We've begun a new year in confirmation class. We used the first couple of classes to review the New Testament from the Fall and now we are on to what it means to "Live Lutheran" in our world. Over the coming weeks, talk to your kids about things like being justified by faith, why the cross had to happen, and in general, what it looks like to take what we learn in class and apply it to daily life. I think the conversations happen best when you, as a parent, are open to sharing your own thoughts and beliefs with your kids. Regardless, invite the conversation with open ended questions and see what happens!
- Pastor Paul
Last week we looked at the missionary journey of the Apostle Paul. We talked about how he experienced something amazing on the road in an encounter with Jesus. We said that God can work forgiveness in us, no matter how bad we think we may be. God used Paul to spread the message of Jesus, even though at one point Paul was the worst offender when it came to persecuting followers of Jesus. Paul started many churches and his writings about Jesus and his instructive letters are among the earliest in the New Testament.
This week, we'll look at Paul's Theology, or how Paul talks about God and teaches God's ways through the stories of Jesus. Check out the videos about the Book of Acts below to learn more about Paul, then engage your confirmation kiddo in conversation this week.
Consider watching these videos with your family. Talk about who the outsiders of the faith might be today. Discuss what it might be like if you were the ones called to spread the news about Jesus in the world where people do not know about him. Read the Book of Acts together.
Key Bible Verse:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Questions and Key Thoughts
After a week off, we're back into the New Testament and the Gospel according to John. Big questions we'll discuss in class, and that might be fun conversations to have with your kids, "Why is John's Gospel so different from the others?" and "Why does John change the order of things in the story?" John is very particular in his use of language and the additional stories he includes. John's Gospel seeks to address some tricky questions about Jesus' identity. Watch the videos below for a fun and informative introduction to this gospel. John's gospel likely was not written by John, in fact, many scholars believe that it was written by multiple people. It's also the latest of the gospels to be completed and one of the latest in all of the New Testament. It was written for a Gentile community (those who were not Jewish) with the goal of the reader seeing that God is at work in the world through the life of Jesus.
Key Bible Verse:
"Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on your own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works." - John 14:10
This week we dive into the Gospel according to Luke. Check out the videos below to learn more about this gospel. Think about some questions you want to ask your confirmation participant, then start the conversation!
This week, Kim will be leading the discussion about the Gospel of Mark. This follows last week's conversation about the Gospel of Matthew (see previous week's blog post). Mark is considered the earliest gospel writing and shares much of it's content with the other two synoptic gospels. If you want to have a conversation with your child, try asking them to explain the difference between Matthew and his audience, and Mark and his audience. Check last week's post and watch the video on this page to start the conversation.
This week we are learning about the Gospel (Good News!) according to Matthew. You can read this post and then engage your child in a conversation about what they are learning in class!
Matthew writes for a Jewish audience and uses their scriptures to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah.
There are four Gospels, but they are not just four versions of the same story. There are distinct differences based on the audience and the context in which they were written. Mark is the oldest of the four, and Matthew (and Luke!) borrow heavily from Mark. These (Matthew, Mark, Luke) each also share a source known as "Q" that creates some continuity of stories between the three. Because Matthew's goal is to connect the story of Jesus with the ancient scriptures of the Jewish people, Matthew writes using phrases like "to fulfill" or "so it has been written" or "spoken through the prophet." Matthew's original audience were Jewish Christians, growing in numbers rapidly, that is, Jews who followed Jesus and believe him to be the promised Messiah foretold in the scriptures. Matthew was offering encouragement and assurance for these fledgling followers because these early Jewish Christians had no direct contact with or experience with Jesus. By carefully placing the Jesus story within the history of the Israelites, the author is preserving the story of Jesus.
Jewish people living at the time that the Gospels were written and read have been separated from their ancestors in Genesis and Exodus. A lot has happened to them over the centuries. The Kingdom of Israel has split and both have been conquered and taken into captivity along the way. The Jewish people living in Jerusalem by the time Matthew writes are a remnant who barely controlled their own destiny. The Roman Empire was large and in charge, the local authorities among the Jewish people are only in place because the Romans said they could be. Rome even controlled whether the people could practice their own religion.
Matthew's long genealogy at the beginning of the gospel is on purpose. It serves to connect the Jesus story to the Israelite's (Jewish people) story. Remember how important this is to Matthew? Matthew wants Jews who are Jesus followers to understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's covenant promise.
Key Bible Readings:
I don't understand how Jesus could be fully human and fully divine.
Since God became human, we can proclaim Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.
What Students Need to Know...
1. Jesus is fully human and fully God. At the same time. All the time. And trying to figure out how that can be the case can make your head hurt. A lot.
2. Even if we have a hard time explaining how Jesus could be both fully human and fully divine, we can still affirm the cause and effect of this paradox. God became fully human while remaining fully divine so that we might know God in a way we were unable to before Jesus. God chose us -- chose to become like us, to live like us -- and as a result, we can say that Jesus is Emmanuel (God with us).
3. The understanding of Jesus as fully human and fully divine became the accepted position of the church only after it rejected many other explanations. For some people, it's easier to understand who and what Jesus is by first clarifying who and what he isn't. We might struggle to understand how Jesus could be both fully human and fully divine, but most of us can agree that Jesus was not faking his humanity or his divinity. Somehow, he was truly both.
Last week we discussed the importance of "place" and knowing what it means understand scripture in light of where and to whom it was written. This week we have the 30,000 foot view of The New Testament. Some may ask, "Why do we need an 'Old Testament' if we have a shiny new one?" That's a great question! The New Testament points to the good news of Jesus through the lens of the Old Testament promises. We are invited to find ourselves within the story of the Bible, even where that is difficult to do. We are invited to be a part of writing the story, even invited to sit in the tension of the story when warranted. Inspiration of the text is no complete until the Spirit inspires us to inhabit the world in and through the biblical text.
Bible texts we'll be reading this week with links to read online:
As always, you are invited to sit in for class at any point to experience what your child is learning with them.
This week we are beginning our study of the New Testament with a look at maps. Not just maps, but understanding place and what makes a space sacred and important. Understanding this helps us to understand the context for the New Testament and the readings that we will study this Fall as a part of our class time together. Parents, consider a conversation about the places you believe are important in your life, your family's life, and ask your child about their experience of looking at maps this week. Here's a fun pdf of one of the things we worked through.
Remember, you are welcome to join us for class any time!
In peace and hope,
Pastor Paul and Kim Barnes,