October 2023


Face to Face

The End in Sight

Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

We continue to envision what it would be like to live in the kin-dom of God as a community of faith. But this week, we focus on the doing.

Note to the Teacher

Last week, students encountered their own faces as they remembered they are made in the image of God. This week, they will turn outward to see others as created in God’s image too. The icebreaker invites youth to notice their peers closely – to pay attention and to identify differences. The discussion encourages youth to unpack a well-known parable in its historical and biblical context, then apply the eternal truth to their own lives. The activity allows youth time to consider their neighbors and how they might love them best. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

Icebreaker (10 minutes): Spot the Differences (Idea adapted from Grow Games)

You will need: Absolutely nothing!

To win: Be the team that earns the most points.

Preparation: Divide your group into two teams.

Play: Team A faces Team B. Give Team B one to two minutes to closely observe Team A. After the time is up, have Team A leave the room. Team A works together to change ten things about the team. Examples: one person may change a hairstyle; another may take off their glasses; two people may switch shoes. The changes must be visible and youth-group-appropriate. Team A comes back into the room and faces Team B again. Team B is given two to four minutes to try to identify each difference. One point is given for each difference identified.

Repeat, with Team B leaving the room and Team A identifying the differences.

Variation 1: It’s close to Halloween – invite students to come wearing their costumes!

Variation 2: Got more students? Make it a tournament!

Variation 3: Need a tiebreaker? Have the teams go at the same time, and the first team to identify all ten differences wins!

Read Scripture (5 minutes): Matthew 22:34-46

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). Multiple religious and political factions are teaming up to try to trap Jesus to get rid of him.

The discussion on the greatest commandment also shows up in Luke 10:25-37, with an explanation in the form of a parable: the Good Samaritan. Read both gospel accounts for the sake of the discussion.

Discussion (15 minutes)

  • What’s going on here? What makes you say that?
  • Parables are stories that help us understand greater truths. We often can identify with the characters in the story. Whom do you identify with in the story of the Good Samaritan? Why?
  • Do you identify with any particular location in the story? (Ditch, on the road, in the inn, etc.)
  • How do you think your life experiences affect the person and location that you most identify with in the story?
  • What do you know about priests, Levites, and Samaritans?
    • Priests and Levites were religious leaders – they would have been the ones that followed the law and were expected to be the most pious. It’s a bit surprising in this story that they do not help the man on the side of the road. Samaritans were religiously and ethnically different from the original audience. They were often seen as inferior because of their different beliefs and customs, and they may have looked different. There was a long history of strife between Jews and Samaritans.
  • Why is it a big deal that the Samaritan stops to help the Jew?
  • Have you ever been surprised by someone you had previously judged? Would you share that story with us?
  • How do we often treat our enemies?
  • How do we often treat our neighbors?
  • In the kin-dom of God, enemies become neighbors. What does that mean for how we live?

Activity and Discussion (20 minutes): My Actual, Literal Neighbors

You will need paper and markers. You may also want to share this printout from The Neighboring Movement.

Activity: Have students draw a map of the eight doors closest to theirs in their neighborhood. Ask them to label each door with all the people who live at each location. If they can do that, invite them to write down what their neighbors are good at doing.

If students finish quickly, invite them to draw a map of the eight lockers closest to theirs and do the same exercise.

After students have finished, invite them to share their maps with the group, bragging on their neighbors.

Invite discussions about the importance of knowing our actual, literal neighbors. Tight-knit neighborhoods and communities are healthier and safer for everyone. Encourage students who may not know their neighbors to get to know them somehow. Brainstorm ways they can do this together.

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