Learn to Do Good

Prophet Margins

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

If there was a stage you’d probably prefer to skip, it would be this one. Isaiah seems at his grumpiest height. Sure, that’s the rep that prophets have. But it seems excessive here. Yet, as a crusader for justice, you have to ruffle a few feathers from time to time. To get something done, you need a “just saith the Lord” now and again. And Isaiah is ready to step up to the plate for this one.

Note to the Teacher

The key theme in this lesson is “Real Worship.” The Icebreaker will help the students begin to think creatively. The discussion asks students to engage what it means to really worship God. What happens if we go to church, but our actions and hearts don’t match up? The activity invites students to design a worship service that they would enjoy and that would be more than just ritual. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker: Name That Person (10 minutes)

Distribute writing utensils and notecards. Have students write five things that not many people know about them. Gather the cards and then read them, one detail at a time. Give the group an opportunity to guess who each card represents.

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

Isaiah was a prophet in the eighth century BCE. The book of Isaiah concerns Israel and the judgment that is coming their way. Isaiah also spends time looking to the future, a new covenant, and a Messiah who is coming. The passage for today concerns his first recorded vision. Isaiah spends time recognizing that religion and ritual mean nothing if justice isn’t a main goal.

Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • Ask students: “Do you attend a worship service at church? Which one and what do you think about it? How do you connect to God through the elements of worship? What do you like? What do you dislike? Are there feelings you get in worship that you don’t seem to get anywhere else?”
  • Try this: say the Lord’s Prayer together. Then ask, “What parts of the prayer stick out to you?” One line goes like this: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” What does this statement mean to you? Would this ever conflict with the way you live, or the things you have, or the things you want?
  • Isaiah spends time pointing out all the rituals that Israel practices in religious ceremonies and worship services. Despite all the things they do, their hearts don’t match up with their actions. In fact, God says that the ritual doesn’t matter if it does not lead people to acts of mercy and justice (verses 16-17). How does the worship of God affect your actions? How do your feelings about God affect how you act toward others?

Read Matthew 25:31-46.

  • What does Jesus say about the importance of our works? What good does it do if we say we love God, but do nothing to help God’s people? Have you heard anything about how important both “faith and works” are before?
  • How do Jesus’ words connect with Isaiah’s?
  • Doing justice is difficult. It often causes us to trust God and risk discomfort. How can worship and ritual be used to inspire our works and actions? How can worship inspire us to help people?
  • In Isaiah 1:19, God calls us to willingness and obedience. Throughout history, God has often used people who obeyed even when they felt unwilling. How might God be wanting to use you at school or at home or anywhere else? How might God be calling you to follow him and obey? How can you start to listen for what God might be faithfully calling you to do?

4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)

  • Have students create a worship service. They can create an order of worship with prayers and songs and sermons. They can create it without those elements. Have them create a worship service that speaks to them!
  • Feel free to split them into groups or have them create the service together. Leave room for discussion about why they like certain aspects of worship as opposed to others.
  • Talk through the worship service once it is finished. Does it do a good job of challenging us to live lives that match our hearts?
  • Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Total time: 50 minutes


  • Paper
  • Notecards
  • Writing utensils

In This Series...

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C - Lectionary Planning Notes