21

March 2021

Mar

Written on the Heart

Rend Your Hearts: Claiming the Promise

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B

That the gospel is countercultural is beyond debate. But texts like this one are so subtly against our way of thinking that we might not even realize the pull to deny this proclamation even as we preach it. Yet, how can we make such a claim about a magnificent vision of the kin-dom of God? It seems something that we all long for on a regular basis, particularly during a time of unrest and division. This is a utopia worth claiming, so why would we be reluctant?

Note to the Teacher

The key idea from this lesson is focusing on God and the consequences of losing focus on God. The ice breakers are fun and invite students to start talking in a relaxing environment. The discussion encourages students to think about covenant with God and the difference it makes in our lives if we have God’s ways “written on our hearts.” The activity gets students to consider the consequences of slowly losing focus on God little by little, as the Israelites did, but also to think about what is waiting for them if they repent and return to God. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but can be adjusted.

1. Ice Breaker: What’s Next? (10 minutes)

If meeting in person:

Put all students in a circle and pick one student to start the “story” with one word. The student may choose any word. Going clockwise around the circle, the next student picks the next word. The one next to them gets to pick the next word, and so on. Allow this to go for about one minute, letting the students get as silly with it as they’d like. After a minute, pick a new student to start the next round. Play this for about ten minutes.

If meeting online:

Play with virtual backgrounds. Tell each student before you start the meeting to come prepared with a picture to use as a virtual background. The picture could be something students did during the week, a place they want to visit, or one of their favorite things to do. Tell students to leave their screen with no virtual background on until you call on them to change it. Allow students to speak about the image they chose.

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

Our scripture reading today is written by the prophet Jeremiah during a time when the destruction of Jerusalem is about to happen (about 600 years before Jesus comes). The Israelites have not followed God’s ways, so God is sending an army to destroy Jerusalem and is sending the Israelites into exile. In this context, Jeremiah writes these words.

Read Jeremiah 31:31-34.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

Today’s scripture is from a book of prophecy. Prophets often had a hard job because they had to tell God’s people what God was saying, and it often wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

  • What do you think God means when God tells the Israelites (through Jeremiah) that God is going to “make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah?”
  • How would you feel if you had failed a bunch of classes in school and were going to have to repeat a grade, but then the principal called you and said you would go on to the next grade anyway?
  • How do you think God felt when the Israelites broke his covenant? Reread verse 32 for a reminder.
  • What does God mean when God says, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”?
  • If we lived as if God’s law were “written on our hearts,” what difference would that make in our everyday lives?
  • How might non-Christians view us if they see us living in a way shows them that God’s law is written on our hearts?

Living in this way should reflect in our worship of God and how we relate to others. It should call us to take a self-inventory, recognize our sin, and repent of that sin.

4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)

If meeting in person:

Play Jenga. You can buy some table-top version of Jenga or make a large version with two by fours. Get the students to consider the impact that is made if someone removes just one block. At first the tower seems to stand fine, but the more blocks that are removed, the more likely the tower is to fall. The same is true when we lose focus on God. At first things seem fine, because we haven’t lost focus for long; but the more we lose focus, the shakier our faith becomes. To further illustrate this point, you could play a game with the Jenga tower on a table versus on the floor. The less stable the foundation, the more amplified each missing piece of the tower. Similarly, the less stable our foundation of faith and connection with a faith community, each distraction we face may become amplified and manifest itself in less than healthy ways in our lives.

In the same way, the Israelites lost focus on God. At first it was just in small ways, and God gave them many second chances. But by the time the book of Jeremiah was written, their focus had been lost for a long time, and their whole civilization came crashing down.

Ask these questions:

  • In what ways do you find yourself losing focus on God?
  • In general, do you think your friends help you to keep your focus on God or distract you from God? Without naming names, why do you think this is the case?
  • In Jeremiah 31:34, God says that teaching your neighbor to know the Lord will one day no longer be necessary because everyone will know God. This seems to show us that “knowing God” is a primary task for us and deserves our focus. What do you think “knowing the Lord” means?
  • Are there subjects in school that you get distracted more easily from than others? What are they and why?
  • When you lose focus (in school, with God, with your friends) how do you regain focus?

Transition to the closing time by saying something like, “Loving our neighbors and being and faithful parts of God’s community are important things to do as Christians. It can be tough to remember that all the time. Take a few minutes to silently think about times you may have gotten distracted from doing these things.” Encourage students to share their responses if they feel comfortable doing so, then close in prayer.

If meeting online:

Play “Never-Have-I-Ever.” Have students put up ten fingers and show them to the screen. A student must say something he or she has never done, but something he/she thinks others in the group have done. If someone says, “Never have I ever been to Florida,” then those in the group who have been to Florida must put a finger down. The goal is to be the last one standing with at least one finger up.

The fewer fingers you have up, the less confidence you have that you’re going to win the game.

In the same way, the Israelites lost focus on God and “lost fingers.” At first, the lost focus just in small ways (only one or two fingers down), and God gave them many second chances. But by the time the book of Jeremiah was written, their focus had been lost for a long time; their whole civilization came crashing down. All their “fingers” were down at that point. You also may have noticed that if you got distracted, and were not paying close attention to answers or questions, you may have “lost a finger” accidentally.

Ask these questions:

  • In what ways do you find yourself losing focus on God?
  • In general, do you think your friends help you to keep your focus on God or distract you from God? Without naming names, why do you think this is the case?
  • In Jeremiah 31:34, God says that teaching your neighbor to know the Lord will one day no longer be necessary because everyone will know God. This seems to show us that “knowing God” is a primary task for us and deserves our focus. What do you think “knowing the Lord” means?
  • Are there subjects in school that you get distracted more easily from than others? What are they and why?
  • When you lose focus (in school, with God, with your friends) how do you regain focus?

Transition to the closing time by saying something like, “Loving our neighbors and being and faithful parts of God’s community are important things to do as Christians. It can be tough to remember that all the time. Take a few minutes to silently think about times you may have gotten distracted from doing these things.” Encourage students to share their responses if they feel comfortable doing so, then close in prayer.

Total time: 50 minutes

NEEDED RESOURCES:

If meeting in person:

  • Bible

In This Series...


Ash Wednesday, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes First Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Second Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Palm/Passion Sunday, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Maundy Thursday, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Good Friday, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes

Colors


  • Purple

In This Series...


Ash Wednesday, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes First Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Second Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Palm/Passion Sunday, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Maundy Thursday, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes Good Friday, Year B – Lectionary Planning Notes