A Sunday School or Small Group Lesson
Preparation for the teacher:
Read the texts
(found below) ahead of time.
Watch the video – it may stimulate additional questions appropriate for your context. Make certain you have tested the equipment necessary for showing the video – it helps to keep the technical gremlins away!
Do a little homework
about your church and community. Can you list items of uncertainty that people are facing within your community of faith? Perhaps there are concerns about finances, leadership transitions, or changes occurring in the neighborhood where your church is located? Is there anxiety about success that other congregations are experiencing that seem to have by-passed your particular church? (This is not the time to try to solve those problems, to “blame” those circumstances, or to create new ones!) The question is more focused on the future – where are we headed? Do we have a future? Are we anxious about the future? Ask the same questions of yourself relative to your community, pressing outward to regional, national and global concerns. (Think about the stability of some countries either economically or politically. Perhaps there are environmental concerns, or issues of safety.)
Don’t leave your research to only the “negative”. What are some signs of hope in your church and or community? Are there positive trends anywhere to life up? Most groups will be good at identifying the negative. Your job as the facilitator is to also be able to prompt participants into hopeful thinking as well. While there is difficulty, think about where you see God present in your circumstances.
Some helpful background:
Mark, of course, has a particular understanding of the Realm of God that is at the center of his gospel and of our lesson for today. Mark believed that history was divided into two ages—the present , broken age, a time of idolatry, exploitation, sin, injustice, social inequality, sickness, enmity with nature, and death, and the Realm of God, a new age of wholeness, when the values of God permeate every life and situation, a time of mutuality, forgiveness, justice, equality, health, blessing between humankind and nature, and eternal life. For Mark, the ministry of Jesus begins this new age in the present, but it will come in its fullness only after the return of Jesus, the second coming.
Pray for your students as you prepare this week’s lesson.
Teaching the Lesson
As the class begins, welcome the class and engage in your usual opening exercises (taking attendance, collecting an offering, prayer concerns, other announcements, etc.)
Ask the class to define the “Reign of God” (Sometimes called the “Kingdom of God”). What does this concept mean to them? What are the characteristics of the Reign of God? Is it a time in future or does it have meaning or “presence” now? Who gets to participate in the Reign of God? How does one experience it? (You may want to ask what is present or absent in the Reign. How does the world change?) Jesus says the “Reign of God is among you.” He also says the “Reign of God is coming – implying in some way that it is not here [in its fullness] yet.) How do we reconcile those concepts?
Read the following texts from the Gospel of Mark. (Ask individual students to read different passages – it engages more people and keeps it more interesting.)
- Mark 1:14-15
- Mark 3:13-19
- Mark 3: 31-35
- Mark 6:14-28
- Mark 6:30-44
- Mark 10:17-27
Ask the class to wrestle with the following questions:
The disciples were reluctant to exercise power that God gave them to feed the hungry crowd. Do you ever feel a similar reluctance? Do you have trouble believing that God has given you power to bring the Realm of God into the world in concrete and tangible ways?
Many people are nervous when Jesus directs the rich person in Mark to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. That was more easily imaginable in those days since Mark believed the rich person would not have to live long until the Second Coming of Christ. Today we have to plan for the future, but what can we do that expresses solidarity with the poor and commitment to helping the world become more like the Reign of God?
How does our view about the future impact our generosity? What does it mean to have power in the world today? (Think of the Herod story in Mark 6:14-28. The world uses power to get its own way to and hold on to power. In what ways does the church see this differently with the power it has been given?)
Mark wrote at a time when the world of his congregation was in chaos and when people were very uncertain about the future. In this setting we might think of Mark as a steward of hope. Do you see ways in which your congregation is in a similar spot: feeling like you are in a certain amount of chaos and uncertain about the future? How can you help your congregation become stewards of hope?
How do we, in the living of our lives (and by the mission of our congregation) bear witness to the Reign of God being present today? Are we practicing stewardship as Mark understood it – releasing or channeling the power of God’s Rule into the world on behalf of the Gospel message?
Close the lesson time with prayer.