Author: Tammy Wiens

Lesson 2: March 12, 2017

Saving Grace: Ephesians 2:1-10


Teaching Strategy: Show a clip from a movie or online video that might spark conversation about the meaning of grace. What aspects of God’s nature does the entertainment world get right?  What “corrections” about the meaning of grace do we know to be true according to Scripture?  

There are a surprising number of television shows and big screen movies that depict various attributes of God. Everyone from ardent atheist to devoted saint shares a curiosity about who God is and what God might be like if we were to meet — say on a bus (Joan Osborne).  Does God have wings? Depending on the movie, God might be male or female, Black or White. (Oh GodDogma, Bruce Almighty). Does God speak to us through angels? (Touched By an Angel) Does God rescue us when we call for help? (See Saving GraceEarl, God’s emissary, is sent to help a seemingly raw and vulgar police officer who cannot forgive God after her brother dies in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.) In C. S. Lewis Chronicles of NarniaGod sends Christ in the form of Aslan the lion to die in Edmund’s place. How might our curiosity about who God is lead us into a relationship with the God who loves us and calls us to be His own?


Spring 2016-17 Theme: Love

Unifying Principle: Sometimes those who break social rules or cultural expectations become ostracized from their peer group. Where can those who seek a new path find acceptance? Out of his great love for us, God saved us by grace through faith and will show the immense richness of this grace in kindness to those who are in Christ Jesus.

Lesson 1: March 5, 2017

The Source of All Love: 1 John 4:7-19


Teaching Strategy: In advance of your meeting time invite participants to select new media, music, or art that speaks to them about the ways God’s love is reflected in their lives and in the lives of others. During your meeting give 2-3 minutes for each person to share his/her selection and say a bit about its meaning for them. 

There is so much hate and bitterness being expressed in our social media these days and it is a drain on our well-being and our awareness of God’s love at work in, and through, and among us.  Asking participants to share example of where they experience God’s love is a welcome antidote to the negativity rampant in our world.  If you’re part of a tradition that observes Lenten practices, then you could tie into this exercise and invite participants to “fast from hateful conversations or posts on social media.” In being more mindful of our hateful words we are reminded of the love to which Christ calls us. As Christ’s disciples we abide in the selfless, active, giving love of God.


Spring 2016-17 Theme: Love

Unifying Principle: Many search in the wrong places for a perfect love in which to put their trust. Can anyone be trusted to love without blemish at all times? John’s first epistle reminds us that God is love and those who abide in love have God’s love perfected in them.

Lesson 13: February 26, 2017

Christ Creates Holy Living: Galatians 5:18 – 6:10


Teaching Strategy: Examine the qualities of being Paul names as “fruits of the Spirit.” Identify evidence of each of these spiritual fruits as you experience them at work in the Body of Christ. Further consider the impact Christians might have in the world if we more fully exemplified the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.

Do a spiritual audit of your worshipping community, your school, or your place of employment.  When have you seen love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Kindness? Generosity? Faithfulness? Gentleness? Self-control? Share these stories with one another and then give thanks for the Spirit at work in your lives. 


Winter 2016-17 Theme: Creation

Unifying Principle: Many people reduce their religious obligations to fulfilling a set of legalistic requirements. What are the characteristics of an authentic Christian lifestyle? Paul sharply contrasts a Spirit-filled life with life in the flesh.

Lesson 12: February 19, 2017

Freedom in Christ: Galatians 5:1-17


Teaching Strategy: Write the letters

F-R-E-E-D-O-M 

so that they appear vertically on the left edge of newsprint or a whiteboard. Working in small groups create an acronym using each letter to name attributes of “freedom” as expressed in Galatians 5. Compare and contrast Paul’s teaching on Christian freedom with how “freedom” is used in today’s news or popular culture.

Here is one example of what your “freedom” acronym might look like:

F = faith working through love

R = responsive to the Spirit

E = eager for righteousness

E = enslaved to one another

D = dedicated to love

O = opposed to hate

M = mastery over fleshly desires

After your group creates their own list of the attributes of Christian freedom, consider popular definitions of “freedom” by today’s standards. Do an Internet search for “freedom” or search on social media sites such as YouTube or Twitter. Look up #freedom.  How are these popular visions of freedom aligned (or not) with the freedom we claim through Christ?


Winter 2016-17 Theme: Creation

Unifying Principle: Rigorous self-discipline is appealing to some because it seems to promise mastery over temptation. What is the key to living a morally acceptable life? Paul urges the Galatians to stand firm in Christian freedom and to live by the Spirit, which leads to greater holiness, not greater self-indulgence.

Lesson 11: February 12

New Birth Brings Freedom: Galatians 4:8 – 20


Teaching Strategy: Name and explore religious expectations and practices that may diminish Christian freedom or hurt people in the community of God’s loving family.

Paul writes to the Galatians because they changed course in their understanding of Christian faith.  Through Paul’s teaching the Galatian Gentiles came to faith in Christ and lived according to the Gospel they learned from Paul.  In Paul’s absence, they were influenced by religious leaders who insisted they keep the Law in order to maintain right relationship with God.  The leaders felt threatened because the new converts represented a growing edge of Christian faith that was beyond their ability to regulate.  In thinking about how Paul’s letter finds application in our own time, let’s consider the extent to which we try to regulate who is “in” and who is “out” based on criteria external to the Gospel.  And who benefits from these regulations? How do we make space in our lives, in our communities, and in our world for the grace of God, the love of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit?

Prayer: Open us, O God, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and recognize the “other” as our neighbor.  We pray for those in Kabul who are recovering from the fall out of the bombing at the Afghan Supreme Court in Kabul. We pray for our Syrian brothers and sisters who are caught day after day in the tragedies of violence and war.  We pray for Israel and Palestine.  Open us, O God, to be ambassadors of peace at home and abroad. We pray for the Standing Rock Tribe in North Dakota. We pray for refugees and immigrants whose plans for resettlement have been disrupted by political uncertainties.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

 

 


Winter 2016-17 Theme: Creation

Unifying Principle: People are tempted to sacrifice freedom in order to gain a sense of security. What are the dangers of this trade-off? Paul rebuked the Galatians for trading the freedom Christ gives for slavery to religious legalism.

Lesson 10: February 5, 2017

Re-Created to Live in Harmony: Galatians 3:26 – 4:7


Teaching Strategy: Invite participants to identify prejudices that they confront in their own peer groups, work settings, or worshipping communities. Afterwards, brainstorm strategies for overcoming our fears and intolerance of people who are different from us. 

Perhaps the best thing we can offer to our congregations in this new year is time and space for silent prayer.  Paul’s letter to the Galatians encourages us to live in harmony with those who hold viewpoints different from our own.  What relevance do we hear in Paul’s letter for the world today?  How can we pray for one another in these days where tensions across racial and religious differences are heightened? One site that consistently offers sound spiritual direction in shaping our prayers is titled simply: The World in Prayer.  


Winter 2016-17 Theme: Creation

Unifying Principle: Differences of race, class, and gender make it hard for people to get along. How can we live in harmony? Paul tells the Galatians that through Christ we have received the Spirit, making us heirs of God and bringing us into a community of oneness where human differences are no longer divisive.

Lessons 5-9: January, 2017

Praising God: Psalm 33, Psalm 96, Psalm 65, Psalm 104, Psalm 148


Teaching Strategy: List hymns and choruses that praise God as Creator and compare them to creation Psalms in the Old Testament. Then, use the hymns you’ve selected to design a praise and worship service organized around the Psalms.


Winter 2016-17 Theme: Creation

January overview: The five lessons of Unit II draw from Psalms that praise God as Sovereign Creator. “Praise from and for God’s Creation,” also highlights praise for God that emanates from creation itself.

Lessons 1-4: December, 2016

Advent and Christmas: Luke 1 and 2


Faith Interaction Matrix: What response of faith can we make when we meet Christ in the world today?

“And the Word became flesh.” God, who creates out of sheer nothingness, chooses to take on human-ness in order to make Divinity more comprehensible to us. God reaches into our earthly existence from somewhere beyond the limits of our knowing. Why an enormously huge God would invite us, lesser creatures, into a loving relationship is inconceivable. The Gospels tell us that God chose to come “in the flesh” at a single point in history. But, Christians have come to believe that we see Christ in limitless incarnations. Through eyes of faith, God comes to us in the flesh and we see Christ in those around us. I believe the Word was made flesh today in the lady who wished me “Merry Christmas” at the McDonald’s drive-thru window.  I’m sure I saw a glimpse of Christ in the smile of my 14-year old nephew when he thanked me for the “best Christmas present ever.” We experience the Word made flesh every time we absorb the love of family and friends. Faith can be a bit confounding at times, but “the Word made flesh” is something accessible to us when we look for Christ in one another. We can bring grace, and forgiveness, and healing to one another on account of Christ at work in the world.  Share with one another the “little incarnations” of the Christmas season. Where have you seen Christ in another person this Christmas? How did you make a connection between this ordinary moment and God’s work of faith in you?


Winter 2016-17 Theme: Creation

December overview: “The Savior Has Been Born,” consists of four lessons developed from the Gospel of Luke. Lessons 1 and 2 offer a study of how Mary, a virgin, received and joyfully accepted the announcement that she had been highly favored by God to give birth to God’s Son and the story of her cousin Elizabeth’s affirmation of the same. Lesson 3 studies John’s mission as the forerunner of the Savior. The Christmas Day lesson deals with the birth of Jesus and the circumstances and events pursuant to it.

Lesson 13: November 27, 2016

Alpha and Omega: Revelation 22:8-21


Teaching Strategy: It’s always good to give thanks, but especially on the Sunday following Thanksgiving, it’s fitting to give thanks and praise to God for all our blessings.  As this is the final lesson of the Fall Quarter, you might also reflect on where you’ve seen the Spirit at work in your congregation these past few months. Consider how gathering to study God’s Word is a pattern for our future gathering in the unity of our one Lord and Savior.

Thanksgiving is a time of gathering. For farmers it’s a time of gathering in the harvest. For urban dwellers it’s a time of gathering groceries and special ingredients for all of our favorite Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts.  For all of us it’s a time of gathering around a table and thanking God for our many blessings.  There is a sense of destiny in our gathering. What we taste around the table of thanksgiving is a foretaste of gathering around the heavenly table in the kingdom of God as it is portrayed in John’s Revelation.  God’s new heaven and new earth promise a time of gathering all people around one Lord and Savior who is Alpha and Omega. How do today’s blessings give us hope for the fullness of God’s blessing that is to come?


Fall 2016 Theme: The Sovereignty of God

Lesson 13, Unifying Principle: People are aware that things have a beginning and an end. What is the source and final purpose of human life? Revelation affirms that God, who is the Alpha and Omega, controls all things.

 

Lesson 12: November 20, 2016

Living Waters: Revelation 22:1-7


Teaching Strategy: Provide a water cycle chart and an activity to help participants understand how our rivers and streams fit into the cycle. Then, work together to create a list of ten or more of the world’s major rivers. Look up two or three names of rivers on the Internet in order to learn something about the people who depend on these rivers for their health and quality of life (see a few examples, below). 

In John’s Revelation of God’s glorious new world, the river will nourish and heal everything in the city. Its an apt metaphor because we recognize the centrality of healthy rivers to life on our planet. When a water source is cut off or unsanitary it creates a life-threatening situation. Make time for prayers of thanksgiving and petition.  Give thanks for all the ways in which you are blessed by a clean and healthy supply of water. Pray for God’s healing in countries where the rivers run dry, where water is contaminated, where war removes access to water, where food cannot grow. Pray God’s protection over the rivers of the world and over the lives of those who depend on these rivers. For example:

  • The people of Peru who are diligently working to save the yellow-spotted Amazon River turtles by releasing 500,000 baby turtles back into the wild by mid-November.
  • The people living in the Juba and Shabelle river basins. After months of drought in Somalia and Ethiopia there is now a high risk of flooding, especially in areas with open river banks / weak river embankments.
  • The volunteers who train in order to protect the people, fish, and wildlife that rely on the Columbia River — it runs 1200 miles along the coast of the Pacific Northwest in both the United States and Canada.

Fall 2016 Theme: The Sovereignty of God

Lesson 12, Unifying Principle: People are aware that rivers give life and nourishment to the things that exist around them. How do rivers nourish our lives? According to John, in the new world, God’s power will be in the river and will nourish and heal everything in the city.