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Learning the Cost of Discipleship
Reflections on the Gospel Texts for Lent and Easter with Household Activities (Cycle B)
- How to Use the Group Activities
- ASH WEDNESDAY
- First Sunday of Lent
- Second Sunday of Lent
- Third Sunday of Lent
- Fourth Sunday of Lent
- Fifth Sunday of Lent
- Sixth Sunday of Lent
- HOLY WEEK AND EASTER SUNDAY
- About the author
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of a small group of men and women who have profoundly influenced twentieth century Christians to a discipleship of utter devotion to God, coupled with sacrificial love for humanity. Among them are Albert Schweitzer, theologian, musician and physician of Europe and Africa; Toyohiko Kagawa, labor agitator, pastor and voluntary slum dweller of Japan; Clarence Jordan, white farmer/preacher who challenged his own culture in the American South; Martin Luther King, Jr., captain of nonviolent change and apostle of hope; Mother Theresa of Calcutta, whose words and hands comforted the dying poor around the world; and Bishop Oscar Romero, uncompromisingly faithful shepherd of his flock in El Salvador. We must also remember Gandhi of India, the non-Christian who honored Christ and continues to instruct his disciples.
Bonhoeffer's book, The Cost of Discipleship, furnishes the theme for this Lenten series. Written in Germany at the height of Nazi influence it asked, "What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us today?" Bonhoeffer's answer in 1937 Germany was not a political ideology but a call to follow a suffering servant. A leader in the resistance to Nazism, Bonhoeffer forfeited safety in the United States to be with his people. During three years in prison -- where he was executed in 1945 -- his ministry to others was an inspiration for fellow prisoners and even to the guards. His writings are authenticated by his life. In the introduction to Bonhoeffer's Life Together, translator John W. Doberstein says.
For him Christianity could never be merely intellectual theory, doctrine divorced from life, or mystical emotion, but always it must be responsible, obedient action, the discipleship of Christ in every situation of concrete everyday life, personal and public.
Discipleship in the "situation of concrete everyday life" led Bonhoeffer - and King and Gandhi and Oscar Romero - to martyrdom. What is the situation of concrete everyday life for you and me? And where will responsible, obedient action lead us?
Meditating on the Lenten scriptures can help us to answer for ourselves the questions: What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us today?
As we study these stories about Jesus and his disciples it is helpful to remember that their understanding of what he taught was only partial: They did not know about the resurrection. They seem most puzzled about what sort of messiah he was going to be. Many of the Jews of the time were expecting a messiah who would be a powerful leader, sent from God, who would liberate them from the domination of Rome. Jesus was not that kind of messiah; he was a messiah patterned after the "suffering servant" of Isaiah. So the disciples saw no triumph when Jesus was crucified, only defeat, disillusionment and humiliation. Only after Jesus' resurrection were they able to begin to understand all he had taught them. But they understood it enough that the world has never been the same since.
You and I already know about the resurrection. But what if we did not know? That may be the true darkness of Lent: to contemplate discipleship without the resurrection. If we went through Lent without knowing, Easter would be all the more joyful for us.
1. These activities are offered to facilitate weekly group study by households or church groups. It is important that these activities be modified to suit your group. For instance, the way a group of adults approaches the study will not be the same as an intergenerational household group that includes children. You may decide to use all or some of the suggestions. Be sure to bring your own imagination and creativity to the group activities.
2. Select a leader. Here are some important things a leader can do: See that the sessions begin and end on time; decide how long you want each weekly session to take; help the group move from one function to the next; create an atmosphere in which each person feels free to participate; listen carefully to concerns that are raised; facilitate discussion; help the group remain open to insights that come from Bible study and sharing thoughts.
Leadership may be shared, too. Children might be given the task of collecting materials, making sure the room is ready, or calling the group together each week. One person each week might lead the Bible discussion. Think of ways that will help your group.
3. Preparation is essential. The more carefully you prepare for each week's activities, the more useful and satisfying they will be. Read over each week's activities well ahead of time; make sure the suggested materials are collected and ready; provide a copy of the Bible reflections to each member; see that the meeting place has been prepared for the group.
4. A word about the six steps in the activities. PURPOSE: This is a suggested focus for the group. PREPARATION: This is what will need to be done before the session begins. SHARING: Beginning this way will help the group to center in on the session and each other. READING: This is an opportunity to discuss the scripture and its meaning. ACTIVITY: These exercises can help you apply the scripture to real life situations. PARTING: This can bring the session to a close and help the members focus on the coming week.
OPEN TO EVERYBODY
Mark 2:15-20 (see also Matthew 9:9-15; Luke 5:27-35)
Why would Jesus deliberately and publicly go against the religious and social customs of his time? That is exactly what he did when he accepted the hospitality of a tax collector and "ate with tax collectors and sinners." Not only that, he and his followers failed to observe one of the required religious fasts. Not the sort of conduct you would expect of a popular leader.
The tax collectors in those days were not government employees. They were entrepreneurs who bid for the job of collecting the Roman taxes from their countrymen. Once they got the job they were free to get as much as they could and keep the rest. No wonder they were hated. "Sinners" refers to Jews who disregarded the requirements of the mosaic law. They were known for not keeping the fasts and would have lost the respect of both the religious authorities or any other ordinarily devout person.
It was scandalous that anybody claiming to be messiah should even associate with such people, let alone accept them as his disciples. They might contaminate him spiritually. They would certainly cause him to lose his influence. This is not the only instance of Jesus caring for people considered to be undesirable. He defended the prostitute; he was friendly with Samaritans; he even healed a Roman centurion's servant.
The Kingdom of God is not bound by religious law or social custom. This is what Jesus taught and the way he lived. Toyohiko Kagawa's ministry of reconciliation began when he moved from the seminary dormitory to a hut in the slums of Kobe, Japan. There he shared poor housing, hunger, disease, and exploitation with thousands of laborers, criminals, beggars, prostitutes and children. He never refused to share his bed or his food with anyone who needed it. The incredible story of his sacrifice is neither romantic nor heroic, but he was assured that God's love goes beyond the barriers set up by religion and society. Kagawa challenges us to find God there: Let him who would meet God visit the prison cell before going to the Temple. Before he goes to church let him visit the hospital. Before he reads the Bible let him help the beggar standing at his door.
For contemplation and prayer: What was it about Jesus that attracted people "like that" to him? Would I want my life as a Christian to attract people "like that" to me?
Activities for Session One
PURPOSE: To become open to and accepting of people who are "different."
PREPARATION: Collect newspapers, news magazines, several sheets of newsprint, masking tape, glue, scissors, magic markers, different versions of the Bible.
SHARING: Begin the time together by letting each person tell briefly what Lent means to them and how s/he hopes to benefit from the season this year.
READING: Read the scripture passage and talk about what it - might be like to sit down - to eat with people who are different from those with whom you usually associate. Encourage every person to give ideas.
ACTIVITY: From the news sources, cut out stories or pictures of people who are different and paste on the large sheets of paper. Examples: poor or suffering people, different religions, different cultures, different races, etc. After everyone has found at least one picture or story, talk together about:
- What is different about the people?
- Do you know anyone like those people? Think together about things each member can do next week to get acquainted with persons you identify as different. Some examples:
- Volunteer to work directly with poor people in one of the church programs.
- Spend time with a person at work or school whom you have avoided because he or she is different.
- Plan a time to be with a person of another generation.
- Think of other ways to be involved with those who are different and help each other find ways to do it.
PARTING: End with a prayer together for courage and humility as we try to meet new and different people.
PREPARATION FOR SERVICE
Mark 1:12-15 (see also Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13)
The public ministry of Jesus began after his ordeal in the wilderness. This was a physical ordeal because he did not have shelter from the weather or from the wild animals. It was also a spiritual and intellectual ordeal because he was faced with fundamental challenges to the integrity of his mission. Mark does not go into the details of the experience as do Matthew and Luke.
No sooner had the spirit descended gently upon him "like a dove" than it drove him, without pity, into the desolate hills. Both blessing and testing would be necessary before this pilgrimage could begin. It took confidence and courage to begin proclaiming the kingdom of God -- something for which John was thrown in prison. Jesus knew what he was in for -- just as his follower Oscar Romero centuries later knew what he was in for when he began preaching against injustice in El Salvador.
Many Christian communities, over the years, have prescribed -- often at Lent -- a period of isolation, self denial and reflection prior to discipleship. The modern parallel is the ordeal of training and service that applicants for certain religious orders must undergo. The ordeal certifies the presence and power of God in the lives of those who would serve.
The temptations Jesus faced are the ones that disciples still face. They are the classic invitations to accept a "cheap grace," a discipleship with no cost. The temptations make three claims that are false: First, you cannot minister to others unless you tend to your own needs first. Second, the only way to proclaim the Gospel effectively is by doing something spectacular. Third, the more people and things you have control over, the better you can serve God. This is a model for ministry that Jesus rejected.
For contemplation and prayer: What about those false claims mentioned above? How are they real temptations to me?
Activities for Session Two
PURPOSE: To encourage discipline and reflection as followers of Christ.
PREPARATION: Bring a shoe box taped shut with a slot in the top, strips of paper to write on, pens, several versions of the Bible.
SHARING: Begin the session by talking about the preceding week. Ask if members were able to spend time with someone "different." Share these experiences briefly.
READING: Read the scripture passages and think together about:
- Why did Jesus spend time alone before beginning his ministry?
- The temptations Jesus had to endure.
- What Jesus refused to do in his ministry.
ACTIVITY: Talk about individual disciplines each person might undertake during the remainder of Lent: it might be giving up something that does not serve God (a habit or attitude, for example) or adding something you have not done before (such as a time of meditation for 15-30 minutes each day). Think of other possibilities. Then, let each person privately decide on a discipline, write it on a piece of paper, fold it with the person's name on the outside, and deposit it in the box. The box will remain closed until week 7. (You might want to bring this Box of Commitment to each group meeting so that items can be added if anyone wishes.)
PARTING: Join hands and pray for God's strength to follow the commitments and for God's grace to learn from the experience.
FOLLOWING JESUS FOR THE WRONG REASON
Mark 8:27-37 (see also Matthew 16:13-28, Luke 9:18-25, John 6:66-69)
There must have been an almost constant discourse between Jesus and his disciples - at meals, in the evening quiet, after he taught, and even walking from town to town. One day Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was. Then he asked them what they thought. Peter correctly identified him as "the Christ," but Jesus would not let the disciples proclaim it. It was clear that they did not understand what this meant. He went on to explain that being the Christ required suffering, rejection by the religious authorities, even death. Peter then argued that Jesus had it all wrong that this was not what was supposed to happen to the messiah!
The disciples wanted to deny the suffering Jesus might have to undergo. They wanted him to be a messiah whose instrument was power, who was unstoppable, who would beat his enemies. How could Jesus talk to them of a messiah who dies? They did not understand how a messiah could overcome evil through love, self-sacrifice, personal suffering, even his own death. They also did not understand that following him meant they could overcome evil in the same way.
You can see Jesus bringing the entire procession to a halt with his "Get behind me, you Satan!" As the dust settles and they crowd around he might have said it this way: "Listen carefully. You have to understand what I am telling you. If it is your intention to follow me you are going to have to be willing to put yourself last and then follow me carrying your own cross." Then he offered them the painful words about losing one's life in order to save it.
For contemplation and prayer: Bonhoeffer once said, "When Christ calls a person it is an invitation to come and die." Is this too harsh? How does it apply to me?
Activities for Session Three
PURPOSE: To understand better how losing one's life for Christ's sake can save it.
PREPARATION: Bring large sheets of paper or newsprint and magic markers; several versions of the Bible.
SHARING: Begin the session by talking about the preceding week, with members briefly telling about things that have made them happy and that have given them concern.
READING: Read the scripture passage and:
- Discuss why Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone he was the Christ.
- Note the three contradictory statements in verses 34 and 35.
- Discuss why Jesus seemed to feel this point was so important.
ACTIVITY: Let each group member tell about a difficult choice in which something worthwhile (not something bad) had to be given up. Have someone write a few words describing that choice on the left side of the sheet of paper. After everyone has participated, brainstorm about opportunities that could (or did) grow out of the painful decision and write this on the right side of the paper. (Suggestion for younger children: Ask about a toy they may have lost and then suggest that another child may have found it and is now enjoying it.)
PARTING: Give each person a hug and then join hands to pray for understanding the contradiction of saving one's life by losing it.
CLEANING UP RELIGION
John 2: 13-25 (see also Matthew 21:10-13, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-46)
The money changers and animal sellers were at the temple so that worshipers could fulfill the requirements of their religious practice. Money offerings had to be made with the sacred half-shekel, but there were many kinds of money in use in Jerusalem in those days: Persian, Greek, Egyptian, and Roman coins had to be changed into the sacramental currency. The system was authorized by the temple authorities who were themselves in a position to profit by this arrangement. Equally offensive to the people was the fact that the system was carried out by the Chief Priest under license from the hated Roman authorities. It was an outrage to the religious and patriotic sensitivities of the Jews that their sacred Temple had become a place where the sovereignty of Rome was acknowledged and sacrifices were made daily to Caesar. Jesus was horrified by this desecration in the name of God. By cleansing the temple he was insisting that the practices of religion needed to be cleaned up. It is noteworthy that he did not attack the worship system itself. He was challenging the way it was being abused.
It seems that every religion, in every age, needs to be cleaned up from time to time. Almost from the beginning the church has been reforming and correcting itself. Many of Paul's letters address this problem. The modern church is continually challenged, as well. Clarence Jordan did this in the 60s when he went with a black friend to a segregated church. As they sang Christmas hymns about peace on earth in that hostile place, the chairman of the hospitality committee screamed, "You're disturbing divine worship!" They were thrown out. The pastor agreed that something was awfully wrong, but said, "This is the policy of the church, and I think you should leave."
Jesus acted because the policy at the Temple in those days was smothering the more important values of the law: justice, compassion, love, honor to God.
For contemplation and prayer: What are the basic values of my faith - values that I absolutely will not compromise?
Activities for Session Four
PURPOSE: To reflect on how easy it is to forget the important faith issues of justice, compassion, love and honor to God.
PREPARATION: Have enough different items so that there is one for each member: a checkbook; some church school materials; a broom, nails and screws; an order of service; a light bulb (and other items representative of things necessary to keep the church organization going); and several versions of the Bible.
SHARING: Begin this session by having everybody tell about ways in which they feel that God has been part of their lives during the past week.
READING: Read the scripture passage and talk together about:
- The way the Temple courtyard must have looked before Jesus began clearing things out.
- The way it must have looked afterwards.
- The values of faith that were most important to Jesus.
ACTIVITY: At the center of the group display all the items that have been prepared, so that there is one for each person. Each person, in turn, can select an object, tell how it is needed and used at church, and then put the item down.
After everyone has done this, let each member describe a basic value of faith that he or she can bring to the faith community.
PARTING: Sit quietly for a moment of shared silence. Then the leader can turn to the next member with a hug and say, "Go with God's love, compassion and justice dwelling in you." Let this blessing go from one member to the next until it has returned to the leader.
GOD'S LIBERATING LOVE
It is not unusual to see a placard in the stands at a football game bearing the brief message: John 3:16. The viewer doesn't even have to look it up. But no matter how much John 3:16 may have become trivialized, Luther correctly identified it as "the Gospel in miniature." God so loved the world....
The term "world" in this passage is best understood in the context of John 1:1-10, the prologue to John's gospel. The world was created by and exists through Christ, even though it did not recognize him when he came. God loves the world, his own creation, so all creation is within the love of God: There is not a higher love for what we call "sacred" and a somewhat lesser love for what we name "secular." Nothing and no one in the world is exempt from God's complete love.
The contrast between verse 16 (God gave his son... to save) and verse 17 (God did not send his son... to judge) sets up the terms of reconciliation. That is, God did not send a circuit judge to decide our guilt or innocence. Rather, he came himself to liberate us from prison. The picture is not one of an accused person facing trial, but of a condemned criminal - appeals exhausted - receiving the governor's pardon. It follows, as verse 18 suggests, that the person who rejects the pardon is, by definition, going to perish.
This sense of having been forgiven, of being saved only because of God's mercy (we never were in a position to do anything about saving ourselves) is what fuels the Christian disciple's passion for reconciliation within God's creation.
For contemplation and prayer: If I were God and created the world and then my world ignored me, what would I have done? (Clue: Martin Luther said he would have "knocked it to pieces.")
Activities for Session Five
PURPOSE: To explore the dimensions of God's forgiveness which is given before we even ask for it.
PREPARATION: Provide a large world map or globe (or make one with newsprint and markers, if necessary, see the ACTIVITY); different versions of the Bible.
SHARING: Begin the session by talking briefly about what meeting together for this Bible study and reflection has meant to each person.
READING: Read and discuss the scripture passage. See how much the members can say from memory. Teach John 3:16 to younger members who may not know the passage yet.
ACTIVITY: Gathering around the map or globe, ask each person to point to a place where someone they know lives. See how many parts of the world the group can point to. Mark them on the map or, if this is not practical, write the names of the countries on the paper. Talk about concerns you may have about the individuals mentioned and how God loves them. Then talk about how the love of God extends to all parts of the world.
PARTING: Join hands and say sentence prayers reflecting your hope that all people around the world will become aware of God's love and forgiveness.
John 12:20-33 (see also Matthew 10:38-39, Mark 8:34-37, Luke 9:23-25)
Something very important must have occurred for Jesus to respond to it by declaring: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified!" What happened? Why did he then talk about losing life by loving it? About a seed dying in order to bear fruit? And what prompted him to foresee his death so clearly? Why did God affirm him so forcefully that everybody present heard it? The question is: Why was all this stirred up by the courteous request of some Greeks to spend time with the Teacher?
The disciples were hesitant when the Greeks came. They were forced to consider the question of whether the Kingdom of God was to be exclusive; that is, whether it would be for the Jews alone. The interest expressed by these Greeks confronted the disciples with their racial, religious, and nationalistic prejudices. Phillip and Andrew did not know how to handle the situation so they took the question to Jesus: Are the Greeks to be included? It was as if he had been waiting for this moment. His answer was a ringing "Yes!" His lordship was acknowledged by the Gentiles.
God loved the whole world and Jesus understood that the messiah's mission was to reconcile the whole world. He knew that his crucifixion (being "lifted up from the earth") was the means by which all people could be drawn together, not only Jews and Greeks but also bond and free, male and female - everybody.
In teaching the necessity for self-sacrifice, Jesus was saying to his disciples that if they really wanted to be reconcilers there would be a cost. Reconciliation is accomplished, he said, by being willing to give oneself to the other person. This was the theme of the Sermon on the Mount, the essence of Jesus' teachings. He said: Love your enemy; pray for your persecutors; judge not; take no thought for tomorrow. This is what he taught and this is the way he lived and died.
For contemplation and prayer: I can think of situations in my own life and in the world where reconciliation seems almost impossible. What is Jesus' approach to reconciliation and how would it apply to those situations?
Activities for Session Six
PURPOSE: To explore how personal sacrifice can be a means of reconciliation.
PREPARATION: Provide letter-sized paper for each person, along with pens or crayons and various translations of the Bible.
SHARING: Begin the session by asking every person to give one example of how this Lenten season has been a blessing to them.
READING: Read the scripture passage and then discuss:
- What does it mean that a seed must "die" in order to bear fruit?
- Think of examples of the cost of being a reconciler.
- Why are our churches frequently organized exclusively by race, national origin or class?
ACTIVITY: Give each person a piece of paper and a pen or crayon. Let each one draw - on the far right side of the paper - a figure representing self, labeling it with his or her name. On the far left side of the paper draw another figure and label it with the name of a person you know and from whom you are alienated in some way. In the space between the two figures draw a bridge. Then give a name to the bridge that can enable you to get to the other person. (For example, this bridge may be named Respect, Love, Prayer, Knowledge, Repaying a Debt, or any number of things.) Talk together about why these bridges are difficult to cross.
PARTING: Arrange the group in two equal lines facing each other. Join hands with a partner across the space. Silently pray for each other and a world that needs peacemakers.
FOLLOWING THE CROWD
Mark 11:1-11 (see also Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:29-38, John 12:12-19)
Jesus had spent his whole ministry trying to convince his followers that the true messiah would save the world not by conquering its oppressors, but by sharing the suffering of the oppressed. The last exhausting week of his life makes this contrast clear. It begins with a triumphal entry and ends with his execution.
Watch the crowds during that final week. The crowd that cheered him into Jerusalem had seen him raise Lazarus from the dead and was ready to proclaim him king. This time he let them do it, even making sure that he rode in on a donkey as Zechariah 9:9 had foretold.
There was the crowd, later, at the Temple. They applauded when he ran the religious hucksters out of the holy place. They stayed with him as long as he acted like a messiah was supposed to act.
But when the soldiers came to arrest him in the dead of the night, he refused to fight and his disciples fled because they felt betrayed. At his trial he put up a poor defense, said little, and refused to save himself with another miracle. Finally, the crowd - assuming he could not resist the powers of this world - sanctioned his torture and death. Cries of "Hosanna" became cries of "Crucify him!"
There are those who want the Christian life to resemble the triumphal entry more than the crucifixion. If only Christ would use miracle power to reconcile the races, establish a just economic order, make cities pleasant places to live, punish those who exploit children, pound sense into the heads of world leaders, make bosses generous, cure AIDS and cancer. Nobody would hate Jesus and everybody would be our friends and we could join the whole world in shouting, "Hosanna!"
It was not to be that way. Here is the real messiah who finds his throne that week atop a dump outside the gates of the royal city. Here is a Savior whose response to the suffering of the world is to quietly join it. Here is a leader who guides us in a journey away from the crowd.
For contemplation and prayer: How can I quietly join the suffering of the world? Is that what Jesus means for me to do?
Activities for Session Seven
PURPOSE: To explore how difficult it is to follow Christ rather than the crowd.
PREPARATION: Decide on a hymn or song of praise that everyone knows. Be ready to open the Box of Commitments. Collect some items to wave at a celebration (flags, flowers, hats, scarves, etc.); poster board or construction paper and magic markers; several translations of the Bible.
SHARING: Begin the session by briefly expressing and responding to individual concerns and celebrations.
READING: Read the scripture passage and think together about a modern-day example of the crowd that cheered Jesus' triumphal entry.
ACTIVITY: First, get ready to stage a parade. Make signs that celebrate Jesus entering Jerusalem. Get the hats, flowers, scarves, etc. ready. Then, let the whole group become a joyous, raucous crowd yelling: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" Keep this up until there is some frenzy or laughter. Next, all sit down and be silent while you open the box and take out your personal commitments from week two. How well was I able to keep the commitment? Did this help me in my spiritual journey? Is it worth continuing?
The whole group may then want to reflect on the contrast between cheering along with a crowd and keeping personal commitments to God.
PARTING: After prayers of devotion to Christ's mission in the world, sing the selected hymn of praise.
John 20:1-18 (see also Luke 8:1, Mark 16:9; John 19:25)
Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb alone. The men, having confirmed for themselves that Jesus was not there, had gone back. But Mary was determined to find out what had been done with the body. Wasn't it enough that they had killed him? Couldn't they leave well enough alone?
Her grief and frustration heightened with the appearance of strangers around there. "Why are you sobbing, my dear?" asked the two sitting in the tomb. "They have taken away my master," she replied. "I don't know where he is." Then the one standing outside asked the same thing: "Why are you sobbing, my dear? Who are you looking for?" Mary turned. Maybe this workman knew something. Distraught, she grabbed him and pleaded, "Tell me where you have put him and I will go take care of him myself." The man spoke her name, "Mary." She looked up, and in the long silence of recognition she realized who - and what - she was seeing. When she finally responded it was with the Aramaic word: "Rabboni." Not "Master," or "Jesus," but "Teacher." This was more than Lazarus brought to life. This was the Teacher brought back from death. It meant that everything he had taught about the reign of God was true. That was the news she raced to tell the other disciples. What is it that makes Jesus' death redemptive? What did the disciples know that enabled them to participate, like him, in the suffering of the world? What assured them that the world would be saved by the power of love? For those disciples in Jerusalem the evidence was clear: Christ is resurrected!
This little band of men and women were knit together in a hallowed experience that changed the horizon of the world for them. Jesus is alive. The Kingdom is not over. All is true that they had hoped, and more. - A. T. Robertson
For contemplation and prayer: How does the resurrection make a difference to me? What evidence do I have that Christ is alive and present?
Activities for Session Eight
PURPOSE: To recognize that we are called by name to follow Christ, our risen Lord.
PREPARATION: Get ready for a play (refer to READING below), get a blindfold and several versions of the Bible.
SHARING: Begin the session by letting each person share briefly how God has been present in his or her life this week.
READING: Select five people in the group to play the parts of a narrator, Mary Magdalene, the two angels and Jesus. Then let everyone help decide how the story in the scripture should be staged (How did Mary see the angels? From where did Jesus appear? Why didn't Mary recognize him at first?). Think of other questions. Then play out the story with each player reading the part from a Bible.
ACTIVITIES: Ask for a volunteer to be blindfolded and then turned around a few times. Then, when another person calls his or her name, the blindfolded person guesses who spoke. Continue doing this until everyone who wants to be blindfolded has the chance to listen to his or her name and guess who called it. Take some time to reflect on the power of being called by name and on how we recognize the one who calls us by name.
PARTING: Say a prayer naming each person in the group and expressing the joy of being a follower of the risen Christ. Conclude with everybody saying: "Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!"
Everitt Gill prepared the Lenten Meditations; Dee Ann Coltharp designed the Household Activities. Both are members of Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, GA.
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