is writing to Timothy about. Paul is calling the church to actively seek this wide-ranging peace with the world.  

Paul teaches in this passage that there are three types of prayers that should be prayed on behalf of all people. 

Prayers of supplication or petition are respectful and humble requests to God for something desired. Intersession is a prayer to God on someone else's behalf. Thanksgiving (this is the easy one for most of us) is an expression of gratitude to God. 

it is definitely not easy to pray all the horrible people that do horrible things, but these prayers can help remind us to see all people as a child of God.  Being able to see others as a person created in God's own image, just as we are, maybe will change us.  

Questions to think about:
Think of a powerful person or leader in the world. After reading this passage in Timothy what would you pray for them?

How can you change the way you pray?
What do you need to let go of in order to pray for everyone?

Which of the three types of prayer do you feel most comfortable praying? Which is the least comfortable for you?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

What We Are Reading - September 2019

Here are the books we will be reading during
Extended Session during the month of September! 

All theses are available through the Carnegie Library.

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Harold loves his woolly hat

by Vern Kousky 

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Harriet, you'll drive me wild!

by  Mem Fox 

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I just ate my friend

by Heidi McKinnon 

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Night out

by Daniel Miyares

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The day war came

by Nicola Davies 

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The word collector

by Peter Reynolds 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Lost and Found

I lost my passport in my house somewhere. Two years ago. I put it somewhere for safekeeping - and then promptly forgot where that was.  Every now and again I would look for it again - get frustrated - and then give up.  Last week my husband found it. When he told me where it was I instantly remembered putting it there. Alas, there was much rejoicing! 

Read Luke 15: 1-10

The Bible tells us about how God doesn’t give up on things and people that are lost.  In the scriptures, we learn that Jesus always looked for and welcomed people who were lost and were far away from God— Or people that had lots of questions about God and maybe didn’t believe that God loved them.

Jesus said that when the person was found and came back to God there was great cheering and rejoicing.

Jesus' parables about things that were lost remind us of this.  The first story is about sheep. A shepherd had 100 sheep and one of them was lost.  The other was about a woman who was missing a coin.  In both of these stories, Jesus said there was a celebration when the lost items were found.

God is like this shepherd and this woman,  Jesus said.  God will never stop looking for someone who was lost.

Unlike me looking for my passport, there is not giving up in either story.  The coin and the sheep are not with the people they belong to.  The woman and the shepherd keep trying to fix that; they keep looking for the coin and sheep so that they would once again be with whom they belong to. When they are there is great rejoicing.

This same thing sometimes happens to us with God. We sometimes we stop paying attention to God because we are paying attention to something else. Then we forget that we belong to God; that is how we get separated from God and “lost.”

I've been thinking this week that God continues to tell us that we belong to God is through each other. That’s one of the reasons we gather in worship every week - to remind each other that we are not lost – that we belong to God and to each other.
Questions to think about:

  • Have you ever lost - and then found something that is important to you? 
  • How did you feel when you found it?
  • Have you ever felt lost? What are somethings that you can do to feel "found" again?
  • When you notice that someone else is lost - or feeling lost, what can you do to help them find their way? 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Banjos, Practice, and Transformation

I got a banjo for Christmas about two years ago. I don't know how to play it. I have been meaning to learn. I got a book - I've watched You Tube videos. I've even looked into taking lessons but have never signed up. Let's just say that I have "dabbled" with it - I've picked it up, learned how to tune it, taught myself the strings, and I horrifyingly trie to pluck out some easy songs. But I really don't know how to play it at all.

We all know why, right? Because I haven't taken the time to do it. I pick it up and then I put it down.  Before I got it I never even considered how much time it would take to learn or how hard it would be.  I love the idea of being able to play the banjo, but I never really thought about how much time I would have to devote to learning and practicing so I could play it well.

I am thinking about that dang banjo this because this week the Gospel lesson from Luke tells of Jesus reminding the disciples and the crowd gathered around him about what it takes to follow him - the cost of discipleship. 

Here's  a version of the passage from The Message Bible- which is a little easier to digest: 
Luke 14:25-33Figure the Cost25-27 One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.28-30 “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’31-32 “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?33 “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.

So, maybe that last verse seems a little harsh to us in today's world.  Jesus is saying if you are not willing to give up everything then - See ya later alligator.  

But I get it. Jesus - at this point in his ministry - is somewhat of a celebrity. He's got the disciples that follow him everywhere and also this crowd of people who follow him. I am guessing that some of these folks followed Jesus when he was nearby, when they could, or when they didn't have anything else to do.  

I think that Jesus looked around at all the people and wondered if they really understood what it meant to follow God.  So he tells them. And he tells them two parables.  Just to make sure they get his point.  This is serious business for Jesus. He's going to die for it. So perhaps that's why his language here seems so extreme and uncompromising. 

God is calling us to love, to be part of God's family, and to be disciples. Jesus in this passage is saying that it takes a lot of time and practice for us to be disciples. Jesus is teaching us that we need to take the time to learn about what he taught. And when we learn about God’s love and forgiveness we will be able to share it with others - just like Jesus did.

I am never going to learn the banjo unless I dedicate the time to learn about it and how to play it. And I am never going to be able to teach someone else how to play it well if I just keep picking it up, playing the one song I know, and putting it back in the case again. 

Jesus is calling us to follow him - to put in the time to learn about his life and what he taught. To practice prayer and not just dabble in forming a relationship with God who loves us no matter what. 

Does that mean that we have to always get it right? I doubt it. I think it means that Jesus is reminding us that this is serious business and God prefers that we dive all the way in and not just dip our toes in the pool.  

I am reminded with this scripture that being a disciple, a follower of Jesus, is also about transformation.  Our Sunday school materials for this week includes this quote: 

" At the heart of discipleship is transformation. The cost of discipleship is not just becoming accumulators of new information about life and living it fully, or changing our behavior in regards to Jesus' teaching. The cost is engaging in a profoundly radical shift toward the ethics of Jesus with every fiber of our beings. There is no driftwood in discipleship, as we are called to live lives of complete devotion to God. Jesus remind us in today's  passage that following him means that we cannot be shallow or uncommitted believers - the adjectives simply do not fit the noun." ( From "Theological Perspective" by Emille M. Townes.)

We have to participate. We have to practice. And we have to let the Love of God guide us in how we live our lives.  Here are some questions for this week:
  • How does it feel when you don't finish something that you start?
  • Why is important to Jesus that his followers understand what it means to "carry the cross?"
  • What do you think it means to "live lives of complete devotion to God"? What would that look like in your own life? 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Dinner with Jesus

Do you have a certain place at your table at home where you always sit?
If you have a guest come over—where do they sit?

Our Gospel lesson from Luke for this week tells about a time when Jesus was eating with friends.

Read Luke 14: 1, 7-14

It was on the Sabbath Day, and Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of a Pharisee leader.

Remember the Pharisee's were the experts in the rules and followed God’s laws  - and they were always watching Jesus very closely to see if he was messing up.
At the dinner, Jesus watched the people scramble to get the best seats at the table. 

And then he told the dinner guests this story:
"When someone invites you to a wedding dinner, do not go right in and try to sit next to the bride and groom in the place of honor.  That place may be saved for someone else. Instead—sit in the least important seat. 
People who make themselves important will be last, and people who do not make themselves important will be first. “
Jesus also had some advice for the host of the dinner. Jesus said: “When you give a dinner party, don’t invite people like you, your family, or rich neighbors. Invite people who are poor, who can not walk, or who are blind. You will be blessed because they can not invite you in return.”
In this passage the Pharisees are watching Jesus very carefully to see how close Jesus will sit to the person who is having everyone over for the dinner. Perhaps they thought that the closer Jesus sat to the host, the more important Jesus thought of himself.

Here is what I am thinking about what Jesus may have been trying to teach.  God already loves us, no matter what. God offers us God's grace, love, respect, and honor so we don't have to chase after if or try to get it from other people.  We don't need to scramble to get the best seat at the table to receive these gifts.  But, we can share these gifts. Offering others grace, love, respect, and honor can help us show other people what God is like. 

Who can you save a seat for? Who can you invite to the table? 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Breaking the Rules

It's just about back to school time! I've been thinking about the rules this week.  A young person that I know and love is heading off to kindergarten and told me recently about all the things he was excited about. New friends, crayons, and meeting his new teacher made his list.

He was a little worried though because he told me there were probably "a lot of new rules" that he would have to learn.

Yup, buddy - the world is full of rules. Get used to it!

In our Gospel lesson for this Sunday, Jesus, while teaching in a synagogue was confronted by some folks when he didn't follow the Sabbath rules. (No surprise there, eh?) 

The Sabbath is a day of rest for the Jewish people. In the time of Jesus, there were many rules about honoring the Sabbath as a day of rest. There were rules about what people could and could not do to honor the Sabbath.  According to Luke, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath.  A woman shows up who was bent over and could not stand up straight. She had been this way for 18 years.

Jesus, upon seeing the woman reaches out and touches her and says, “Woman you are free.”
And very slowly she was able to stand up. And she was healed and the Bible said she praised God.
But—the leader of the synagogue was not pleased.  Healing on the Sabbath was "frowned upon." The man in the synagogue was very angry that Jesus broke the rules and he said, “Today is a day of rest—you should not have healed her on the Sabbath.”

He said you “can work six days a week if you want—but you shouldn’t do any work on the Sabbath and that includes healing. “
What do you think Jesus said?
Jesus said “Don’t you feed and take care of your animals on the Sabbath? Animals need food and water every single day. This woman has been bent over for 18 years—she needed to be healed today.”

The Bible says that after Jesus spoke the leader and the crowd felt terrible. Perhaps they knew that Jesus was right and the compassion that he showed for the woman was more important at that moment than following the rules. 

Rules are necessary to keep us safe, help us make good choices, make the things we do more efficient and fair. There is no doubt that the rules are important. But, I am thinking this week about when taking care of someone in need outweighs the rules. Jesus teaches us about compassionate in Luke's narrative. Compassion is holy.  Jesus cared about people in need and asks us to do so, too. 

Things to think about this week: 

  • Jesus knew the rules - but when he meets the woman in need his compassion and desire to help her superseded his need to follow the rules.  Jesus didn't want to waste any time healing the woman who had spent 18 years bent over.  What would the world and life be like from this perspective? Can you put yourself in the woman's position and imagine what it would be like to navigate the world from that view? What can you do to see things through other's eyes?
  • Jesus calls out the hypocrisy of the synagogue leaders who are angry with him for healing or "working" on the Sabbath. He points out that they care for their animals with food and water on the Sabbath - giving what they need to be cared for. Yet, they call him out for helping a long-suffering woman.  Where do you see the hypocrisy in the rules of your community? What do you think Jesus would do about it? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Reflections for Youth - Things we can not see

What are some things that we can't see - but we know are there?

The first thing that comes to my mind is air. Air is something that we can't see but we can see what it is doing. We can see leaves blowing and we can feel it on our faces.  
I am thinking about this question this week because one of our scripture passages  says: 
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Those are some confusing words—but I think it means that faith is being certain of things we can not see.

So, God is like the wind. We can’t see God, but if we look around, we can see what God is doing.

It's from the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament.  Here are the first three verses (NRSV version):

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.  By faith, we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible." 

The verses from The Message bible maybe be a little easier to understand:

"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd."

Read Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16
Hebrews is also known as an epistle -a letter that was written by a leader or follower of Jesus to followers of Jesus in other places. This particular letter—may be written by Paul (but we can’t be exactly sure) is to Jewish people, know as Hebrew. 

They are people who have knowledge about God all their life. The letter doesn’t tell us where these people live but they believed that Jesus was sent by God. This got them in trouble with people that didn’t believe this.  People who were against them told Roman officials that they were causing trouble and life was terrible for them.

So the author of this book of the Bible wrote the Hebrews a letter—which is the longest of all the letters in the Bible. The letter was written to encourage and remind the Hebrews of all the other people that came before them and trusted in God, no matter what.

The letter tells them to remember their ancestors, people like Abraham and Sarah who had such faith in God that they traveled to a new land. They trusted God even when they couldn’t see—or even imagine what God told them was going to happen. Remember that Sarah when had a baby named Isaac, they knew that God kept promises.

When we read the letter to the Hebrews today it can remind us to trust God because God will keep promises. 

I know that is not easy considering all the bad things that are going on in our world. But, this passage has given me comfort this week. It was helped me remember all the people that have come before me and been through awful things and survived. 

 It has reminded me to look for all the good ways that God is working in the world. 
Here are some questions for the week:

  • Hebrews is a long letter of encouragement. When have you received a letter or a message from someone that was encouraging and lifted your spirit? Can you think of someone that might need a letter of encouragement from you? 
  • What do you know about your families ancestors? Where are they from? How can you find some encouragement in their stories? 
  • Have you ever changed your mind about something because you began to see things in a different way? Noticed something that maybe you hadn't seen before? 
  • What are some ways that you have seen God working in the world this week?