Galatians 5:1, 13-26
Note to the Teacher
Independence Day is not on the liturgical calendar for lots of reasons. The most obvious reason is that it is a holiday for only one country, and there is the worldwide nature of the Christian community. The text we’ve chosen for this stand-alone service comes from the suggestions in the “Other Special Days” section of the Book of Worship. It is good, we believe, to acknowledge this day, with the rest of the various nations we call home, to stand in solidarity as citizens, and to give thanks.
Another reason that Independence Day is not on the liturgical calendar is more delicate and often misunderstood. Independence isn’t really a Christian concept. It could be argued that independence is antithetical to the nature of the faith. At its heart, Christianity is about acknowledging that we need help. We need a savior. We need the community of faith to walk with us in this journey through life. While an Independence Day observance has a place in the worship of the people of God, it is important to avoid reducing the faith to one of nationalistic religion. Our focus must always be on lifting up the name of Jesus as we continue to be in the business of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
- 3x5 cards
- Art supplies for posters
Total time needed: 50 minutes
1. Icebreaker: My Favorite Way to Celebrate (10 minutes)
Independence Day (and its parallel in other cultures across the world) is a day filled with celebrations in families and municipalities. This icebreaker will help students share their favorite modes of celebration, while also getting to know one another’s personalities as they guess who wrote which celebration practice.
Begin by passing out a 3x5 card or colorful sheet of paper and pen to each student. Then explain that they are going to share the favorite thing they do, or their family does, to celebrate Independence Day. They need to write two sentences: one that names the practice and one that describes what they like about the practice. For example, they might write: “My favorite way we celebrate is setting off fireworks. It’s my favorite because I like loud noises and bright lights!”
If you are not meeting in person, ask students to text their responses to you or message you in the chat room.
Once the students have finished, ask them to fold the papers and pass them in to the leader. The leader should then mix the papers up and then read each one out loud and ask the students to decide which person wrote each statement. Once the person is revealed, ask the individual to tell a story about that celebration.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today talks about how we use our freedom. Invite students to consider that while the scripture is being read. If you have time, choose the smaller selection below and invite several students to read it, one after the other, to give students a chance to process the words and hear different inflections.
Galatians 5:13-26, or 13-18
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
This passage begins by giving two ways that we can use our freedom. Let’s explore that metaphor.
- What are the two ways?
- What do you think is the meaning of the word “flesh?”
- One of the ways we talk about Jesus is to say that he was “incarnate,” which means that he was “in the flesh.” How does what we said about the flesh apply to this idea about Jesus?
Now, we are going to talk about what this scripture says to us personally.
- What is something people do that you would describe as “indulging the flesh?”
- When have you seen someone doing something that you would describe as “being led by the Spirit?”
- Have you ever experienced what the letter to the Galatians describes as “flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit?”
This scripture passage also talks about how we live out our lives as a culture and nation.
- Think about history. In what moment in our history do you feel that we were being led by the Spirit?
- When was a time we indulged the flesh?
- How do we see the tension in our nation and culture today that the letter to the Galatians describes as “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh?”
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
Take this lesson to the next level by getting students’ hands and imaginations involved as they create event posters for the things they identified as being led by the Spirit.
Begin by explaining that the students are going to make a poster or an ad for one of the things they identified as something that was “led by the Spirit,” either personally or culturally. To push their creativity, invite them to find a way to incorporate an Independence Day theme as well!
To help them develop the poster, give them these questions to help them identify themes and images that they can use.
- What emotions do you associate with this idea?
- What colors seem to feel like the emotion you have associated with this idea?
- What are images, places, or things that come to mind when you think about this idea?
- What would make someone want to attend, participate, or do the action you have identified? What is a “tag-line” way of expressing that?
Once students have finished, ask them to share their posters or ads and describe why they made the choices they did in the design and wording.