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Lesson for January 29, 2012 (Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year B)

“Love Builds Up

Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

First Thoughts: In our world we spend a lot of time competing – trying to run faster or look better, or make better grades.  It is easy in such a culture to scorn those who are weaker, or need special consideration.  In his letter to the Corinthians, though, Paul is clear: he will make any accommodations necessary to protect the spiritual health of his weaker brothers and sisters.  The role of the stronger Christian isn’t to judge others, or to leave them to their own devices; but to work especially hard to support and care for the weak, even if it means personal sacrifice to oneself.  What is our experience with this kind of sacrifice?  Do we find ourselves moving in compassion towards those who are weaker than us, or getting annoyed and wanting to “ditch” them?

Props You Will Need: Trophy or first-place ribbon (optional)

Teaching As A Team

(Leader 2 comes in with ribbon or trophy)

Leader  1:  What do you have there, (name)?

Leader 2: It’s my first place trophy.  I won a race yesterday!

Leader 1: Wow! Congratulations.  Was it a very long race?

Leader 2: No, but the competition was fierce.   I raced against thirty other people.

Leader 1: Oh, were they really fast runners?

Leader 2: Um, not exactly.  I mean, their legs moved pretty fast, but you can only get so far when your legs are so short.

Leader 1: What do you mean?

Leader 2: See, the other runners were eight.

Leader 1: So you ran a race against eight-year-olds?  But you’re an adult!

Leader 2: So what?  I still won.

Leader 1:  But you raced against children.  They’re smaller and weaker than you are.  You were faster, but that doesn’t make the race fair. 

Leader 2: I didn’t think about that.

Leader 1: You know, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that – in the church - those of us who are stronger or bigger should be kind to those who are smaller or weaker.  Maybe we have a very strong faith -

Leader 2:  Just like I have a GREAT running stride!

Leader 1: But someone else might be struggling with their faith.  Paul tells us that we help them not by showing them how much better we are, but by slowing down and walking with them. 

Leader 2: You mean, instead of trying to win, I could have run beside them?

Leader 1: Yeah, encouraging them to run their own best race!  It’s important for us to remember:  in our life in the church, no one wins until we all cross the finish line.

Teaching On Your Own:(holding up ribbon or trophy)  See what I have here?  It’s a first-place trophy.  I won a race yesterday!  It was really hard.  I mean, the race wasn’t very long but the competition was fierce.  Those little eight-year-olds can really move fast, but I do have longer legs so I still beat them.   Don’t you think it’s great that I won?  Do you have a problem with my winning that race?  You think because I’m an adult, and they were just kids, that the race wasn’t really fair?  You might be right.  After all, they were smaller than me and weaker.  Maybe I should have done something different.  That reminds me of our lesson today.  In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that – in the church - those of us who are stronger or bigger should be kind to those who are smaller or weaker.  Maybe we have a very strong faith - just like I have a GREAT running stride - but someone else might be struggling with their faith.  Paul tells us that we help them not by showing them how much better we are, but by slowing down and walking with them.  So, instead of trying to win, maybe I could have run beside those eight-year-olds – and encouraged them to run their own best race.  It’s important for us to remember:  in our life in the church, no one wins until we all cross the finish line.

Closing Prayer:  Loving God, help us to always build each other up with love – particularly reminding those of us who are strong to be compassionate and caring towards those who are struggling.   Help us to all cross your finish line together.  In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Follow-Up Lesson:  To teach this lesson at home or in a classroom setting, I would introduce the gospel lesson for this Sunday, from Mark 1: 21-28.  In your own words, describe the story: Jesus is teaching in the synagogue when a man with an unclean spirit comes in.   The unclean spirit recognizes Jesus as the Holy One and begins to proclaim it, but Jesus silences it and tells it to leave the man alone.   Point out that Jesus could have left the unclean spirit alone, and let the spirit tell everyone how great Jesus was.  It would have given Jesus quite a reputation, to have demons recognize him!  But instead Jesus had compassion for the man who was suffering with the demon, and released him immediately.  Revisit the verse from 1 Corinthians, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  Jesus chose to build up the suffering man with love rather than “puff up” himself.  Give the kids some blocks.  Let the kids take turns sharing ways they can build up each other in love, placing a new block with each suggestion.  Then let them think of ways they can puff themselves up by tearing others down – and knock the structure down!