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Teacher Resources

01-20-18 Formations

Form 1-20-19

Jesus welcomes Sinners Mark 2:13-22

Focal Outline: Mark 2:13-15 A Tax Collector???

Mark 2:16-17 Call and Response

Mark 2:18-22 A Story about Wine

Summary Statements: (To share an overview of the lesson…)

1. Many adults today are struggling to find meaning in their work and their faith!

2. Too many of us think we have religion and spirituality all figured out.  Jesus challenges our assumptions!

3. Jesus calls us to a continuing creativity to respond to the world around us with life changing examples.

4. As we embrace Jesus, we are more and more comfortable with the newness of life around us!

Life Questions: (To help focus your thoughts…)

1. What do you think you know a good bit about only to discover that there is so much more to learn?

2. What do you know to be true about your faith?  What do you know is lacking?  What needs to change?

3. How are you creative?  When do you use the creative side of your brain to break out of ruts? 

4. Who are some “sinners” who are not welcome in your church?  Why?  What needs to change?  Why? 

Points to Ponder!!

NOTE:  The following outline is designed for 40 minutes of teaching.  Use 3 to 5 different teaching techniques, choose at least one idea from each of the three sections below.  This will help your class become discussion oriented and interactive.  These approaches will also help you build excitement, intimacy, and disciples as you learn.

     The classic comic, Groucho Marx, had a famous line, “I don’t want to be any part of a club that would consider me as a member!”  Thankfully, the youth group at my church and very patient adult leaders did not feel that way.  They accepted me with my rough edges and challenging thoughts into their community.  They nurtured me towards maturity, helped me realize the call of God in my life, and continue to encourage and affirm my journey.  I was not a desirable kid; and, yet, they accepted and loved me.  Thanks be to God!

     That love would serve me well when I became a minister.  There were always those “booger boys” that were hard to manage.  There were always the “invisible kids” struggling with identity.  And as I moved into adult ministry, there have certainly been challenging church members and bad behaviors to deal with.  And, the bottom line has always been “We love them because Christ loves them!”  There is no room for debate!

     And, we can’t love them without being in relationship with them.  We can help them develop and grow as disciples if we ignore them.  We can teach them and learn from them if we are not in relationship with them.  The call to “Follow me!” is not a “one and done” call.  Jesus calls me every day to pay attention to the call, to pay attention to those around me, to respond with God’s love!

     Keeping people from our churches is not a response.  Ignoring the neighbors around us is not a response.  Ignoring our community and our culture is NOT a response!  

     I think there might be a hole in our fabric.  I wonder if we might dare to patch it?

          

Beginning (5-15 minutes - These ideas are to spark the learner’s interest in the lesson.)

1. Share a creativity exercise.  (Have fun!)  Ask a couple of questions like the ones below:

What color is “heat”?  What is the sound of “joy”?  What does “Brick Red” taste like?  

Say, “We are all creative persons.  But if we search for the ONE right answer, our creativity suffers.

How does this exercise relate to our faith?  To our church?

2. What is something you KNOW to be true and yet have found out differently?  How did you react?

How do our expectations of truth impact the actual truth?  What does this have to do with faith?

3. Our inclination is to “play it safe”!  Agree or Disagree?  Why?

What is a risk that your church needs to take to open your witness up to your community?

Examination: (10-20 minutes – These help learners interact with the text, to see, feel, and hear God’s message.  There is NO way you’ll cover all the material.  Choose wisely; let the needs of your class and your prayerful discernment lead you!  Consult the Learner’s Study Guide and the Commentary for further insights.)

1. Mark 2:13-15 A Tax Collector???

What is happening in these two verses?  Was Jesus “famous”?  Why or why not?  What was the “essence” of his ministry?  How were the people responding?  Why do you think this to be so?  Who is “Levi”?  What do we know about him?  What was his profession?  What was Jesus’ invitation?  What was Levi’s response?

Mark 2:16-17 Call and Response

How do the scribes respond?  What question do they ask?  How does Jesus respond?  Who might these “sinners” be?  Why were tax collectors considered sinners?  Who were the priority of Jesus’ ministry?  How has that changed through the years?  Are sinners still the priority?  Why or why not?  If so, who are the “sinners” that we are to be reaching?  How?  

Mark 2:18-22 A Story about Wine

What happens next?  What is the next question?  Why were these scribes so critical?  How does Jesus respond?  What does this mean?  (You may want to dig a little beyond the teaching guide to unpack this parable.  This is a critical teaching that sets the tone for the Gospel from Jesus til now!)

2. Verse 16 is a critical verse then and now!  Why do we seek to exclude rather than include?  Why do we want to label everyone but US as bad?  Why do we judge those who would try to do good ministry to the “sinners” as evil?  Now consider Mother Theresa, she ministered unselfishly to the least of the least!  Why didn’t we judge her as harshly?  So, what might that mean for our churches?

3. How might Luke 11:42 relate to this passage?  Who might be the “Pharisees” to who Jesus is speaking?  How are WE “Pharisees”???  What might need to change?

Application (5-15 minutes – These ideas give learners opportunities to apply lesson truths to their lives!)

1. What creative expressions of ministry might need to emerge in your church?  How can you shift the ministries of your church to more closely align to the PRIORITY message of Jesus?

2. Discuss any of the following:

a. What do you know to be true about your faith?  What do you know is lacking?  What needs to change?

b. Who are some “sinners” who are not welcome in your church?  Why?  What needs to change?  Why? 

3. How are you a “pharisee”?  How are you a sinner?  Are you willing to be part of a club that would want you to be a member?  Who around you needs the same community that has embraced you?

Spend time in prayer asking God for direction and leadership in creative ministry!

People go, where they know, they have been prepared for and are cared for!

01-20-18 Connections

Connections 1-20-19

As the Bearer of God’s Presence John 2: 1-11

Focal Outline: John 2: 1-4 A need arises

John 2: 5-8 Do whatever he tells you

  John 2: 9-11 He revealed his glory  

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

1. God will meet our needs and use us in surprising and amazing ways.                   

2. God’s glory and power are often revealed when we’ve run out of our own resources.                      

3. God will work through us if we do what Jesus tells us.               

4. As we grow in Christ, we will experience God’s grace and love more abundantly.   

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)   

1. Reading summary statement above, which of these two outcomes do you feel you know the least about?                   

2. What is it about our weakness and humility that seems to reveal God at God’s best?                       

3. What is there about following Christ’s teachings that gives God so much more to work with?           

4. What are some specific steps to growth that will give God more room to visit grace and love?                

Points to Ponder

[NOTE:  These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented.  Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants.  Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

I love this story. We continue to see Jesus revealed, in the spirit of Epiphany.  This time, our Lord is convinced that his time has not yet come.  Yet, his mother insists that he fix a problem that neither of them seems to have created.  There is no wine.  Somehow, and we do well to be curious about the “somehow,” Mary knows by now just how powerful her son is. Jesus resists her requests, but to no avail.  He puts up a verbal “stop sign” that she simply plows through.          

Jesus revealed.  Again, I remind us that our unit theme causes us to follow this thread.  Jesus did not feel ready for his identity, his essence, to yet be revealed.  The miracle he performs makes for a fascinating and entertaining story.  We can marvel at the details, like what kind of water these jars may have had (dirty!).  Or, the order in which events occurred.  One understanding of this indicates that Jesus didn’t simply turn the water in the jars to wine.  It is striking that Mary’s one instruction to those around was “do whatever he tells you.”  

That would be a lesson for us there.  For although she didn’t stop when he asked her to, her instruction for the helpers to heed Jesus’ requests is generally seen as a foreshadowing for us.  We, too, should “Do whatever he tells us.”  It seems that day, after this sign (yes, this was more than just a “miracle”), Jesus pointed us toward what he was to be among us.  But, we do well to wonder what those around him already knew.  Did you notice who the story says (v11) believed in him?   Yes, it seems he already had some disciples!  If only we knew more about what they had already seen and heard before the wedding at Cana.  

 

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes - These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

1.  Recall a time when you have run out of steam.  One minister, for instance, tells of a time when he was preaching and realized that his “song” had left him spiritually.  How did it feel to run out of ideas, energy or solutions to move you forward?  Where should we turn when we’re at the end of our rope?         

2. When have you experienced God working through your obedience?  What was different because of this?                      

3. When has your response to a specific teaching of Jesus contributed to the fulfillment of God’s purposes?  Did you see this in the moment, or on reflection later?  What does this do for your growth in faith?  

         

4. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p20 in your Connections Teaching Guide.  How do we know that God cares about our needs?  

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes - See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

1.   Share an overview of the Lesson from “Scripture Context” (Teaching Guide) and then examine the focal passage using a variety of teaching methods...

John 2: 1-4 A need arises

In v1-2, what are some small pieces of information that stand out to you?  In v3, what might have prompted Mary to call on Jesus?  In v4, what was he trying to do?  Why so?                        

John 2: 5-8 Do whatever he tells you

In v5, why might her instruction apply to a broader audience than just the servants?  Why is the type of jar in v6 important to the miracle itself?  (dirty container!, big symbol)                                  

John 2: 9-11 He revealed his glory

How would you describe the chief steward’s reaction?  How does v10 especially foretell how God sometimes works in our lives?  Read v11 aloud.  What is this trying to foretell?  How does a “sign” differ from a “miracle?”                    

2. On p22 our lesson writer says “God’s glory and power are often revealed when we’ve run out of our own resources.”  In what ways does this apply to the story?  How have you found this to be true in your lifetime?                                                    

3. How does Jn 2: 23-24 relate to our text?  How about 1 Jn 5: 13-21?   

4. On p27 our lesson writer says, “‘Abundance’ is the word we could use to describe many of Jesus’ miracles.  As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we will experience God’s grace and love more and more abundantly.”  How have you experienced this to be true?  Describe some specific “abundances” you have had from God.                                                         

 

5. In the Connections Commentary, Brian Harbour opens by tying today’s story to the John 14 conversation with his disciples (p14). Fascinating! The last sentence of that opening commentary paragraph is compelling.  See p14-15 for background on Jewish wedding customs of the day.  See p15-16 for two natural questions Mary’s request raises...and what John seems focus on instead.  On p17, why did Jesus make so much wine!?               

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes - Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the following questions… 

  1. 1. A. See p25 for a closing exercise you could use, with 2 columns on a page and a little self-reflection.                                 

B. Ask God to help you be more open to Jesus’ leadership. Pray for courage to “do what he tells you.”                

 

  1. 2. What are the barren places in your life? Where are you experiencing defeat and famine?  How do you need scarcity to turn to plenty?  As you reflect, bring those places before God.  This same Jesus can turn your emptiness into fullness.              
  1. 3. See “Applying the Lesson” on p24 in the Uniform Teaching Guide.  What does the story of Jesus turning water into wine tell us about the One who did the miracle?                    

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!

01-27-18 Formations

Form 1-27-19

         Jesus Faces Resistance Mark 3:19b-30

Focal Outline: Mark 3:19b-22 Concerns and Accusations

Mark 3:23-27 A Parable

Mark 3:28-35 Clarified Identity

Summary Statements: (To share an overview of the lesson…)

1. Many of us think we know all that God wants of us, everywhere God is leading us, how we are to behave.

2. All of us must learn the tools that lead to healthy, spiritual discernment and understanding God’s will.

3. We all have some “Pharisee” in us…thinking ourselves blameless and an authority over others.

4. Only a discerning faith that continues to seek God will recognize the differences between God and evil.

Life Questions: (To help focus your thoughts…)

1. How can you sharpen your spiritual discernment?  What is God calling you to do and to be?

2. How are you like the Pharisees?  What about you blames others?  Under whose authority do you live?

3. When have you encountered Jesus?  How have you responded to Jesus?  Do you believe in miracles?

4. How do you practice spiritual discernment?  How do you distinguish between good and evil?

Points to Ponder!!

NOTE:  The following outline is designed for 40 minutes of teaching.  Use 3 to 5 different teaching techniques, choose at least one idea from each of the three sections below.  This will help your class become discussion oriented and interactive.  These approaches will also help you build excitement, intimacy, and disciples as you learn.

     Going home is the greatest feeling in the world for me.  When my momma knows I’m coming home, she cooks my favorite meals and stocks the fridge with Diet Coke.  My family may not have fully understood why I needed to be there, but they always gave me the freedom to be myself.  I’m sure they questioned whether my call to ministry was authentic.  But, they always gave me grace.

     Jesus’ family and friends are not so sure about Him either!  They haven’t seen Him “in action” until now.  The crowd surging and the ministry He was performing ministry that was unfamiliar to them.  The religious leaders begin pointing fingers too.  The family was probably a bit perplexed about all that was happening.  But the religious leaders were threatened; they came to preserve the purity of their religious beliefs.

     There are many issues swirling around church leaders today.  Many are challenged trying to balance shifting generations, consumerism, and challenges to the authority of the faith.  Too many around us are trying to preserve the purity of “the good ole days”!  But Jesus is clear; we commit blasphemy when we resist the Holy Spirit for so long that we lose the ability to discern good from evil.  

     Home should be a place where we love people unconditionally and challenge people to become more than they already are.  So should church! 

Beginning (5-15 minutes - These ideas are to spark the learner’s interest in the lesson.)

1. What did you want to grow up to be when you were a child?  How did this change in your teens?  What about in your young adult years?  Have you become what you wanted to be?  If not why not?  If so, how?

2. When did you first become aware of “Pharisees” in your life?  What kind of “run in’s” have you had with Pharisees?  What are the Pharisees in your life trying to preserve?  How are you a Pharisee?

3. What is the difference between a true person of faith and an imposter?  How do you discern these differences?  Many of us fear that we will be “found out!”  Why?  Aren’t we authentic?

4. What does discernment mean?  How do we grow in our discernment?  What keeps us from practicing discernment?  What issues in your life are you trying to preserve?  Why?  How does discernment help you to grow and make positive changes in your life? 

    Examination: (10-20 minutes – These help learners interact with the text, to see, feel, and hear God’s message.  There is NO way you’ll cover all the material.  Choose wisely; let the needs of your class and your prayerful discernment lead you!  Consult the Learner’s Study Guide and the Commentary for further insights.)

1. Mark 3:19b-22 Concerns and Accusations

What’s happening here?  You will also want to reference Matthew 12:22-32 and Luke 11:14-22 and 12:10.

Where was Jesus when this was happening?  Why do we need to know this?  What is going on around Jesus’ family?  How do you think they were feeling?  What were the charges of the scribes?  Why was this frightening to Jesus’ family?  

Mark 3:23-27 A Parable

What is the parable about?  What is Jesus’ argument?  What is Jesus meaning in this?  Why didn’t Jesus respond to His family?  

Mark 3:28-35 Clarified Identity

The scribes directly attacked the credibility of Jesus?  Why?  What does Jesus say about this attack?  How does Jesus’ parable relate to v29?  What do you think his family must have thought?  How do you react to vv33-35?  Was Jesus being harsh or challenging?  Why?

2. What does the phrase “Son of David” mean?  Why was this so threatening to the Pharisees?  What is a similar phrase that might threaten us in today’s world?  

3. “Beelzebul” is a confusing term.  You may want to do a little homework on this.  Why would the scribes try to connect Jesus to Satan?  How do we demonize people in our world?

4. How does Matthew 7:16 relate to this passage?

Application (5-15 minutes – These ideas give learners opportunities to apply lesson truths to their lives!)

1. What is the role of leadership in our world?  How do we determine whom to follow?  What makes a good leader?  What makes a bad leader?  What makes good followers?  Bad followers?  How do we determine whom we will follow?  How do we choose good leaders?

2. How do you respond to miracles?  Have you seen a miracle lately?  How does “seeing” relate to “believing”  Which comes first?  Why?

3. Have you ever made boastful claims?  How did you back these claims up?  What were the responses?

4. Jesus can overcome evil!  What are some sources of evil in your life that you need Jesus to overcome? 

Close the class with silent prayers for strength and faithfulness. 

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!

01-27-18 Connections

Connections 1-27-19

As the Fulfillment of Scripture Luke 4: 14-24

Focal Outline: Luke 4: 14-16a He began to teach

Luke 4: 16b-19 He stood up to read

  Luke 4: 20-24 He rolled up the scroll  

Summary Statements: (To help you get a handle on the lesson truths.)

1. In our text, Jesus revealed that he fulfills scripture.  And, that he had a lot to accomplish!                   

2. We worship because we are designed to be in fellowship with God, and with other people.                      

3. The Holy Spirit leads us and empowers us to continue Jesus’ ministry.               

4. Jesus fulfills scripture in ways that don’t please his hometown neighbors.     

 

Questions for Thought: (To help you think of some questions to challenge with a “So What?”)   

1. How does Jesus fulfill and culminate the one story of Salvation, from Old Testament to New?                   

2. In an age where more are justifying their leaving of church, what all do we miss when we don’t gather?                       

3. Where do I fit in with continuing what Jesus fulfilled about scripture?           

4. Where does my faith practice draw me closer to others?  How does my faith practice isolate me at times?                

Points to Ponder

[NOTE:  These suggestions are to help your class be more interactive and discussion oriented.  Using 3-5 different ideas will enhance your preferred teaching style and involve class participants.  Build excitement and intimacy in your learners!]

Jesus’ powerful saving acts continue today. We Christians have experienced them, and now we share them with others. (p.31)  I love this sentence from your lesson, and thought it a worthy starting place.  However, we need to acknowledge at least two assumptions therein.  First, that “We Christians have experienced them.”  I certainly hope you have.  But, is that your observation?  If so, what were some of them?  If not, I wonder why not?  Maybe some introspection about your journey is due.  Second, that we share these saving acts that continue today with others.          

How does Jesus continue to deliver “powerful saving acts” today?  Maybe your group needs to talk that one over.  Sometimes, others’ perspectives can help to awaken our own.  Someone in your group may need the hope that comes from hearing your story, too.  Here’s just as big an issue to me, though.  I’m not sure that “we” always share them with others.  Sometimes, that may need to be done through telling our story.  Our testimony.  Far more often, though, Jesus’ saving acts need to be shared with others as we live lives that reflect Christ’s love.  

If you read the larger paragraph, our author has incorporated what Jesus read from Isaiah 58 and 61.  These are opportunities that we have every day to embody Christ and to meet real needs for others.  To someone, your loving act will set them back on their feet and reflect Christ’s saving love.  To someone, your phone call or visit will give them hope they have lacked for some time.  That will awaken the possibility that Christ continues to save today.  When you speak up against wrong, you are the presence of Christ alive in someone!   

 

Introductory Thoughts (5-15 minutes - These are for discussion to introduce this week’s Lesson Ideas.)

1.  How much a part of your life is gathered (corporate) worship?  There are those who make the philosophical argument that they can worship anywhere and any time.  They are right.  But, what is there about gathered worship that seems essential to how God made us?  To what extent should worship challenge or disturb our faith?          

2. When you hear that Jesus has “fulfilled” scripture, what are the many ways that might be so?  Be specific.                    

3. When has someone done something that “freed” your life in a significant way?  Share stories within your group, telling what and why.    

         

4. Take a look at “Beginning the Lesson” on p27 in your Connections Teaching Guide.  Is it important to remember that Jesus fulfils scripture?  Why?  Why not?    

Studying & Discussing the Passage (20-25 minutes - See Brian Harbour’s Commentary for added insights and explanations.)

1.   Share an overview of the Lesson from “Scripture Context” (Teaching Guide) and then examine the focal passage using a variety of teaching methods...

Luke 4: 14-16a He began to teach

What has Jesus just done before this in Luke 4?  At this early stage, what might have caused the “report” already?  At the relative beginning of his ministry, what do we learn about Jesus’ work here in 15-16a?  Why did he do this?                       

Luke 4: 16b-19 He stood up to read

From Isaiah’s prophecy, why might Jesus have chosen this scripture to read in that place and moment?  Discuss v18-19, listing the different callings that Jesus reports by reading this.  How would he go on to do some of these?                                  

Luke 4: 20-24 He rolled up the scroll

 In v20-21, what do we learn of how things are so far?  What did Jesus mean in v21?  Why might they have reacted as they did in v22?  In v23-24, what did Jesus seem to mean?  Read v25-30 (as background).  Why the big turn?                   

2. On p34 our lesson writer says “Christians affirm that Jesus fulfills Scripture. This means that he fulfills the Old Testament expectation of a Messiah.”  Yet, we view Jesus mostly in his NT context.  What does our writer mean?                                                    

3. How does Acts 2: 1-13 apply to our lesson?  How about Nehemiah 5: 1-13?     

4. On p29 our lesson writer says, “Jesus practiced the discipline of regular worship. As followers of Jesus, we should practice this discipline too.”  Not everyone who claims Christian faith these days seems to agree with this assessment.  Why might our lesson writer be right, though?  (in the paragraph, gathered worship is implied)                                                         

 

5. In the Connections Commentary, Brian Harbour runs right out of the start gates (p19) with 1 central assignment Jesus gave to the disciples (and to us?) plus 2 themes that quickly emerged to fulfill that.  On p19-20, what are 4 insights into the early days of Jesus ministry?  On p21, how does Jesus connect his ministry with the “Jubilee year” practice the ancients would have known?  On p22, see at least 2 responses to Jesus’ claim: I am the one.               

Applying the Lesson (10-20 minutes - Choose one or two questions to encourage action plans for the coming week!)

Discuss any of the following questions… 

  1. 1. A. Reflect on how the Spirit has worked in your life.  Or, ask yourself why you are less aware of the Spirit.                                 

B. Thank God for the Spirit’s gifts of guidance, challenge, comfort or encouragement that are available!                  

 

  1. 2. Jesus fulfills scripture in ways that don’t please his hometown neighbors.  We are susceptible to pride and prejudice too.  God’s grace can feel invasive.  As you pray, reflect on the freeing gifts God wants to offer!             
  1. 3. See “Applying the Lesson” on p31 in the Uniform Teaching Guide.  As the body of Christ in the world, how does the church do with embodying Jesus’ good news?  How could you help the church to do better?                     

People go where they know they’ve been prepared for and are cared for!