Removing stumbling blocks: Family faith formation for September 26, 2021

Note: Gather colored pencils, pens or markers and paper for a doodling exercise.


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: Mark 9:38-42

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

As the Scripture is read a second time, assign parts of the story to those gathered (Jesus; John; additional options include the disciples, the person casting out demons, the one with the demon, the demon, the crowd). As someone reads the Scripture aloud, have each person silently act out the story.

Connecting through story

Watch this short video from UNICEF

  • Why do you think UNICEF helped the children in Rwanda?
  • In what ways did UNICEF act in ways that are consistent with Jesus’ name?
  • In what ways did they remove a stumbling block?

Connecting with our lives

Engage in dialogue:

  • Why was John upset?
  • Why was Jesus not upset?
  • What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “Whoever is not against us is for us”?
  • In what ways did/do the children in Rwanda “bear the name of Christ,” or in other words, “bear the image of God”?
  • Why is that a reason to give someone who is thirsty a cup of water?
  • What does giving someone a cup of water have to do with acting with, or for, Christ?
  • What is a stumbling block?
  • In what ways is giving children clean water to drink removing a stumbling block?
  • What are other stumbling blocks for “little ones”?
  • Why is it important to remove stumbling blocks?
  • In what ways have you participated in removing stumbling blocks?
  • In what ways do you “bear the name of Christ”?

Teaching points that can be incorporated into your discussion:

  • The section of today’s Scripture falls into is a series of Jesus’ teachings on the value of each person regardless of their “status” or how society may view them. Whether children, divorced, impoverished, marginalized or any other marker of “otherness,” Jesus teaches their worth and dignity in God’s eyes, and thus ours, is to be honored.
  • While, as a whole, we do not focus on demons today in the same way Scripture references them, there is much in our world that so invasive it renders the ability of people to grow into fullness for which God created them: poverty, access to clean water, hunger, war, violence and so many others.
  • In Jesus’ admonishment of John, we learn the work of Christ is larger than any one person.
  • In Jesus’ teaching about giving and receiving a cup of water, we learn the work of Christ is also furthered in each person’s simple yet profound acts.
  • Jesus then goes on to warn his followers that to cause someone to stumble is equivalent to death. We are beckoned to consider the ways in which we cause stumbling by action, in action or failure to remove stumbling block. Having considered this question, we must ask ourselves how we are called to join in the work and ministry as we bear Christ’s name in the world.
  • It is not just the disciples, or the more general followers of the Way, who can do the work of Christ. Anyone, or any organization, that aligns with Jesus’ priorities and ministry bears the light and life of Christ in the world.
  • The United Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is a non-profit works in the United States and around the world to improve the lives of children in concrete ways through various initiatives. You can read more about UNICEF here.

Consider participating in UNICEF’s Trick or Treat program at Halloween. While the specifics for 2021 program are not yet available, here is the history of and more information about it.


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.