Itching Ears

Not Ashamed

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

This week is about distractions. Well, not about distractions so much as about loss of focus, or maybe even loss of trust in the foundations of the faith. Once again, we are called to celebrate our faith and to embrace ways of living out that faith that might grow and change but in the end will remain true to the words and witness of Jesus Christ.


Part of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy centers on their shared appreciation for the scriptures in which they were formed. In their case, this was likely the Greek translation of the Old Testament, but it is true for us as well. Our appreciation for and learning from scripture is always mediated via mentors, teachers, and traditions of our church. Encourage your students to seek not just what they want to hear (e.g., “itching ears”), but to listen to what might challenge them, too.

ICEBREAKER: 'Guess the Source'

Can you identify the product or company by its famous catchphrase? (Read each phrase and see if students can guess the product):

  • Just Do It (Nike)
  • I’m Lovin’ It (McDonalds)
  • The Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland)
  • There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s (Mastercard).
  • You’re in good hands. (Allstate)
  • Snap! Crackle! Pop! (Rice Krispies)
  • Finger-lickin’ good. (KFC)
  • Can you hear me now? Good. (Verizon)
  • Think outside the bun. (Taco Bell)

Add other slogans or catchphrases that your youth can guess.

Now, can you identify the book of the Bible by its famous quotation? (Read each quote and see who can identify what book it is from):

  • I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future filled with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV)
  • For everything there is a season . . . (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
  • In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth . . . (Genesis 1:1)
  • Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
  • For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16).
  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
  • I can do all everything through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).


The Bible is much more than a collection of catchphrases or a book of wise sayings. Christians believe the Bible to be unique among all written works, a dynamic dialogue between its authors, editors, and readers, all of whom are guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit. We, as readers of the Bible, can be inspired as much by the Holy Spirit as by those who wrote the words we read! Let’s see what Paul says to Timothy about the message of the Bible.

Read 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5.


Before Paul talks about scripture, he first notes the methods by which Timothy came to “learn” and “firmly believe” in it. Others mentored him and helped him grow to learn and know. Who helped you first hear Bible stories? Who has helped you understand the Bible? How did increasing your understanding of scripture influence what you believe?

Is the experience of hearing scripture different from reading it?

What do you think Paul means when he says, “All scripture is inspired by God” (“God-breathed,” in some translations)?

Maybe the “inspiration” or “breath” of scripture has to do with how it affects us and breathes new life into our faith. What does Paul tell Timothy scripture is “useful” for? That is, how can it affect us? (See verses 15, 16, 17.)

Paul suggests that people might ignore “sound teaching” because their “itching ears” drive them to seek out teachings that agree with what they already believe or think. What do you think of Paul’s warning? Have you ever seen that happen? Would you share, if you’re comfortable, how and where you’ve seen this happen? (There is amazing research out there right now about social media algorithms creating “echo chambers” – places that only us news and stories to reinforce what we already believe or engage us with what we’re already interested in.)

Do you think you ever find yourself in an echo chamber, either on social media or in real life? What might you do to break out and engage with new or different ideas?

What might be new ways to be an “evangelist,” to share the good news of Jesus and the Bible with new people? Where do you even start with sharing your faith? Is this different with people who are not Christian or have never heard what the Christian life is all about? Have you ever gotten comfortable talking about faith with your friends outside of church? How?


A bibliophile (book or Bible lover) could go crazy with today’s activity. You could share a “Bible 101” worksheet to help students know the basics of the Bible, organized in any number of ways! Think through how you might want to nurture your students to engage with the Bible in ways similar to how Paul encourages: with guidance, toward growth in righteousness, helping to equip us for good work. Here are a few activity ideas:

TECH REQUIRED ACTIVITY: “Ask the Pastor” (One church calls this “Stump the Pastor.”)

Schedule this activity with your pastor in advance!

  • Make up a list of questions or – better yet – record your students asking questions about the Bible that they’d like to have the pastor answer.
  • Visit with the pastor and, using a cell phone, record the pastor’s answer to the question(s) asked by your students. You can bring the answers back to class the next week, or even share the answers via your church’s social media. You can edit the questions and answers together into one video or keep them separate. OR, if your pastor is adventurous, ask him or her to come for a live question and answer time.

IN CLASS ACTIVITY: Find a passage to meditate on.

Scripture is unique in that we are as inspired by the Holy Spirit in our reading as the authors were in writing. We can meditate on scripture and perhaps hear God’s word to us. Invite each student to choose one of the passages listed in the icebreaker activity above or listed below – or another passage. Ask them to spend five minutes quietly reading, re-reading, and really listening to what the passage says. Have them write down any questions or thoughts that come to them as they reflect on the scripture passage. After time has passed, have everyone share what passage they read and what they think or wonder about it.

Some additional potential passages:

  • Philippians 4:8 – “think about these (good) things”
  • Joshua 1:6 – “be strong and courageous”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “love is patient”
  • John 13:34-35 – “by this they will know you are my disciples”
  • John 5:2-9 – “do you want to be healed”

(If you want more or to compile your own list of verses, consider the “Top 100 Most Read Verses at Bible Gateway,” )

Close in the manner typical for your group. Consider taking joys and concerns from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.


  • Bible(s)
  • Paper
  • Pens or pencils

In This Series...

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