October 2023


The Things that are God’s

The End in Sight

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

The invitation this week in worship is to adjust our vision. We are called to see God in the world in which we live. We are called to identify the things that are God’s, including ourselves and the people around us. Even the surprising ones.

For the next two weeks, we’ll be in Matthew 22, a chapter filled with parables, questions, metaphors, and symbols. We’ll encounter multiple factions teaming up against Jesus, attempting to trap him with his own words. But Jesus sees through these tricks, answering their questions, then throwing shade right back at them! His answers and questions leave those who would trap him speechless.

These questions have some things in common: First, it seems the ones asking the questions don’t care about the answers; they just want to trap Jesus. Second, the questions address how people live out their interpretations of the law. And third, these questions all take place after Jesus has entered Jerusalem for the last time. He’s already flipped the tables as a demonstration to condemn the religious institution for exploiting the poor; he’s cursed the fig tree that bore no good fruit as a metaphor for the religious institution; and he’s teaching radical lessons about how we are to be and act in this world. And his actions have ticked off the religious and political leaders.

The end is in sight for Jesus. Just a couple of days after the interactions we’re studying for the next two weeks, Jesus is arrested and condemned to die on the cross as a political revolutionary. As we near the end of the liturgical calendar, we will focus on some of Jesus’ final teachings on being and doing.

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

Note to the Teacher

The key for this week is to identify that all creation is God’s. The icebreaker invites youth to scurry to accumulate as many balls as possible – they are “theirs!” The discussion encourages youth to unpack a well-known Bible story in its historical and biblical context, then apply the eternal truth to their own lives. Be mindful of how you lead the discussion surrounding the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders challenging Jesus. Unfortunately, insensitive interpretations have historically led to antisemitic tropes, othering, and actions that oppress Jewish folks. Take extra care as you engage in conversation. The activity allows youth to consider all they’ve accomplished and to be proud of those things, while also remembering that they ultimately belong to God as God’s good creation. These conversations should be done with care, love, and inclusion for who the youth are as human beings, created in the image of God, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, class, and so on. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

Icebreaker (10 minutes): Bouncy Ball Bonanza

You will need ten bouncy balls per team, one bucket per team, and one additional bucket to hold all the balls. If you don’t have bouncy balls, try pieces of candy, ping pong balls, fidget toys, stuffed animals – whatever you have lots of!

To win: Be the first team to acquire ten bouncy balls in your team’s bucket.

Preparation: Set up one bucket with all the bouncy balls in the middle of the game space. Divide your group into teams of up to five people. Set out the rest of the buckets equidistant from the first bucket and from one another.

Play: On “3, 2, 1, go,” teams try to acquire ten bouncy balls for their own bucket. The twist – you can steal from other teams’ buckets! If you have more than four teams, try having a tournament. If you have fewer than three teams, you’ll probably want to have multiple rounds.

Variation 1: Got spectrum scooters? Have youth try this while seated or lying on their stomachs!

Variation 2: Got more students? Pair them up and tie their legs together as in a three-legged race!

Variation 3: Lower energy group? Make the setup smaller or even at a table where they can reach the center bucket from their seats!

Read Scripture (5 minutes): Matthew 22:15-22

Our scripture today takes place in the temple in Jerusalem. This is the final week of Jesus’ life. He has already ridden in on the donkey and turned over tables in the temple, publicly condemning the religious leaders who were exploiting people by charging exorbitant amounts of money for animals to sacrifice (animal sacrifice was the common religious practice at the time).

Discussion (15 minutes)

  • What’s going on here? What makes you say that?
  • Think about this story in context. What do you think the tone is for their question to Jesus?
  • How would you feel if someone publicly called you out?
  • The religious leaders (Pharisees) collaborated with political figures (Herod’s supporters) to trap Jesus. Why is this question such a trap?
    • If Jesus says yes to paying taxes, his followers who believe he is the anointed king to rescue them from Roman occupation will turn away from his teachings. If Jesus says no to paying taxes, Herod’s supporters will turn him in for being a political revolutionary.
  • Jesus asks to see a Denarius coin. Whose image and name were on the coin?
    • The coin had Caesar’s image, then the term Divi Filius, which means “Son of God.” Caesar is claiming divinity. That makes this coin an idol in the temple. Jesus has just forced his own opponents to admit to idolatry! Checkmate.
  • What does it mean to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s? What belongs to Caesar?
    • Anything with Caesar’s image
  • What has Caesar’s image?
    • Money, power, dominion, force, coercion, buildings
  • In today’s world – are those “things that are Caesar’s” still idols? Why do you think that is?
  • What does it mean to give to God what is God’s? What belongs to God?
    • Anything with God’s image
  • What has God’s image?
    • For further discussion, read Genesis 1:26-27. People were created in God’s image.

Jesus is quietly saying that Caesar can have it all...but Caesar, too, belongs to God. We believe that all people are made by God and that their souls are given as a gift (God breathing into their nostrils). We hold everything as stewards - whether we know it or not - but it all goes back to God eventually.

Activity and Discussion (20 minutes): What’s Mine?

You will need construction paper, magazines, glue sticks, markers, scissors, and various mirrors. If you don’t have lots of handheld mirrors, one big mirror works too!

Activity: Tell students to spend some time creating a collage of all the things they have: items they own, things they’ve accomplished or won, things they’re proud of, and so on. While the students are working, talk about those things – this is a great opportunity to get to know what your students are passionate about!

After students have finished, invite them to share their collages with the group. Then invite them to look in the mirror. Offer this blessing, individually or as a group:

May you always feel proud of the things you’ve accomplished.
May you value your gifts and the ways that you show up in the world.
And may you remember – always – the one who created you in God’s image.
May you hold fast to the truths
that God has gifted you uniquely,
that God holds you in God’s hands,
and that God is with you always.
May you give to God what is God’s.
You are very good.
And you come from a very good God.

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.

In This Series...

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes


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In This Series...

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes