For God So Loved the World!


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 or say together the refrain of, Send Me, Jesus1

Send me, Jesus; send me, Jesus;
Send me, Jesus, into the world.

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 not followed the Spirit’s lead, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: know that you are, right now, being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Breathe out: release into grace any guilt, shame or pain not following has caused.”

Pause

You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How have you followed the Spirit’s lead, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: notice how the Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for filling you with what you need for each day.”

Pause


READING SUMMARY
Before moving on, take two more deep breaths.

Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged. If that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are some thoughts on this story:
Yesterday, we talked about being born again, being born into God’s family! We also talked about family rules, and values. Take a couple of minutes to review and talk about those things important to your family. Being a part of God’s family means certain things too!
You may have heard one of these verses before! Verse 16 says: “God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One, that whoever believes may not die, but have eternal life”. Many people love this verse because it reminds us of the wonderful promise that God loves us! One of the most important words in this verse is WORLD! God loves the whole world, not just me or certain people but the whole world. The next verse says “God sent the Only Begotten into the world not to condemn the world, but that through the Only Begotten the world might be saved”. Jesus came to save and not to condemn, or punish. This passage reminds us that God loves us and being a part of God’s family is about love. We are asked to love the WHOLE world, even when it is hard. 
SHARING THE READING
Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.

A reading from John 3:13-17
3:13 No one has gone up to heaven except the One who came down from heaven - 
the Chosen One.
3:14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Chosen One must be lifted 
up,
3:15 so that everyone who believes in the Chosen One might have eternal life.
3:16 Yes, God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One, that whoever 
believes may not die, but have eternal life.
3:17 God sent the Only Begotten into the world not to condemn the world, but that 
through the Only Begotten the world might be saved.


DISCUSS
At the close of the reading you might begin with basic questions, such as:
Did this reading have any words or ideas that anyone doesn’t understand?
Let’s explore what those might mean, together.

If you are ready for further discussion, you might consider these questions:

  • When might it be hard to love the whole world?
  • How can thinking about God’s love for the world help us?


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.

Allow a few beats for the movement to settle down.

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:

Create an image in your mind of family. 
Think about a time when you felt the most loved.
Imagine yourself in that time.

Pause 

In this moment when you felt loved, what was happening? Who was there? What were you doing? 
Focus on what it was that helped you feel loved in this moment?

Let this love surround you.

Pause for one minute

What is it like to feel this love?

Pause

Your family loves you very much. So does God. Take this feeling of love and imagine this love as God’s love.

Pause for a long moment.

Imagine God’s love filling you.

Pause

Now imagine being so full of God’s love that it starts filling up the space around you. What does it look like? What color is it? God’s love is meant to fill us so that we can share that love with the world.

Pause

Listen to your body, to your emotions, to God…

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 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 we bring our awareness back to here and now, let’s consider how God was with us: 
Reflect on a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?

After a moment or two of resting, encourage people to write, draw or doodle about their experience.
You might offer the following journal prompts:
*What was it like to imagine being filled with God’s love?
*What is good about sharing God’s love?
*What is challenging about sharing God’s love?

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.

BEDTIME SONG
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.

As adults prepare to leave the room, you might sing, Send Me, Jesus1

Send me, Jesus; send me, Jesus;
Send me, Jesus, into the world.

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.”






  1. Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Augsburg Fortress; 2006: #549.
  2.   From The Inclusive Bible (Rowman & Littlefield; 2007). Used with permission from The Quixote Center.


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