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Youth Lesson: The Spirit Empowers

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:

Jesus had promised the disciples that they would receive the Holy Spirit. He told them to stay in Jerusalem while they waited but that when they receive the Holy Spirit they were to go out into the world to be Jesus’ witnesses. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples did exactly what they had been told to do. They waited in Jerusalem.

Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday, a harvest festival.  It occurs 50 days after Passover. Passover was the holiday Jesus and his disciples were celebrating at their Last Supper together. Jesus spent 40 days on earth after he rose from the dead before he ascended to heaven, and Pentecost takes place 10 days after Jesus’ ascension. Pentecost was a celebration of the giving of the law (the first five books of the Old Testament) to Moses. It was one of three times a year, Jewish men from all over the ancient world traveled to Jerusalem. This is why there are people who speak so many different languages all gathered in Jerusalem.

We celebrate Pentecost as the birthday of the church. As the church was just forming, it was still formulating its own traditions for worship. The coming of the Holy Spirit and making the gospel message available to everyone in their own language helps break down any barriers there might be in God’s people from around the world coming together.       

 Read:

 Acts 2:1-21

 Discussion:

  • Read Exodus 13:20-22. God appeared to the Israelites as a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud to guide them out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. With this in mind, think about the events of Pentecost.  How do you think those in attendance might have connected those events and the coming of the Holy Spirit with God’s guidance of them in the Exodus story?
  • Read Exodus 19:16-19. These verses describe some of what takes place before God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. What similarities do you notice between God’s coming in this passage and the events at Pentecost? Knowing that Pentecost is the celebration of God giving the Law and seeing the similarities between these events and those at Pentecost, what other connections do you think the people would have made (or God would want them to make) between these events?
  • Try to think of other times that God has used fire, loud noises, or mighty winds to accompany his coming. Why do you think God uses these methods? What does it say about God or the Holy Spirit?

 Reflection:

The Holy Spirit is a gift for everyone who chooses to follow God. This passage should challenge us to discover the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us. We often think of the Holy Spirit as a “still, small voice.”  While that can be the case, the events at Pentecost remind us that the Holy Spirit can also act in jaw-dropping and mind-blowing sorts of ways.  We should remember that Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us power. The Holy Spirit can gently guide, but the Holy Spirit may also call us and empower us to do live for God in ways we might not even have ever dreamed. 

God has given us all gifts.  We might not be able to suddenly be able to speak in other languages, but God has gifted each of us in important ways.  He calls all of us to use our gifts in whatever ways possible to draw others to him.  As we become more aware of the gifts God has given us, we should consider ways we can use those gifts in service to the church, our communities, and even the world.  We must also remember that God has gifted all of his followers.  We should call out the gifts we see in others and encourage them also to use their gifts to spread the good news of God’s love.

Application Questions: 

  • In what ways have you received the power of the Holy Spirit? How do you know?
  • If you cannot recall a time that you have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, consider asking God to make himself known to you through the Holy Spirit and then be on the lookout for the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life. What will you look for to see the Holy Spirit move?
  • In what ways do you think God has gifted you for service? How can you use your gifts in everyday interactions to be a witness for God? What special opportunities could you take part in to use your gifts as a witness for God?

 Pray:

 Dear God, we thank you for the stories we can read that remind us that you are always present with your people. We thank you for the way you guide us and call us to draw others to you. We ask that you empower us through the Holy Spirit to be faithful witnesses, committed prayer, to spread your love to everyone we might encounter. Amen.

Posted by Sam Oakley
in Youth

Youth Lesson: Faithful Prayer

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:

Our Scripture passage this week picks up at the end of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples at Passover. John’s account of the Last Supper includes a long speech that Jesus gave his disciples.  During that speech, Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples for all that was about to happen. He encourages them to continue trusting in God, reminds them that loving God means that they must also love others, and he wants them to know that God will continue to always be with them. Last week, we focused on Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would come and be with them.    

Jesus ends this long speech with prayer. If you look at John 17 in a Bible with section titles, you can readily see that Jesus prays for himself, his disciples, and for all Christians. In the previous few chapters, Jesus speaks to his disciples to encourage them to keep the faith and to comfort them.  In this chapter, Jesus’ prayer seems to do the same for him – to encourage him to faithfully follow God’s plan for him and to provide comfort for himself and his friends as they will soon be separated.  When he finishes praying, they leave where they are, go to the garden where other Gospel accounts tell us that Jesus again chooses to pray, and that is when Jesus is arrested.

Read:

John 17:1-11

Discussion:

  • What does Jesus ask for himself in verses 1-5?
  • What does Jesus ask God for on behalf of his disciples in verses 9-11?
  • How would you describe Jesus’ relationship with God based on this passage?
  • What does this prayer tell us about Jesus’ feelings for his disciples? What does it tell us about their relationship?
  • What do you think it means when Jesus prays that the disciples “may be one as we are one” in verse 11? Why do you think Jesus offered this prayer? Remember, Judas, one of the disciples, will betray Jesus. Try putting yourself in the disciples’ shoes in the aftermath of Jesus' death and even his resurrection. They are scared (their own lives at risk) and confused.

 Reflection:

Jesus knows what God is calling him to do. He knows that his betrayal, torture, and death are coming; and he knows that he will soon return to God’s presence. Despite his confidence that this is God’s plan for him, he knows that all of these events could cause many divisions. Jesus knows that it is important for his followers to remain united as one as they continue to bear witness to Jesus. Consider this commentary from the Feasting on the Word Youth Sunday School Curriculum:

Some ancient theologians who studied these very verses talked about Jesus’ oneness with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What if the answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity was not about solidifying into a monolithic block but, rather, was about joyful interplay, glorious dancing? If we tried that idea on for awhile, could it affect how we view our own disagreements with our brothers and sisters? Perhaps the vision toward which we strive is not one of total agreement but of the ability to join, in our disparate ways, in the common dance of faith.

Even though Jesus knows all that is about to happen, this goodbye is still hard for him to face. He clearly loves his disciples, and he can’t say this goodbye without coming to God on their behalf. He needs to know that these disciples, whom he loves, will be protected and that they will never be left alone. This scene is reminiscent of anytime a parent leaves a child – for the first time in daycare/school, to go on a trip, to begin college, etc. Parents linger to make sure that those in charge know everything they need to know and will do everything they need to do to keep their children safe. Jesus’ affection for his disciples is much the same. He knows that he will not have much time left to be by his friends’ sides, and he comes to God in prayer to ask God to continue to care for them in the same way he has.

 Application Questions:

  • Jesus knows the importance of prayer. This week, choose a few of the prayer topics below, fill in the prompt with your own prayer, and commit to praying these words of prayer every day:
    • My prayer for myself is…
    • My prayer for my family is…
    • My prayer for our youth group is…
    • My prayer for our church is…
    • My prayer for my school is…
    • My prayer for our community is…
    • My prayer the world is…
  • What prompts you to pray? Think of something that you do every day that you can use as a prompt to pray, and commit to using that time to pray for something specific (for example, commit to praying for your friends while you brush your teeth).

Pray:

Dear God, we thank you for your love and peace. We thank you for drawing us together as brothers and sisters, even when we cannot be physically together. Help us commit to caring for one another and our world by praying for one another and our world. Let us be voices of truth and let our actions be evidence of your love. Amen.

Posted by Sam Oakley
in Youth

Youth Lesson: Friends, Now and Forever

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: 

John 13-17 tells the story of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples at Passover. Passover is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the way God rescued the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Unlike the other Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, John doesn’t include anything about the meal itself or Jesus’s words that we repeat at our own Lord’s Supper.  Instead, John includes the story of how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and then he includes a long speech that Jesus gave to his disciples.

Jesus knew what was about to happen – that he would be betrayed by one of his closest friends, arrested, tortured, crucified, but also that he would be raised from the dead.  During this last meal with his disciples, he wanted to prepare his disciples for all that was about to happen. In the washing of his disciples’ feet, he is trying to help them understand that he has not come to rule and lead like a king. He has come as a servant leader who humbles himself in love and care for others. As he continues talking to his disciples throughout the evening, he wants to encourage them to continue trusting in God even when they are unsure about all that is happening, he reminds them that loving God means that they must also love others, and he wants them to know that God will always be with them even when Jesus is no longer physically there. Our passage this week is about Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit who would be with them always.

Read:

John 14:15-21

 Discussion:

  • What does Jesus say we will do if we love him? What does it mean to “keep the commandments”?
  • Read John 13:34-35. What is the commandment that Jesus gives here?
  • Think about the stories of the early church that we read in Acts. What did the early Christians do? They came together for fellowship and worship, and they shared all that they had with others. What happened as a result of what they did? The church grew rapidly. How does John 13:35 fit with the stories of the early church?
  • Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in John 14:16. Depending on your translation, the word used might be Advocate, Helper, Friend, Holy Spirit, Comforter, Counselor, or Companion. All of these words can help us understand who the Holy Spirit is and what role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. How do you understand the work of the Holy Spirit?

Reflection:

Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit is for everyone who believes in him.  The Holy Spirit in us means that God is truly present with us at all times. As we consider these truths, it is important that we recognize what it means for Jesus to be present with us but also what it means that Jesus is present in others. Both of these truths should lead us to love others.  Remembering Jesus’ presence with us means letting him guide us – helping us follow his commandment to love and serve one another.  Remembering Jesus’ presence in others reminds us of the value they hold.  If Jesus is in others, then loving others is literally how we love God. 

It’s important to keep God’s command to love others in balance with Jesus’ depiction of love in John 13. Loving others shouldn’t be done as a proof of hierarchical power. Jesus showed love to his disciples by lowering himself and washing their feet. Our efforts to show love to others shouldn’t be done to set ourselves up as the hero, but they should be done in celebration and care for the other person.

Application Questions:

  • We don’t often spend much time talking about the Holy Spirit, maybe because it’s hard to understand exactly who the Holy Spirit is or how the Holy Spirit works. How have you heard others talk about the work of the Holy Spirit?
  • How have you felt the Holy Spirit working in you? Think about some of the other ways Holy Spirit has been translated – Helper, Friend, Counselor, Comforter, Advocate, or Companion.
  • Where (or in who) have you seen the Holy Spirit at work in you, your church, your community, or your world?
  • How can you tell the difference between loving acts by non-Christians and those by Christians? Does the difference (if any) matter?

Pray:

Dear God, we are grateful for your gift of the Holy Spirit. Help us recognize the ways you are leading us and guiding us. Help us remember that you are always with us and that you call us to love you and to love others. Help us live in such a way that others are drawn to you. Amen.

Posted by Sam Oakley

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