Thursday, March 31, 2011

Week 12: Haggai & Zechariah

This was our last week of "Drama & Dedication: The Life of the Prophets."  For our last lesson, we looked at Haggai and Zechariah.  When you are trying to do a job, complete a project or finish out a game, it helps to have someone cheering you on and providing encouragement.  That's what the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were all about!  The past two weeks we talked about the prophet Ezekiel who prophesied to the exiled Jews in Babylon.  Last week we talked about how Ezekiel had to tell them that their hometown of Jerusalem had been destroyed along with the Temple.  Many years later, these exiled people were allowed to return home.  When they did they began to work on rebuilding the Temple.  But, they quickly got tired and quit.  Instead they focused their time on re-building their own houses.  Haggai and Zechariah were called to encourage and motivate the Jewish people to continue rebuilding the Temple!

We split into middle and high school groups and talked about priorities.  The people in Haggai and Zechariah's day were having a hard time prioritizing, and these prophets were trying to get them back on track.  We talked about how sometimes we put God and "being a Christian" on hold while we take care of other things.  How do you set your priorities, and who helps get you back on track when you stray?  Some said parents, friends, mentors, pastors, God.  It was important for us to identify who and what helps us and encourages us to straighten out our priorities and set our faith as number one before other things in our lives.

Then we talked about how today's Temple is the body of Christ.  That God dwells in each of us, and that means we need to care for ourselves as God's creation and dwelling place.  This also means that we are called to love and care for our neighbors as well, since the body of Christ is not just us individually, but a whole community!  So, as a challenge for the week, we wrote down one or two specific ways we could work on "building" or "rebuilding" our Temple this week.  Maybe it is being intentional about praying or reading Scripture every day.  Maybe it is encouraging a friend or helping your parents around the house.  Maybe it is forgiving a friend or sibling or asking them for forgiveness.  Whatever it is, we wrote it down so that we would remember to work on it this week.  Will you join us in our challenge?  What will you do to work on building or rebuilding the Temple this week?  Comment on this post with your responses.

Then we played a few which helped us further understand the role of a prophet.  In this game, one person was blindfolded and had to find a ball that was placed somewhere in the room.  Another person was able to give verbal directions to the blindfolded person but had to keep their back to them at all times.  The rest of the group was to give directions on how to find the ball to the person giving verbal directions, but they were not allowed to talk!  Sometimes directions were confusing and hard to understand, just like the prophets' messages, but if we were patient and listened carefully, we were able to accomplish the task at hand.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week 11: Ezekiel Part 2

This week we finished up talking about Ezekiel.  We remember from last week that God called Ezekiel to prophesy to the Jews who had been exiled to Babylon.  After being removed from their homeland and forced to live in a new country with strange customs and laws, the exiled Jews were feeling discouraged.  Their only hope was that some day they would be able to return to their homeland.  But then Ezekiel has to tell them that not only are thing terrible in Babylon, but their home town of Jerusalem has now been completely destroyed by the Babylonians.  So now Ezekiel's task is to communicate hope to the people. 

Before splitting up into middle and high school groups, we watched the clip from The Princess Bride where the supposedly dead Wesley is brought to Miracle Max who says, "It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive."  The exiled Jews were probably feeling "mostly dead" when they heard that their hometown had been destroyed. 

We read Ezekiel 37:1-14 of Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones that was to give hope to the people.  In this vision, God is able to put skin and flesh back onto the bones and breathe life into them.  This offered hope to the Jews who were very much feeling like a pile of bones...mostly dead.  We talked about things that can make us feel mostly dead....losing friends or family, failing a test at school, being bullied, etc.  We talked about where or to whom we go to for help when we're feeling mostly dead, discouraged, etc.  We often go to our friends, mentors, family.  We pray and sometimes find something to do to get our minds off of the situation.  But mostly, we see throughout the Bible and in passages like Psalm 116:1-6, John 5:24 and Psalm 147:1-6, that God is there to help us through this discouraging times.  God breathes life back into us when we are feeling mostly dead. 

We each chose one thing we had written down that is discouraging us right now, and committed ourselves to praying for God's Spirit to come and fill us in that area of our give us life again!  Will you join us this week in that commitment?  Comment on this post with something in your life that makes you feel "mostly dead" and how you see God working toward making your dry bones live again!

Oh, and of course we played our new favorite game again....GORGON! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Week 10: Ezekiel Part 1

This week we began to talk about the prophet (and priest) Ezekiel!  We started with a game called "Bottoms Up" where each person got a piece of paper with an object or creature on it.  They had to describe that thing from the bottom to the top, in hopes of getting the rest of the group to guess correctly with the fewest clues possible. For example, if you had "Football player" you might start with the clue "Cleats".  We found that sometimes even the most common objects are really difficult to describe.  So, you can imagine the difficulty of describing something you have only seen once, and it's so bizarre and big that you don't even know where to begin! This is exactly what happened to Ezekiel.  He saw a vision of God and it was so strange, huge and marvelous that he fell to the ground in awe. 

We split into small groups and read different parts of Ezekiel's vision.  Then we wrote down the characteristics of God based on Ezekiel's vision and attempted to make our own drawings of the vision.  It was difficult to say the least!  We talked about the possible interpretations of the vision...for example the fact that the God in Ezekiel's vision had wheels that could move in any direction might show us that God is able to go anywhere and be present everywhere!  We talked about how Ezekiel's vision of God definitely doesn't look like our various images of God, but it does have very similar qualities to the God we know (all-present, great, wonderful, all-powerful, strong, supportive, etc.).  We realized that there are some qualities of God we found in Ezekiel's vision that we may have overlooked in the past or just never really thought about before.  We shared these with others and continue to reflect on them throughout this week.  I encourage you to read Ezekiel 1:1-28 this week and reflect on what your traditional view of God is, and how Ezekiel's vision can help you expand your understanding of God!  Comment on this post with your thoughts and discoveries.

We also played a fun game of crab soccer! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Week 9: Jeremiah Part 2

We started off Sunday night playing a game called "sticker wars".  This entails each person getting 5 stickers.  You have 3 minutes to place all of your stickers on other people, and you can take stickers off of yourself and re-place them on others.  Whoever has the least amount of stickers on them after 3 minutes wins.  Soon after starting, you realize that this game is difficult to win.  You make a little progress and feel like you're finally winning, and then you end up right back where you started.  It seems like no mater how hard you work, you just can't seem to get ahead. 

That's what life was like for Jeremiah.  For more than 40 years, Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah.  During those 40 years, Jeremiah preached the same message to the same people, and he got the same responses over and over again, "Why don't you just leave us alone?"  But, Jeremiah had persistence and continued to deliver God's message even when it seemed like he wasn't making any progress. 

To continue our discussion about persistence and Jeremiah, we watched a clip from the movie Rudy.  Rudy faced a lot of set backs along his journey toward his dream of playing football for Notre Dame.  We see in the clip, that Rudy has finally made it into Notre Dame and is on the football practice team.  It's the last home game of his senior year and it looks as if he is not going to be able to play (after having been told he will).  But then his teammates and eventually the entire crowd starts chanting his name.  The coach agrees to let him play and Notre Dame wins the game!  Rudy had patience, commitment and persistence to keep working toward his dream even when he kept getting pushed back.  Imagine, though, if after all that work Rudy was told he couldn't play.  The frustration and discouragement would have been overwhelming. 

We split into middle and high school groups and looked at areas in our lives where we are persistent and persevere, and areas where we may not be as persistent (things like loving God, loving others, being honest when we pray, etc.).  We talked about how Christians are supposed to be persistent, and ways we can prepare ourselves to be more persistent Christians.  We thought of things in school and society that make persistence difficult, and situations where we are most likely to be persistent in our faith.  Then we took a look at the various areas in our lives which we rated ourselves on and chose one thing on that list that we are going to work on being more persistent with this week.

We spent the rest of the evening playing a game called "Gorgon" which was a big hit.  Think of it as a mix between hide and seek, freeze tag and a scavenger hunt. We hope you will join us next week at FUSION Gathering!

2011 FUSION Ski Trip

We had a blast on the ski trip this past Saturday!  We skied, snowboarded and tubed the day away!  We hope you will join us next year for our annual trip to Wintergreen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Week 8: Jeremiah Part 1

This week we began to talk about the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah often gets the wrap of being the "prophet of doom" because he delivered messages to Judah for 40 years, and it was often bad news for Judah.  Most of the people thought he was ridiculous and kept blowing him off.  We talked about how Jeremiah was probably similar to some of the street corner prophets we see today with signs that say "The End is Near!"  Most people walk right past these people, ignoring their messages of doom.  So we decided to play a little game.  We split off into three groups and created our own "doomsday" signs.  The catch was, each group received a different "character" to write a doomsday sign for.  For example, a professional hockey player's sign might say "The end is near!  My last tooth just got knocked out!"  Or an astronaut's sign might read "The end is near!  They're sending me to Pluto!"  Then the other groups have to guess who the sign is written for.  We had signs for parents, dentists and computer geeks--all which were very creative!

One thing to note about Jeremiah, is since he prophesied for 40 years, he was very young when God called him to be a prophet.  We read Jeremiah 1:4-10 and 1:17-19 together.  Jeremiah thought that his young age made him inadequate to do God's work.  We talked about how sometimes people see teenagers as inadequate to do things because they are young.  But, when God calls you to do something, God will be with you as you accomplish it!  We talked about others in the Bible who despite "inadequate" age or ability, served God.  We thought of people like Mary who was really young when God told her she would give birth to Jesus, and David who was thought to be too young and weak to defeat Goliath, and Moses who had trouble speaking and yet led the people to the Promised Land!  We see that God uses people of all ages and abilities to make amazing things happen.  No matter how young or old you are or what skills and gifts you may have, God CAN and WILL use you to help bring about His kingdom!  Before playing some more games, we each pulled out a piece of paper with a name of someone else in the room on it.  This person is our prayer partner for the week and we have committed ourselves to praying for that person each day...praying that they will not feel inadequate, but will know that God is with them and will help them accomplish everything God is calling them to do!