October 15, 2017–Hope Beyond Violence

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Herb Wounded Head, Brookings, SD

 

Warm-up Questions

  • How does it feel to be invited to a party?
  • How does it feel to be excluded from the party?
  • How does it feel to invite others to a party and not have them come?

Hope Beyond Violence

A horrific and horrible tragedy unfolded on the night of October 1st, 2017. A gunman opened fire on  a large crowd at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas for approximately 11 minutes wounding hundreds and killing 59 people. It’s been called the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. Our nation has been left stunned as a result with many people asking “Why?” Why would someone do such a horrific thing? What would drive someone to believe that they needed to open fire on a crowd of innocent people? The massacre quickly turned into political discussions about gun control, background checks, and the National Rifle Association. The more troubling question beyond the “Why?” has been the “How?” How did someone go undetected to set up at a high point and open fire on so many people?

There is no good answer or resolution to such questions. While we can certainly talk about the need for more gun control or about our 2nd amendment rights, the fact of the matter is that people were left dead and even more left suffering. In the aftermath of such chaos, different stories begin to come to light, stories of people doing extraordinary things in order to limit the damage dealt by a person with an arsenal. First responders went against their usual training to wait for the gunfire to subside before helping people.  Instead, they waded back into the place of chaos to begin to save as many people as they possibly could, knowing full well that their own lives were at stake.

Discussion Questions

  • What was your reaction, your first feelings when you heard about the shootings in Las Vegas?
  • What are your feelings about gun control and 2nd amendment rights?
  • Has this tragedy changed your perception of firearms as a result?
  • What would your reaction be if you were placed in the same situation?

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

 

Gospel Reflection

In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus tells his followers a troubling parable about the kingdom of heaven which consists of two parts. A king invites some guests to attend a banquet.  Those invited don’t really care about the invitation; in fact, most of them kill some of his slaves. The king then responds in kind and destroys those whom he first invited.  Then he tells his servants to invite everyone that they can find to fill the wedding hall with guests. These guests probably never imagined that they would be invited to such an event. This invitation is extended to everybody.

But there’s a warning in the final section of the parable. One guest doesn’t appear to have it “right.” He’s not wearing the proper clothes at the wedding banquet. When he is asked why, he has no response and is cast out of the party. Jesus concludes the parable with this, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

The parable is troubling. On the one hand, it might leave us with a sense of anxiety. We may ask ourselves if we’re doing enough, or even if we’re wearing the right clothes. Most of us have enough of this anxiety already; do we really need more concerns? On the other hand, the parable does show us about God’s grace. The invitation is now for everyone.  Still, you’d best know who the party is for; the party is for Jesus. It’s in Jesus that we have our answer to the king’s question. When we are asked how we got in, our answer is simply, “Jesus.”

Discussion Questions

  • What troubles you about this parable?
  • Where do you find yourself in the story Jesus tells?
  • What gives you hope in this parable?
  • This parable has a great deal of violence.  Why do you think Jesus tells a story which includes such elements?  Does this story condone violence?  Why or why not?
  • With the shooting in Las Vegas in mind, what gives you hope in the midst of great tragedy?

Activity Suggestions

Mine Field is a team-building activity involving trust and teamwork.

Find a good large outdoor field or large indoor space.  Be sure there are no dangerous items or hazards nearby.  Set up the “minefield” by placing “mines” (large paper cups, empty plastic bottles, cones, soft foam balls, etc.) in many places all over the space.

Once the minefield is set up, divide players into pairs.  Create pairs carefully.  In each pair, one person will be blindfolded and will be not allowed to see or talk.  The other person is allowed to see and talk, but is not allowed to touch the other person or enter the minefield.  Have each pair decide which role they want to play and distribute blindfolds.

The goal is for each blindfolded person to get from one side of the field to the other.  He or she must safely avoid touching the “mines,” by carefully listening to the verbal guidance of their partners.

Give each pair a few minutes of planning and preparation for their communication strategy.  Then, have all the pairs go to one end of the minefield.  Once blindfolds are worn and everyone is ready, say “Go!” and the activity begins.  The blindfolded person can not talk; he or she just listens and walks.  The guider can’t touch his or her partner, but he or she can speak to his partner and use whatever verbal strategy he or she wishes.

After a pair successfully reaches the other side of the minefield, swap roles and repeat the process.

Note:

  • Be careful that blindfolded people don’t crash into each other.  The facilitator should ensure collisions don’t occur.  He or she can walk around and help keep people separated.
  • Create a penalty for touching a “mine”.  Perhaps a time delay, or a loss of points, or (worse case) a restart.
  • If a person prefers not to play, do not force a person to be blindfolded.

At the end of the time, debrief and allow for reflection; ask pairs what they learned from the experience.

Closing Prayer

Holy and gracious God, you have formed the universe out of chaos into your good creation. Help us to recognize your grace in our everyday lives. From the time that we rise, to the time that we rest, surround us with the knowledge that you have called us into Your presence where we can know peace, compassion and security, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.