Tuesday, April 10, 2018

This Week In Sunday School

Here are two chapters of Acts from the New International Version:

Chapter 3

1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus's name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

17 "Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'

24 "Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

Chapter 4

1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men gret to about five thousand.

5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name."

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: 'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and all the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.


  1. You really think you're something, don't you?

  2. I'm not being a wise guy I'm curious what discussion you would have around this.

  3. I'm just joshing--I knew you were being serious; I just hadn't gotten further than knowing what chapters we would be talking about.

    I switched out of teaching the high-school class over the last few months to teaching a class mainly targeting 40- to 60-year-olds, an age band into which I fall smack in the middle. I went a couple of years as teacher of the high-school class here, and there were some great moments and important connections made. But, for whatever reason, I didn't seem to connect with most of them, and actually attendance declined pretty sharply during my time teaching it--even though our church's attendance for Sunday school generally, worship, high-school youth group, etc. is all up, up, up.

    I had four or five years as the Sunday-school teacher of a high-school class in Raleigh in my middle 30s, and it seemed the individuals in that class (me included) grew in faith and the class grew in number (against more general trends in that church). I'm not sure of the difference this time around and here, but I suspect that the way that I talk with teen-agers has changed a good bit now that I am the parent of a 9-year-old child. And/or, I wonder if I"ve aged into the same band that most of the high-schoolers I'm around now have parents or teachers--I'm neither a youngish uncle character, nor a sage grandparent.

    Attendance is not the only gauge of effectiveness as a teacher, of course, but it is also not unmeaningful. Counting matters all over the Bible, for example. So, anyway, late last year, I went to the Christian-education committee and suggested that we transition me away from that group--instead of putting the committee in the hard position of having to bring the idea to me. The high schoolers and I hammered Sermon on the Mount for about a month or six weeks then, and, not long after Christmas, we parted ways. I'm still getting to interact with those students in other ways, of course.

    It feels more like the right move all of the time, and I'm really thankful that I can honestly say that I didn't get all down in the dumps about it.

  4. So now I'm with the startup Less-Young Adult Class, targeting 40- to 60-year-olds but open to whoever feels called to join us. We did about a month of Sermon on the Mount, finding sea legs of stuff like who might be there, what kind of activities/conversation most grabs us each individually, where we should be meeting, etc. And now we've started a study of Acts.

  5. Basically what we do each week is talk about our highs and lows or where we feel like we experienced God in the last week; then we read and talk through a passage or two from an Acts chapter, and then we talk about how God might be speaking to us individually through these readings to lead us in our home life, work life, church life, whatever. In this light, it's always the same lesson applied to a different reading.

  6. I usually start out asking which pieces of this week's reading anyone feels calls to discuss. If that goes nowhere, then I have two or three sections that I'm ready to look at together. And I try to bring in some stuff from outside reading to sprinkle into the conversation.

  7. For example, this week, unless someone definitively wants to go deep on anything in Chapter 3, I'll probably treat it pretty lightly. We discussed Chapter 2 pretty heavily, and, as The Interpreter's Bible says, "some scholars believe that 3:1-5:16 is a 'doublet' of ch. 2, plus 5:17-42, and represents an earlier and more reliable tradition about 'the birth of the church.'" Peter's speech in Chapter 3 "follows very much the same lines as his first one" in Chapter 2, The Interpreter's points out.

  8. A couple of other neat things on Chapter 3 from The Interpreter's Bible that may or may not come up Sunday:

    -- On Verses 6 and 7, "the use of 'the name' in religious formulas and practice springs from the identification of a name with the person to whom the name belongs and the belief that the qualities and powers of that person are inherent in his 'name,' so that by invoking the 'name' his power and authority are called into operation ... Note that while others work miracles in the power of 'the name,' Jesus does so by his own 'authority' (Mark 1:27)." (55)

    -- "Verse 7 is a favorite passage with those who seek proof from his technical language that the author of Acts was a medical man." (55)

  9. So then my wife has something called the Serendipity Bible for small-group studies, and it includes a bunch of great discussion prompts and questions that run alongside with the text. I lean on these pretty heavily, and here are some of them that I might bring up about Chapter 4 this Sunday:

    -- What threats brought you fear as a child? What threats bring you fear today?

    -- Describe a time when you felt right about breaking rules or having a run-in with an authority figure.

    -- "When, if ever, do you feel that Peter's response to his political and religious leaders would be appropriate for a Christian today? How do you reconcile this passage (verses 18-21) with Romans 13:1-4?"

    -- "What is the most persecution that you have experienced due to your faith? How did you take it?"

    -- "If you were Peter or John, how would you have felt when you got thrown into jail?" If you had been one of the other followers, how would you have felt?

    -- "On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how sure are you of Peter's statement in Verse 12? What most builds your assurance?" And/or, what most feeds your doubt?

    -- From this story of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, what aspect of the Holy Spirit is most striking to you?

    These questions are from pages 1522 and 1523 of Serendipity Bible.