The Burden of the Day

For the Long Haul

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

God provides. It seems clear that this is one of the messages from our texts this week. But it would also be clear that God provides for our needs in unusual and sometimes confusing ways.

Note to the Teacher

The keywords and phrases in this lesson are “manna,” “connected,” and “always, no matter what.” One icebreaker invites youth to guess how different images or items are connected. Another icebreaker invites students to interact by guessing what changed about a person in the group while the guesser was gone. Both icebreakers remind us that we are connected and seen. The Bible discussion invites students to think about what these stories tell us about God, one another, and the world around us. Students consider how God relates to them and how they can relate to one another. The activity allows youth to remain connected through collectively creating a note of encouragement for one another that reminds them that God is with them, and they are all connected – “always, no matter what.” Students will be reminded that God is with us for the long haul this week and in the coming weeks. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker (10-15 minutes). Two options: ‘We Are Connected’ or ‘What Is It?’

If your group likes puzzles, choose the high-tech option 1. If you’re more of an interactive group, choose the low-tech option 2. Either way, smile and have fun!

Option 1: High-Tech: “We Are Connected”

For this activity, the group will guess how images are connected by one word or theme. Show a series of pictures on the screen and see if the group can guess how the pictures are connected. You will need to prepare photos or slides ahead of time. For a little extra fun, play the music to Jeopardy while they are thinking.

Make sure there are no words on your images that would give away the answer. Search via your internet browser for the words below to find photos. Put all photos in each series on one slide at the same time if you can, but you could make an added challenge by showing only the photo series two to three times to see how good their memories are.

  • Photo series 1 (easy): Photo of a clock, smartphone, sundial, metronome, and watch. Connection/Theme: These are all ways of keeping time.
  • Photo series 2 (easy): Photo of a toilet, port-a-potty, litter box, diaper, and hole in the ground. Connection/Theme: These are all places to use the bathroom.
  • Photo series 3 (easy): Photo of a plate, fork, spoon, bowl, baby bottle, and chip bag. Connection/Theme: These are all things we eat with or from.
  • Photo series 4: Photo of soil, a water molecule (h2o), sun, and a carbon dioxide (co2) molecule. Connection/Theme: Plants need these things.
  • Photo series 5: Photo of a film reel being projected, a VHS tape, a DVD, a computer, and a smartphone. Connection/Theme: Ways to watch movies/tv.
  • Photo series 6: Photo of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini, olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Connection/Theme: Ingredients in hummus.
  • Photo series 7: Photo of kittens, mice, deer, Dalmatians, donkeys, rabbits, sloths, foxes. Connection/Theme: Animals in animated movies.
  • Photo series 8: Photo of a snowflake, ice, a river, a cloud, and team from a pot. Connection/Theme: Water.
  • Photo series 9: Photo of a brick, corrugated tin, roofing shingles, nails, and wooden boards. Connection/Theme: Materials to make a house.
  • Photo series 10: Photo of cereal, eggs, bacon, bananas, pancakes, pop-tarts, and muffins. Connection/Theme: Breakfast foods.

Make sure to thank everyone for participating and say something kind, like, “Great guessing. If they weren’t that great at guessing, you can say, “Great enthusiasm,” or “Y’all are so fun.”

Option 2: Low Tech: “What Is it?”

For this game, one person, the guesser, tries to figure out what changed about someone in the group while the guesser wasn’t watching.

Ask for a volunteer to be the guesser. Let the volunteer know that he/she will be guessing what changed about someone in the group while he/she was out of the room. Upon returning to the room, the guesser will have three guesses to figure out the change.

Have the guesser leave the room (or close his/her eyes and cover hie/her ears if the individual can’t leave the room for some reason). Have someone stand at the door to make sure the guesser isn’t peeking in. Once the volunteer leaves (or closes his/her eyes and covers his/her ears), the group decides what to change about someone in the group. Don’t make it too hard for the first person; have fun with it! For example, if someone is wearing a hat, he/she can put it on someone else’s head, or two people can switch shoes, or someone can wear someone else’s glasses or sunglasses. Make sure that students are volunteering to change something and let everyone know that they don’t have to participate. You can volunteer to change, too.

Ask the guesser to return and ask, “What is it?” Give the guesser three chances to guess. If the individual doesn’t guess, reveal the change after their last incorrect guess. Have everyone clap for the guesser, just for trying—whether the person guesses correctly or not. Then, give another volunteer a chance to try (if you have more time).

For even more fun, change more than one thing to give the guesser more chances to guess something that changed.

2. Read Scripture (10 minutes)

In our first scripture reading today, the Israelites are stuck in the desert after they’ve escaped slavery in Egypt. In our second reading, Jesus tells us a story about God’s unconditional love. While you read, focus on three things: 1) How are these stories connected? 2) How do these stories make us feel? 3) What do these stories tell us about how we relate to God and one another? Write or doodle to express your feelings, thoughts, and connections as these two stories are read. Share your findings with one another after reading, using the discussion questions below.

Read Exodus 16:2-15 and Matthew 20:1-16.

3. Discussion (20 minutes)

  • What things do the Israelites cry out for while they are in the desert?
  • What does God provide for the Israelites while they are in the desert?
  • Do you think this solved the “grumbling and complaining” by the Israelites? Why or why not?
  • What does the word “manna” mean? Where did you find this definition?
  • What does this story tell you about God?
  • How do you think God relates to us when we feel lost, hungry, thirsty, confused, hurt, alone, or afraid?
  • Do you think it is ok to complain to God or about God? Why?
  • If you were to receive “manna” today in your life, what might it look like?
  • Does this story tell us anything about how humans relate to nature? If so, what?
  • The church might be in a position to hear complaints from the surrounding community. How does your church treat others when they are feeling like the Israelites did in Exodus? How does your church offer “manna”?
  • Which characters do you relate to in the Matthew story? Why?
  • What are the complaints and grumblings about in this parable? How do they relate to the story from Exodus?
  • Does it seem like the characteristics of God (especially giving/living up to promises no matter what) are consistent between the Old Testament and the New Testament stories? If so, what does that say about God? If not, why do you think God acts differently in these two stories?

In this series, we will talk about how God is with us all the time, in everything we go through. What do you think the Spirit of God is speaking into your life and heart as you hear about how God relates to the Israelites and the workers in the vineyard?

4. Activity and Discussion (10 minutes)

Take this lesson to the next level by progressively creating reminders for one another that God is always with us, no matter what.

Give each student a sticky note, paper, or notecard. Have them write the words “always, no matter what” on their sticky notes or notecards. Then tell them to pass the sticky note or postcard to the person on the right. Now, have them decorate the card they’ve just received for minutes with a design that reminds them of how they are always connected to God. (Take one to two minutes for this activity.) Then, have students pass the cards again to the people on their right. Have them continue decorating the cards for another few minutes. Now, have them pass the cards —for the last time —to the people on their right. Students can take the cards home as reminders that we are all connected to one another, and that God is with us – always, no matter what.

Option: Post a picture on social media of all the notecards with the caption, “We are all connected, and God is with us – always, no matter what.”

Discussion: Encourage everyone to look at one another’s notecards and share their thoughts:

  • How does it make you feel to have something that multiple people worked on?
  • How did it make you feel to work as a team on these notecards?
  • Have you ever worked with a team to accomplish something that helped someone else feel better or encouraged? Share if you’d like.

Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns or highs/lows from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.


  • Computer and/or screen and images listed in each photo series (High-tech icebreaker, option 1)
    • If you need to print the images beforehand, that’s an option
  • Sticky notes (or paper, or notecards), colorful pens, pencils, and/or markers (Activity/Discussion)
  • Bibles or smartphones to look up verses of Scripture.
  • Scrap paper and pens for students who like to take notes or doodle.
  • Fidget toys for those who need something to do while listening

In This Series...

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes


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In This Series...

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes