Stiff-Necked People

For the Long Haul

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

The theme this week might seem harsh. It might also lead us to point fingers at those out there or over there who are stiff-necked. Rarely will we realize that we are the ones in need of a neck massage. Perhaps worship this week begins with confession.

Note to the Teacher

The keywords and phrases in this lesson are “stiff-necked (stubborn),” “second chance,” and “party.” One icebreaker invites youth to a small dance party for “everybody.” Another icebreaker gets students thinking about parties and second chances with a game of “Would You Rather.” Both Icebreakers get students thinking about parties, since we’ll discuss God’s invitation to a party of love for everybody. The Bible discussion invites students to think about God’s invitation to everyone to a path (or party) of love that is a lifelong commitment. Students consider second chances, forgiveness, and an invitation to love. The activity allows youth to think about what a party thrown by Jesus that includes everyone would look like. Students will be reminded that our commitment to God is for the long haul and this lifelong commitment is to a party located on the path of love that includes everyone. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker (10 minutes). Two options: ‘Everybody Dance Now’ or ‘Would You Rather?’

If your group likes to move, choose high-tech option 1. If you’re more of a thinking/talking group, choose low-tech option 2. Either way, smile and have fun!

Option 1: High-Tech: “Everybody Dance Now”

For this icebreaker, the group gets a chance to get up and let their energy out by moving to the music with the song, “Everybody Dance Now.”[1] Load up the song beforehand so that you make the best use of your time with students.

The video shows everyone the motions, and this one is pretty easy. Let the less enthusiastic students know that they can frown the entire time they dance if they choose. Don’t force those who feel too nervous to participate. Tell those who would rather watch to clap along (if they feel comfortable) to cheer on the dancers. Hint: if you participate, youth might be more into it. Don’t worry; it’s easy!

This song reminds us that Jesus invites everybody to his party of unconditional love.

Make sure to thank everyone for participating and say something kind, like “Great dancing.” If they weren’t that into dancing, say with a smile, “Maybe we’ll choose a different song next time.” (This might get them talking about other songs from Just Dance that they like. Their answers can give you song choices for your next Just Dance moment.) Or you can say something like, “Y’all are so fun.”

Option 2: Low-Tech: “Would You Rather”

For this classic icebreaker, ask the group to discuss a few “would you rather” questions. Take a vote on each question if you’d like to make it even more interactive. See if a student wants to volunteer to count votes for the group. These questions get us thinking about parties and second chances.

  • Question 1: Would you rather dance barefoot on banana peels or dance barefoot on olive oil?
  • Question 2: Would you rather wear your grandmother’s clothing to a party or your young sibling’s clothing to a party?
  • Question 3: Would you rather dance continuously for twenty-four hours or eat continuously for twenty-four hours?
  • Question 4: Would you rather restore an old home lived in and owned only by cats or clean up an entire farm lived at and run by mice?
  • Question 5: Would you rather drive an old school bus or drive an old ice cream truck?
  • Question 6: If you had some kind of injury that needed physical therapy, would you rather have a skunk as your physical therapist or a snake as your physical therapist?

For even more fun, have students make up their own “would you rather” questions.

2. Read Scripture (10 minutes)

In our first scripture reading today, the “stiff-necked” Israelites follow a path from their difficult past instead of the path that God wants for them in the future. God gets angry with them, but Moses convinces God to give them a second chance, and God listens to Moses. In our second reading, Jesus tells us a story of a huge party thrown by a king whose friends ignore the invitation and whose attendees disrespect their guest. Jesus is throwing a wedding party of love, and we are all invited to this lifelong commitment to his path of love for everyone. While you read, focus on three things: 1) How are these stories connected? 2) How do these stories relate to our lives? 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 32:1-14 and Matthew 22:1-14.

3. Discussion (20 minutes)

  • Why do you think God was angry that the Israelites worshiped a golden calf? (They’re worshiping something that they themselves created; they gave up their own gold to make it; their focus was on an idol and not God.)
  • What do you think about Moses’s conversation with God where he convinces God not to put an end to the Israelites?
  • Is there ever a time when you have been “stiff-necked” or stubborn? Have you heard the phrase, “Old habits die hard?” The Israelites went back to an old habit with the idol worship. What habits of yours and of your friends and family seem hard to break?
  • How do you think God relates to us when we are stubborn or “stiff-necked” and don’t follow his path of love for us?
  • Everyone is stubborn sometimes. This means we can harm one another or hurt one another’s feelings. How does it feel when you are the person harmed by someone else’s lack of love or attention? What have you done to try and gain attention in those situations?
  • How does it feel if you are the one who harms someone else because of a lack of love? If that has happened to you, how have you tried to repair the relationship?
  • Moses is like Jesus in this story; he asks God to forgive the Israelites and let them find a new way forward.[2] The Israelites may not have known better, and Moses wanted them to have a second chance. Have you ever been given a second chance to do better? How did that feel? Share if you feel comfortable.
  • What kind of party do you think God would throw? Share everything you can imagine and how it would feel to be there.
  • The party Jesus talks about in Matthew 22 is a wedding banquet. This is a celebration of a lifelong commitment. How is our commitment to God like a wedding or a marriage? How is love involved?
  • The person wearing the wrong clothes to the wedding at the end of this passage ends up being removed from the party. If we think about Colossians 3:12-17 (behaviors as clothing), what “clothes/behaviors” do you think that God expects guests to wear and demonstrate? Are there behaviors or actions that go against God’s idea of love and would get someone “kicked out of the party?
  • If you are invited to this wedding banquet of love, this party of love that Jesus is throwing, would you accept the invitation? What do you think it means if you say yes to attending?

In this series, we’ve talked about how God is with us all the time, in everything we go through, and that we are invited to Jesus’ path (or party) of love. 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 to those at the wedding banquet?

4. Activity and Discussion (10 minutes)

Take this lesson to the next level by planning a party that includes EVERYONE.

Give each student five minutes to write down as many characteristics of the party as they can think of – the food, the music, the decorations, the lights, how guests are greeted and treated, and so on. It’s great if they are talking to one another during this time and sharing their ideas. After five minutes, ask students to plan the party together incorporating everyone’s ideas. Write their ideas on a larger piece of paper, whiteboard, chalkboard, or document shown on a screen. After they have determined the details, ask them to name the party and decide on the date.

Another way of doing this is to let them all plan the party out loud using a large piece of paper, a whiteboard, a chalkboard, or a document that’s shown on screen. For this, designate a student or two to be the secretary, taking notes and drawing pictures.

Option: Post their party of Jesus’ love with its name and details on social media with the caption, “We are all invited to Jesus’ party of love for everyone. What do you think a party thrown by Jesus would be like if it includes everyone?”

Discussion: Do we love this party we planned?

  • Is this a party you’d want to go to?
  • Is this a party that your friends and family and loved ones would want to attend?
  • What’s the best party you’ve ever been to? What made it the best? The people, the music, the food, the way you were treated, or something else?

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 with speakers (High-tech icebreaker, option 1)
  • Large piece of paper (or a chalkboard, white board, screen, etc.), regular paper, 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.

[1]Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) -Sweat Invaders [Just Dance 3]

[2]The Book of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu is a great book for students who show interest in the topic of forgiveness. It addresses the reality that forgiveness doesn’t always mean that we stay in a harmful relationship; sometimes we must release that relationship.

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


  • Green

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