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Children's Lesson: Early Believers

While we are unable to meet for Sunday School, I will post an adaptation of the children's Sunday School lesson every Monday.  Think of the lesson as a guide to discuss a story from the Bible together.  Each lesson will include some introductory material, a Scripture reading, questions for review and discussion, an activity suggestion, a short prayer, and a memory verse.  I encourage you to take just 10-15 minutes every week to actively engage your children or grandchildren in this opportunity to grow together in your faith!

Introduction:

Share some background information before reading the story together.

This week’s story is about how Jesus’ earliest followers were beginning to come together as the church.  When Jesus was on earth, the people who believed there was something special about him could be with him, and many people even followed him as he traveled from town to town telling people about God’s love.  After Jesus’ resurrection, he spent several weeks on earth; but then he went to be with God on a day we will soon celebrate called Ascension Sunday. 

After Jesus went to be with God, his earliest followers realized they needed to do something to make sure everyone could know that Jesus was God’s Son.  They also realized that they would need to do something to take care of people who were hungry or poor or sick, just like Jesus had taught them.  Today’s story is about how Jesus’ followers took care of others, and how they helped others know about God’s love for them.

Read:

Read the story about how the early church came together, took care of one another, and how their love for one another led others to know God’s love. You can read the story from the Bible or the simplified version of the story from the Spark Story Bible below.

Acts 2:43-47, 4:32-37

The Story:

Some of the early believers were great at sharing. They shared their food and their clothes.  They shared their money and their homes. They were so generous. No one was poor or needy because others gave without holding anything back. Together they saw many miracles and wonders.

They met in the temple, and they met in their homes. They talked about Jesus, and they thanked God for blessing them. And then something amazing happened. 

When other people saw how happy the first believers were, sharing all they had and talking about Jesus, they believed, too.  They became Christians, and they shared their food and their clothes and their money and their homes. They became one, big, Christian family. And their church family grew and grew and grew.

Review Questions:

  • What kinds of things did the early believers share with one another?
  • What did the early believers do when they gathered together?
  • What did other people notice about the early believers?
  • What happened to the church family because of what the early believers did?

Discussion Questions:

  • How do you think the early believers felt when they saw people in need?
  • Do you think it was easy or hard for them to share their food, money, and homes? Why? How do you think it made them feel?
  • What are things you can share to help other people?

Activity:

Every person in your family has an important job. Share with each other some of the important jobs each person in your family does.  What would happen if you all didn’t do your jobs?  Every job, from taking out the trash to picking up toys to making dinner to mowing the lawn, is important!  We depend on each other to each do our jobs.

The church is a lot like a family. Every person in the church is important, and every person has a job to do.  Some people teach, some people sing, some people make food, some people knit, and there are so many other important things people in the church do! Talk about some of the people in our church and the important things they do. Consider calling or sending a card to some of those people to thank them for the ways they serve our church!

Pray:

Dear God, thank you for always being someone we can depend on. Thank you for the people in our families and in our church who love us and care for us. Help us share the things we have with others to help them. Amen.

Memory Verse:

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. Acts 4:34

 

Posted by Sam Oakley

Faith in Action: A Church United

This week’s readings begin and end with stories about Jesus’ followers disagreeing about whether or not Gentiles could receive God’s grace without being circumcised (becoming Jewish). As I read through this week’s readings, I am struck by the fact that this challenge the early church faced is not that unlike challenges we face today. This issue of whether or not “God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18) is an important issue.  I would venture to guess that most of us, if not all, are not Jewish; so it rather essential for us, in fact.

Thankfully (spoiler alert for those of you who have not yet read chapter 15), the Church in its collective wisdom as guided by the Holy Spirit agreed that God’s grace is a gift to all. This isn’t an issue we really find ourselves debating today, but it does seem as though Christians are constantly at odds with one another. Around every turn we seem to divide ourselves over issues of who is and who is not REALLY included in the family of God. We call each other heretics over beliefs about women in ministry, homosexuality, political affiliations, and even the existence of dinosaurs. 

Jesus, not Abraham Lincoln, gets the credit for the original quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:24, or Luke 11:17). This is wisdom, however, that it seems hard for us to abide by. Maybe it’s pride – a need to prove we are right – that leads us to fight. Maybe it’s a sense of justice – a desire to not leave anyone out of God’s kingdom – that leads us to fight. Maybe it’s a sense of righteousness – a passion for making sure that all of God’s people are living in ways that are consistent with God’s desire for us – that leads us to fight. Maybe it’s a fear of scarcity – a fear that there might not be enough grace for us if anyone can be included – that leads us to fight. Or maybe it’s something else.

We should always seek the truth and stand up for it. The questions of how, when, where, and even why to stand up for the truth are ones we should continue to ask ourselves, though. Should we stand up for the truth by forwarding emails, posting on social media, or covering our cars in bumper stickers? Should we only stand up for the truth in private conversations? Should we leverage any power or position we might have to stand up for the truth? Do we stand up for the truth because we need others to know we are right or because we want others to know the grace of God?

There are so many questions to ask as we determine how we stand up for the truth, especially in the face of other believers.  Jesus’ early followers gathered together to hear from one another and to share the stories of God at work. They relied on the wisdom of those they trusted and on the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in the world to determine God’s truth on this matter.  Maybe this is where we start as we seek to find the truth and share that truth.  Maybe we start by coming together, listening to one another, and looking for the Holy Spirit at work.

Posted by Sam Oakley
in Youth

Youth Lesson: An Emotional Day

While we are unable to meet for Sunday School, I will post an adaptation of the youth Sunday School lesson every Wednesday.  Think of the lesson as a guide to discuss a passage of Scripture as a family.  Each lesson will include some introductory material, a Scripture reading, questions for discussion, and a short prayer.  I encourage you to take just 15-30 minutes every week over dinner, at the end of the day, or whenever best fits your family schedule to actively engage your students in this opportunity to grow together as a family in faith. 

Introduction:

This week’s lesson takes place on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, or Easter Sunday. Jesus’ followers have experienced some of the highest highs and deepest lows and aren’t even sure what to think or feel at this point.  They celebrated at Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday.  They were there as Jesus was arrested and crucified.  They are confused, scared, and grieving.  They thought Jesus was going to change everything, but then he was killed by the people they thought he would rule over.  They have just heard from some of the women that Jesus’ grave is empty, though; and an angel said that Jesus had come back to life.  Could they possibly be right? If so, where is Jesus now? If not, what happened to his body?

Read:

Luke 24:13-35

Discussion:

  • Read through the passage again in sections and think about how the friends might be feeling and what they might be thinking throughout this story. Thinking about everything that has happened up until this point, how do you think the friends are feeling in verses 13-16?
  • How do you think the friends are feeling in verses 17-19 when the stranger asks them what they are talking about? Think about a time that something big has happened that affects masses of people, if not everyone (…like a pandemic). When things like that happen, there are certain things you expect everyone to talk about.  These friends can’t believe that this stranger wouldn’t just expect that they were talking about all that had happened to Jesus.
  • As the friends explain all that has happened in verses 19-24, what feelings do they indicate they are experiencing?
  • In verses 25-29, the stranger seems to scold them for their lack of understanding. How do you think the disciples felt about the way the stranger responds to them, how do you think they might have reacted to the stranger’s explanation of all that has happened, and what do you think prompted them to invite the stranger to stay with them?
  • When it becomes clear to the friends who the stranger really is in verses 30-32, how are they feeling? What do you think they said to each other?
  • As the disciples return to Jerusalem in verses 33-35, how do you think they are feeling?

Reflection:

As the men journey to Emmaus, it is almost as if their physical journey is the embodiment of the spiritual journey they are on to know the truth.  As soon as they find the truth – that Jesus is alive and continues to be with them – they turn around and share the good news. 

All of this must have been such a confusing and surreal experience for the friends.  They were some of Jesus’ closest followers, yet this stranger just shows up and explains all of the Scriptures to them.  They’ve just lost someone they admired, loved, and had hoped would be their redemption.  They not only lost him, but they are scared that their own lives may also be in danger.  They hear from their good friends that an angel has told them that Jesus is alive, but that sounds absurd – completely unbelievable.  How can they possibly make sense of all that has happened?

But a stranger comes upon them and seems to have answers.  They don’t know this man, but they beg him to stay with them.  He begins as their guest, but he becomes the host when he breaks the bread and shares it.  The moment they realize that Jesus is there with them, though, he disappears.  Why does Jesus disappear? It is almost as if he wants them to know that he is alive and still with them, but their job is now to go and tell others rather than just sit at his feet. 

Application Questions:

  • It is in what Jesus does – the breaking, blessing, and sharing of the bread – that the friends realize who he is. What are things you can do at home, school, or work to help others recognize the love of Jesus in you?
  • Who are people in your life who reveal Jesus to you? How do they reveal Jesus to you? Consider sending them a note, text message, or a phone call to let them know you appreciate them.
  • There’s a quote from Mr. Rogers that often gets shared during hard times – shootings, natural disasters, or this pandemic – that goes, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” During these days that are hard on so many people, we can look for those who are being the hands and feet of Jesus. Who do you know who is being the hands and feet of Jesus for others right now? Share stories about ways that people you know or don’t know have been stepping up in big or small ways to care for others.

Pray:

Dear God, we are grateful for the people in our lives who help us know you better through the words they say and in the ways they live. Help us see the ways you work in and through them and give us the desire to join in your work in this world. Give us the same passion to share the good news of your grace with others that the two friends on the road to Emmaus had. Amen.

Posted by Sam Oakley

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