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Part of Christ’s family — Family faith formation @ home: July 18

 

Note: If you can, have building blocks, paper squares or note cards, tape and markers or pens available for the engagement activity.

Welcome 

Invite various persons to bring a designated item and use this liturgy to begin your time of learning together. 

One:    Come, let us gather around and see how the Spirit will nurture our faith today.

All:      Who is with us?
One:    Christ, the light of the world.
(Place a candle on a table in your gathering place and light it.)

All:      Who is with us?
One:   The Love of God, who came to meet us in the world.
(Place a cross on a table in your gathering place.)

All:      Who is with us?
One:    The Wisdom of God, who speaks through the Scriptures.
(Place an open Bible on a table in your gathering place.)

All:      Who is with us?
One:    The Grace of God, who proclaims we are children of God.
(Place a symbol of baptism – a bowl of water, a seashell – on a table in your gathering space.)

All:      Who is with us?
One:    Our risen Lord, who meets us at the table.
(Place a symbol of communion – a plate and cup, a loaf of bread, grapes – on a table in your gathering space.)

One:    We are here, Holy Spirit, ready for your leading.

God sightings and prayer offerings 

Invite each person to share where they saw or experienced God this week. Invite each person to share something — a person, community, experience, event, etc. – for which they want to offer prayer. 

Good and gracious God, we thank you for all the ways you were and are present in our lives and in the world. [Invite each person to say aloud the sighting they named earlier.] We bring our prayers to you, prayers for… [invite each person to say aloud the prayer need they named earlier]. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Connecting with Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-22

Read the Scripture aloud the first time using the New Revised Standard Version or the Common English Bible.

Read the text a second time antiphonally, alternating verses between two readers or two groups of readers.  Remember this is a personal letter so read it as if you are conveying a personal message.

Connecting through story 

Watch this episode of Steve Hartman’s “On the Road.”

  • What was the barrier that divided the community and Sam?
  • Why did the people of that community learn sign language?
  • How did it affect their understanding of Sam?
  • What did Sam learn?

Connecting with our lives

 Engage in dialogue:

  • What does it mean to be an alien?
  • What makes someone a stranger or an outsider?
  • What does the world teach us about aliens, strangers and outsiders — basically, people who are different than we are?
  • What does it feel like to be a stranger or outsider?
  • How do we tend to view people who are different than us?
  • Why do we tend to use language that divides people into “them” and “us?”
  • What is the problem with using words like “them” and “us”?
  • The Scripture uses the image of “dividing walls.” In what ways does that image resonate with an “us” and “them” view of the world and people?
  • What are some of the walls that we have in our lives and in our society that divide us?
  • What does today’s text say is the answer to breaking down the walls that divide us?
  • How is Christ our common ground?
  • How does Christ unite us?
  • How does belonging to Christ’s household, or being a part of Christ’s family, erase the “them” and “us”?
  • If you took today’s text seriously, how might it change the way you relate to others?

Teaching points that can be incorporated into your discussion:

  • A distinctive aspect of Jesus’ teachings and message is this: God loved and included all people of every nation, not just Jesus’ own Jewish community.
  • This was a significant departure from more traditional understanding of who was chosen by God and who were members of God’s family.
  • As the Good News of Jesus Christ began to be preached, taught and spread after his resurrection, both Jews and Gentiles responded to this message and wanted to be followers of Christ’s way.
  • Ephesians is written to the early church that was struggling to find a way to unite two very different traditions and approaches to faith.
  • Gentiles were anyone who was not a Jew. This would include those who were of Greek or Roman descent. Their faith tradition included belief in the existence and worship of many gods (i.e., Zeus, Jupiter, Athena, Minerva, Poseidon, Neptune, Aphrodite, Venus, etc.)
  • The ancient Israelites (often referred to as Jews or the Jewish people) were, and are, a monotheistic faith tradition. They believed there was only one God who alone was to be worshipped with ultimate and exclusive devotion. They believed themselves to be God’s chosen people through the covenants of Abraham, Moses and David. The primary way one became Jewish was by birth through the mother’s lineage.
  • The Christian tradition founded upon the message of Christ was one of inclusion of both Jews and Gentiles. While it was the heart of the gospel, it was, and still is, difficult to live into as it often brings conflicting views held by faithful people.
  • Jewish followers of Jesus thought converts needed to become Jewish first since Jesus was a Jew. They emphasized keeping the commandments as the way one was faithful to God.
  • Paul argued that Christ was the new covenant of grace. Jesus came to set us free from earning our relationship with God through strict adherence to Mosaic commandments and instead one was brought into right relationship with God through the grace of Jesus Christ.
  • Needless to say, the walls that divided these two deeply held faith traditions ran deep.
  • However, Christ’s expectation was one of unity. Instead of an “us” and “them” worldview, Christ’s view was one of unity. One church, One faith, One Lord.
  • Ultimately the common denominator of belief in Christ would break down any human walls that dared to divide.

 

Use notecard or squares of paper to list the ways in which we allow the world’s ideas to divide us today (race, nationality, rival schools, neighborhoods, what people believer or look like, etc.) and write one thing on each piece of paper. Then build a wall with the blocks. Tape the things that divide us to the sides of the wall. Then say, “Because we are one in Christ, no human walls or differences can divide us,” and knock the wall down. Repeat the process.

 

Prayer

Close your time together by praying for one another, your neighbor, community and the world.

 

REBECCA DAVIS is the associate professor of Christian education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. A teaching elder and certified educator, she served congregations for over 20 years before moving into academic teaching. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, her passion is child advocacy and ministry.

 

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