Faith in Jesus: Acts 3:11-21
Teaching Strategy: Invite participants to share stories of healing they have experienced, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Encourage them to reflect on the meaning of what they experienced. What impact did their experience of healing have on their faith – and in what ways did their faith affect their experience?
As we enter into the Advent season, we are aware of the profound brokenness within our world. Lives are lost to opioid addiction. Relationships are disrupted by harassment, discrimination, and violence. Churches are divided by conflicting perspectives. America is polarized by political disagreements. Terrorist attacks continue and the threat of war seems all too real.
We desperately need the healing power of God’s love that comes to us in the infant Jesus and saves us through our faith in the risen Christ. As we wait for Jesus to enter our hearts anew, how can we prepare ourselves to receive his healing power? How can we equip ourselves to be instruments of his healing power in a broken world?
- The Opioid Epidemic: A Crisis Years in the Making
- Sexual Harassment, Then And Now; The Religious Community Is Speaking Out Against Sexual Violence With #ChurchToo
- A diverse group of Christian theologians release a Boston Declaration at the Old South Church to challenge the corruption of Christians in the United States; The Boston Declaration
- Key Takeaways on Americans’ Growing Partisan Divide over Political Values
- Egypt Mosque Attack Leaves at Least 305 Dead in Sinai Peninsula
Winter 2017 Theme: Faith in Action
Unifying Principle: People who are broken want to be made whole. How and where do they find wholeness? Peter proclaimed that faith in Jesus restores people to wholeness.
Remembering the Covenant: 1 Corinthians 11:23-34
Teaching Strategy: Explore your faith tradition’s view and practice of the Lord’s Supper. What roles do promises and remembering play in those views and in how the practice is carried out?
This passage from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians includes the familiar words of institution recited at the beginning of the Lord’s Supper in many churches: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (vs. 23-26).
These words remind us that sharing the Lord’s Supper is the act of a covenant community. Believers are called to remember the covenant promises – both God’s promises to them and the promises they made to God and one another. These are promises about how they will live for God, follow God’s ways, and love one another. Paul chastised the Corinthians who ate the body and drank the cup of the Lord “in an unworthy manner,” and challenged them all to examine themselves before partaking.
What might Paul’s message mean for Christians today? What are the promises we have made in covenant with God through Jesus Christ – about how we will live? What are we called to remember when we come to the Lord’s table? How do we go about examining ourselves so that we partake of the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner?
- The Matthew 25 Pledge (video)
- A Year into Trump’s Presidency, Christians are Facing a Spiritual Reckoning; Roy Moore and the Sorry State of Evangelical Politics
- A Church Confronts Its Racist Past (video); When Neo-Nazis Called Pastors “Heretics” in Charlottesville; Why I’m Leaving the Southern Baptist Convention
- Two Months After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is Still in Crisis
- Joint Statement on the Rohingya Refugee Crisis
Fall 2017-2108 Theme: Covenant
Unifying Principle: It is often easier to make promises than to keep them. How can we remember to keep the promises we make? Paul exhorted believers to remember these promises through celebrating the Lord’s Supper in a way that affirms the covenant it embodies.
Mediator of the New Covenant: Hebrews 12:14-15, 18-29
Teaching Strategy: Explore current examples that point to humankind’s lack of holiness. Invite participants to share personal experiences – times when they felt awe and fear in encounters with God and times when they felt the saving grace of Christ drawing them close to God.
The scripture lesson describes human encounters with God as terrifying because of God’s pure holiness and awesome power. God is “a consuming fire” (v. 28) that purifies the sin of an unholy people. Yet believers experience God’s grace and forgiveness and are able to draw near to God through Christ who is the mediator of a new covenant.
In what ways does gathering for worship help believers to enter into the presence of our holy, loving God? How is the experience of worship affected by contemporary culture and current events?
- Churches Look to Tighten Security, Even Arm Congregants, After Texas Shooting; Texas Church Is Transformed Into Poignant Memorial For Mass Shooting Victims
- Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church; A Deeper Debate over Drums in Church: Native Christians Still Wrestle with How Their Culture Fits Into Their Churches
- Mulling over Soli Gloria Dei on the Reformation’s Anniversary
- Sermon Worship Service for Climate Justice 12 November 2017, Bonn, Germany
Fall 2017 Theme: Covenant
Unifying Principle: Humans desire to experience a power greater than themselves, but do not always realize that drawing near to such needed power can be an awesome prospect. How can people approach such a power without being consumed? The psalmist affirms that God allows humans to approach the Divine; the writer of Hebrews proclaims that Jesus provides the means of boldly approaching the presence of God.
Promise of a New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:27-34
Teaching Strategy: Discuss what motivates and guides participants in living in right relationship with God and others. What roles do external laws/expectations play compared and contrasted with what God has written on their hearts? Encourage participants to reflect on the ways their lives have been changed because God’s law is written on their hearts.
There are numerous conflicts today in which reliance upon written laws stands in contrast to expectations that people will do the “right thing” without rules and regulations. Examples include the ownership and responsible use of guns; discrimination against other based upon religion, race, or sexual orientation; and care for the environment. The debate about stronger gun control or anti-discrimination laws, for example, is often quite heated. How might scripture inform Christians’ response to this controversy? How can God work through Christians to inspire people to live as God intends – whatever the civil law requires (or does not require)?
- Change Our Violent Culture; The Gospel for Gun-Loving Christians
- U.S. Department Says Anti-Bias Law Does Not Protect Gay Workers; Discrimination Against Muslims is Increasing in U.S., Pew Study Finds
Concern about gun violence increased again on Monday, November 6, when 26 people were killed in a Baptist church in Texas. There are no easy solutions, but there can be no doubt that the U.S. must find a way to reduce gun violence and eliminate mass shootings wherever they are occurring. The question is more urgent than ever: How can God work through Christians to inspire people to live as God intends – whatever the civil law requires (or does not require)?
- Texas Shooting Kills 26 at Southern Baptist Church; We Grieve With Sutherland Springs, Call for Sensible Gun Measures;