devozine

For Youth Workers Post

WHAT AN EGO!

Steven Lefebvre

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for July 6–12, 2015.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

       (watch video)

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steven LefebvreMy name is Steven Lefebvre. I work with the youth and young adults at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Before my life of working at a church, I was the lead vocalist in a heavy metal 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 and to college basketball games in the winter. I have a wife, three dogs, and a baby on the way! Feel free to read my blog.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • 4-6 pictures of superheroes, plus a picture of Superman—bonus points if you have action figures
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

CHECKING IN

Show the group the pictures of superheroes, ending with Superman. Ask of each superhero:
       What are the superhero’s strengths? weaknesses? superpowers?
Record the group’s responses. Then, if possible, invite group members to watch the “Superman and Clark Kent” monologue from Kill Bill.

Discuss:
       Do you agree with Superman’s critique of the human race, that we are weak, unsure of ourselves, cowardly? Why? Why not?
       If this is what he thinks of the human race, why does Superman choose to save us?
       Why doesn’t Superman choose to rule over us?
       What does the movie clip say about the power of weakness?

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Matthew 5:1–11, 2 Corinthians 12:1–10

Matthew 5 is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the Beatitudes:
       Blessed are the poor in spirit.
       Blessed are those who mourn.
       Blessed are the meek.
       Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
       Blessed are the peacemakers.

Jesus says that these people—the poor in spirit, those who mourn—will inherit the earth and will reign in the kingdom of God. Jesus looks on the weak and desperate and says that his kingdom is founded on people such as these. Why? If you were going to build a kingdom, why would you build your foundation on the weakest members of society?

The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom. For thousands of years, the Egyptian, Roman, Babylonian, Chinese, and English empires, and even our own American empire, rose and fell on war, wealth, and power. But the kingdom that Jesus is building is an entirely different kind of empire. The kingdom of God is not about accumulating and destroying; it is about setting right the brokenness of creation. The kingdom of God is an empire of togetherness.

Our ego is about separation. Reaching for power and prestige is an act of removing ourselves from the crowd. In some ways, being the best is good; it builds self-confidence and a sense of identity. But in God’s dream for the world, God doesn’t desire individuals; he desires a community and the unity of all creation. To spend one’s life boasting and carrying on about how unique and special we are is counter-productive; it inhibits God’s work of making all things new.

Fast forward a couple of decades. An exasperated Paul desperately tries to keep his church together. Corinth was a Greek culture, in which philosophy and knowledge reigned supreme. Teachers were held in high esteem. People in Corinth aspired to be great teachers; if they couldn’t cut it as a teacher, at least they wanted to follow a great teacher. The great teacher gave them an identity, status, and authority. Following a good teacher wasn’t enough; they had to follow the best teacher. Therefore, they stifled other groups and destroyed their credibility. Not long after Paul established the church in Corinth, people began to follow other leaders who were claiming to have divine experience and secret knowledge about Jesus. So in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth are responses to questions about Paul’s credibility. People were asking Paul to give them something to tell others about how great it was to follow Paul.

Paul, I believe, was the guy “caught up to the third heaven” (whatever that means). He says that he has indeed experienced God in a profound way, yet he didn’t come back from the experience with anything to boast about. Instead, after experiencing Jesus, he is more than ever profoundly aware of the thorn in his flesh. The closer to God Paul found himself, the more aware of his weakness he became. And the good news about weakness is that we are all weak.

I find myself uttering desires such as these: “I wish people would respect me” or “I want to be a great leader.” But when it comes time to do the work of dealing with my foolishness or my shortcomings, I would rather keep showing off my strengths. We live in a culture that hides weakness and celebrates strength. Get on Facebook for a couple of minutes. What you find is a constant stream of boasting: Look at the awesome meal I made. Look how awesome my new job is. Look how awesome my vacation was. Look how awesome I am. But if you have ever logged on to Facebook with any amount of loneliness or insecurity, you know that all of this boasting only drives you deeper into a place of isolation and insignificance. For Paul, boasting in our weakness and being vulnerable and honest about our struggle and ourselves brings the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Discuss:
       Do you know someone who boasts a lot? How does his or her boasting make you feel about yourself?
       Do you wonder how much of the boasting is true?
       Are you aware of your weaknesses?
       Do you try to hide them?
       What does “on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 12:5) mean to you?
        Who are the people in your life to whom you feel safe boasting about your weaknesses?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to pray together this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

“O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you:
Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

Invite group members to write a list of the thorns in their flesh. What do they do, say, or feel that they can’t seem to quit? Encourage them to find one person to talk with about their weaknesses.

—from devozine In the Habit (July/August 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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