devozine

For Youth Workers Post

Sin’s Sting

Steven Lefebvre

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for March 1–9, 2014.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

          (See video)

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steven LefebvreMy name is Steven Lefebvre. I work with the youth and young adults at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Before my life of working at a church, I was the lead vocalist in a hardcore band. These days I spend my free time being an armchair film critic, reading comic books, and playing much quieter music (well, sort of). I’m also an amateur champion of darts and dodge ball. I’m a huge fan of going to baseball games in the summer time and to college basketball games in the winter. Be sure to read Steven’s blog.

 

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • Monopoly board game
  • index cards, one for each person
  • pens
  • a Bible
  • copies of the closing prayer
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

 

PLUGGED IN

 

CHECKING IN

Split your group into six teams (if you have a small group, one person may be a team). Invite people to play Monopoly. (Set a 15-minute time limit if needed.) Give three of the teams the recommended starting money; give two teams half the starting money; and give one team triple the starting money. Take one die away from the two poor teams, and give your richest team four hundred dollars for passing GO. Write on half the index cards, “Your goal is to make sure nobody goes bankrupt.” Write on the other cards, “Win at all costs; cheat if you can, but don’t get caught.” Then distribute the cards at random, one for each team. If a team gets caught cheating, send the team to jail and follow the basic rules for getting out of jail.

Discuss:
       If your team was trying to make sure nobody went bankrupt, what made keeping everyone in the game difficult?
       If your team was trying to win at all costs, how did you feel about your opponents? Did you like them? Did you care what happened to them?
       How did having more or less money change the way you played the game?

 

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Isaiah 65:17–25

Sin is one of those words. We all know what it means, but we have the hardest time explaining it out loud. Sin makes us feel guilt and shame, sometimes for reasons that are difficult to explain. However, if you listen to a sermon on any given Sunday, sin seems to be the reason why all that is bad in the world happens. So what exactly is sin?

Sin comes from an Old English word for “wrongdoing.” I’d like to argue that the word sin in the Old English is a mistranslation of the verbs chata (Hebrew) and hamartano (Greek), which mean more literally “to miss the mark.” Whenever you see the word sin in an English Bible, it is more often than not a translation of these two words. Why does it matter? I believe that to say “Jesus died for our wrongdoing or bad behavior” makes being obedient or nice the focus of Christianity. However, to say “Jesus died for the ways in which humanity misses the mark” begs these questions: What is the mark? How are we missing it?

Read Isaiah 65:17–25. The world in its current state—with its inequality, polluted climate, violence, sexual exploitation, governmental oppression, sickness, and death—is not the way God created it to be. Isaiah 65:17–25 gives us a glimpse of what God desires: that our labor be fruitful, our children live long, our nations be peaceful, and we all live together with families and friends. This is the mark we are missing.

When Jesus tells his followers to sin no more, he isn’t saying, “Don’t do bad stuff.” Jesus is telling his followers to reorder their entire value system around peace, justice, and love. Furthermore, Jesus’ dying for our sins isn’t about giving us a free pass to heaven even though we’ve done bad stuff. It is all about grace. Jesus forgives us and beckons us to live into God’s dream for the world, even when we do things that oppose and shatter it.

Discuss:
       How does the new definition of sin as “missing the mark” change the way you deal with guilt and shame? Does it make those feelings more or less intense?
       How can we be sure of God’s grace?
       Does the new definition of sin make more or fewer actions off-limits for you? What has become more important? less important?

 

SHARING IN PRAYER

In my tradition, we confess our sins together every Sunday or anytime we take Communion. Conclude the session with a prayer of confession and a prayer of absolution from The Book of Common Prayer.

       “Most merciful God,
       we confess that we have sinned against you
       in thought, word, and deed,
       by what we have done,
       and by what we have left undone.
       We have not loved you with our whole heart;
       we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
       We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
       For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
       have mercy on us and forgive us;
       that we may delight in your will,
       and walk in your ways,
       to the glory of your Name. Amen.” 

       “Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins
       through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness
       and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.”

 

TAKING IT FURTHER

Invite group members to figure out if they all participate in a global-sized sin—for example, do they wear clothes made in a sweatshop, eat food that destroys their bodies, ignore the plight of the poor, act in ways that are ambitious or greedy. Then ask them to decide on a way that for the next week, they can fast from participating in the sin they have identified.

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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