Tough News and Good News

CREATE A SACRED TIME AND SPACE
Leave all screens turned off and outside of the gathering space/room.
Set a single candle in the center of your space or on a child’s nightstand or headboard.

As you light the candle, you might sing together the refrain only of, Change My Heart, O God

Change my heart, oh God; make it ever new;
Change my heart, oh God, let me be like you.

TAKE A MOMENT
This is a time to become fully present with one another and with God.
Invite everyone to take a deep breath in and exhale fully.
Repeat this deep breathing for about 20 seconds, everyone at their own pace.

LET GO & RECEIVE
Excitement over past or future events - or, worries, pain and/or guilt - can keep us from immersing in God’s loving Presence, right here and now.

You might invite participants to Let Go as follows:

“In one or two words, how have you separated yourself from God, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: know that you are, right now, in God’s Presence.
Breathe out: release into God’s grace any guilt, shame or pain that separation has 
caused.”

Pause

You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How has God made you new, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: notice how God’s Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for always being close.”

Pause

READING SUMMARY
After everyone has shared their Letting Go and Receiving, take two more deep breaths.

Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged, but if that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are our thoughts on this text:

The text for today is about death and salvation. Death has come to us because of brokenness and brokenness has come to us because we are humans and not God. Death and brokenness is bad news for us. Take a moment to talk about the things around you that might be broken and the feelings you have about those things.  Remembering that it is everywhere and not always avoidable. With brokenness comes a lot of not so good feelings! This brokenness hurts us and our relationship with God. However, there is good news! In brokenness and death and all the pain and sadness that comes with it, God is bigger! 

A word that is used in this translation of these verses is acquittal. This is a term that is used in law and court rooms. Acquittal does not necessarily mean that the accused is innocent but that they are released or set free from the charge. If someone is facing trial and they are acquitted, they get to leave free as opposed to going to prison or face some other form of punishment. God is bigger than death and through Christ has acquitted us of our offenses and we are allowed to live in freedom.  That is salvation and good news! 

SHARING THE READING
Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.

A reading from Romans 5:12-19

5:12 Therefore, sin entered the world through the first humans, and through sin, death 
- and in this way death has spread through the whole human race, because all have 
sinned.
5:13 Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given, even though it’s not called 
“sin” when there is no law.
5:14 Even so, death reigned over all who lived from our first parents until Moses, even 
though their sin - unlike that of our first parents - was not a matter of breaking a law.
5:15 But the gift is not like the offense. For if by the offense of one couple all died, how 
much more did the grace of God - and the gracious gift of the One Jesus Christ - abound for all!
5:16 The gift that came to us is not at all like what came through the ones who sinned. 
In the one case, the sentence followed upon one offense and brought condemnation; 
in the other, the free gift came after many offenses and brought complete acquittal.
5:17 If death began its reign through one person because of an offense, so much more 
will those who receive the overflowing grace and the gift of justice live and reign through the One Jesus Christ.
5:18 To sum up, then: just as a single offense brought condemnation to all, a single 
righteous act brought all acquittal and life.
5:19 Just as through one person’s disobedience, all became sinners, so through one 
person’s obedience, all will become just.


DISCUSS
  • How do you feel about being acquitted or set free from the things that you have done wrong?
  • What do you think about God that God is bigger than our brokenness?

CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE
From your devotional basket, please take the following items:
~Notebook or binder for everyone
~Drawing or coloring utensil(s) for everyone

Be sure notebooks/binders and utensils are handy but not a distraction.
You might invite the group into prayer with these or similar prompts:

I invite everyone to find a comfortable posture appropriate to prayer and encourage everyone to close their eyes.
Let’s all take a few deep breaths to settle our minds:
~let go of the discussion questions and conversation;
~let go of the Bible story;
~let yourself rest for a moment in the love of your family and the presence of
God.

After a few deep breaths, share the following:

I invite you to open your [notebook/binder/journal] to a blank page.

Allow a few beats for the movement to settle down.

Notice the openness and possibility on this page.

Pause for a few beats.

Consider brokenness. 

Pause for two minutes.

If you are ready, write the word broken on your page.  If you are not ready, leave the paper blank.
Look at your page, what feelings come up?

Allow a minute to consider feelings.

You might choose to write or draw some things that you consider broken or hurting.

Allow a couple minutes for writing or drawing.

For the next few minutes, notice the page and words or drawings. 
Sit with God and feel the feelings of brokenness and hurt.
Notice how God might be calling you to make changes in yourself, your school, your work, or the world.

Allow about four minutes of silent contemplation before moving on.

At the end of your silent time, invite attention back to the room with words like these:

I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might quietly wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your 
head.
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.

Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.




When people have completed drawings and have had time for silence, invite their attention back to the room with words like these:

I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might quietly wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your 
head.
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.

Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.


PERSONAL REFLECTION
After a few beats, while people are still transitioning, introduce the reflection questions, as follows:

As you bring your awareness back to here and now, I encourage you to reflect on a 
moment or a sensation, a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Consider what you observed, saw, felt or experienced in this time of prayer.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?

After a minute or two of resting, encourage people to write, draw or doodle about their experience.
Allow about 3-5 minutes; gauge the activity-level of participants to determine when they are “done”.
Invite people to share their reflections with the group/family, only as they are comfortable. Not everyone will have something to share or feel comfortable sharing their experience. Let this be okay: not everyone needs to share.

Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation. This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.


LULLABY
As the following song is sung, the Leader should gather all materials utilized during the practice. Stow them in the basket for easy removal and future use.

Sing together the refrain only of, Change My Heart, O God

Change my heart, oh God; make it ever new;
Change my heart, oh God, let me be like you.


FINAL BLESSING
As they blow out the candle, children can offer the following blessing/prayer with their adults:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

Adult(s) can share the following blessing/prayer with the child[ren] as they turn out the lights:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”


 "aquittal." Merriam-Webster.com. 2011. https://www.merriam-webster.com (2020).
  From The Inclusive Bible (Rowman & Littlefield; 2007). Used with permission from The Quixote Center.

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