Session 2 – The Challenge
During this session participants will:
- explore some of the challenges our daily life/work makes upon our Christian discipleship
- engage with Christian and other traditions to see what light they shed onto our experience
- be equipped to meet the challenges they face
- enable fresh action in the world where those challenges lie
Invite everyone to offer a response to the question:
“What’s the largest or most scary challenge you’ve ever faced in life?”[this is deliberately left vague – it doesn’t need to be work-related]
Invite people to place prayers into the prayer box if they didn’t do so as they arrived (requests will be prayed for towards the end of the meeting).
Introduce the theme of the session and then lead the opening prayer:
Lord God, who has made us all into one body in Christ,[Source: John Ogden]
enable us to honour one another in our working and daily lives.
Help us to understand the ways in which we depend upon one another.
Teach us to bear one another’s burdens and share one another’s joy.
In our varied occupations enable us to serve one another with dignity and carefulness.
May we receive with gratitude the work of other people.
So continue your work of binding us together in your human family.
If we look around the world we live in, there are plenty of issues that feel above and beyond us – issues that the world at large has to face up to such as the state of the environment, the economy, the future for our young people, how we maintain dignity for the elderly. We could just bury our heads in the sand, but as Christians we are called to face up to these challenges and offer hope and wholeness.
This week’s session looks at how challenge is different to change, and how we can respond to the call to face the challenges we meet, both personally and collectively.
Thought-storm as to what do you think are the main challenges we face in today’s world (whether those challenges are faced locally or globally)?
- Invite people to share, briefly, any immediate thoughts on the following:
- Did anything Steve and Bruce said chime with your experiences of ‘challenge’?
- Do you see challenges as times of either barrenness or growth?
- Does perspective and time make a difference as to how you view your challenges?
You may have your own reflections on these passages, but if not here are some thoughts as a starter for teaching and/or discussion.
How did Zacchaeus face the challenge of following Christ whilst remaining in his job?
- Faith is a challenge – no shirking.
- Take up the cross, the way is hard. Christ carrying the cross.
- Sometime it appears that there are 2 sorts of faith:
- one very insular concerned only with what directly concerns me or my life/church
- another that is outward facing
- Are we willing to have our presumptions challenged? Thomas Merton said we cannot really be in dialogue with others unless we are willing to have our presumptions challenged or overturned – we might find this very uncomfortable.
- Living in a changing society is challenging in itself.
- How do we maintain ‘stickability’? Christ didn’t ‘do a runner’, so neither must we
- The challenge of many ‘secular’ vocations. For many people their work is a vocation. That brings its own challenges. Challenge to integrity. People often have to make difficult decisions. The structures in which they work are difficult, and have no vision. Quite often the context in which people work often very vocationally conspires against them declaring the hope they have. This mismatch can lead to stress and even depression. There is often a mismatch between a person’s vision or perception of what they are about and what other’ conceive it is. It is very stressful for people to find that structures prevent them from working effectively.
(talks re what he’d like to do in his pub but can’t afford to)
We’ve just seen and heard three people talking about three quite different but very real kinds of challenge…..
How do these challenges relate to you in your role?
What are the challenges for you now?
Does the Zachaeus story relate to your work or role?
In what way does your Christian life equip you to face these challenges?
In what way would you like it to equip you?
What challenges do you feel our world faces?
How can we respond to those global challenges?
As Christians what resources do we need to respond to both the personal and collective challenges we face?
Sometimes, even if the pressure comes from outside, whether from people or circumstances, the challenges we feel seem to come from inside. This pressure is not just to young people. It comes to all of us at times. However, we all need to be ourselves and not someone else. As St Catherine of Siena, a 14th century Italian nun is reputed to have said: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire”. That this applies to all of us might be demonstrated by the Bishop of London including this as a key thought in his sermon at the marriage service for Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
Father God, whose Son was a carpenter, we bring before you all those whose work places them in places of huge challenge. Within the complexities of life in today’s world, where there are many dilemmas and contradictions, may we each be strengthened; inspired to make wise decisions; and stand up for the values that you have placed at the heart of our lives. Amen.
You may not be able (or even want) to sing in your group. You are free to choose whether you sing, or listen to music, or watch a video clip with this song in the background. Alternatively a shortened version is available on the post card for this week.
Will you come and follow me? by John Bell
This is available on several CDs and is also downloadable from iTunes. There are also various online versions of the music alone with enough verses to sing to on the internet, two of which are at http://www.billysloan.co.uk/songs/will_you_come_and_follow_me.html
The same song could also be used for meditation / reflection. (Even if it’s just been sung it bears repeating as people wouldn’t be able to look at the words at the same time as the visuals anyway!)
This isn’t on the YouTube Channel or the DVD for copyright reasons but, if you have both time and facilities, this YouTube clip uses a mix of contemporary and traditional images to accompany the words of Will you come and follow me? by John Bell:
Place a candle in the centre of the room, and light it. Invite people to place around the candle any newspaper cuttings that they have brought with them, introducing the topic if it is not obvious.
(If you are unable to use a candle in your venue, please choose another suitable focus for prayer instead.)
Lead a time of open prayer on the themes that can be seen before you. Invite people to pray for other people’s themes, with the leader making sure no topics is missed out.
Each bidding could end with:
- God who challenges but doesn’t leave us alone
- Answer our prayer and help us to meet the challenge
Continue in prayer using the topics in the ‘Prayer Box’.
Again, those who are confident in praying out loud should be encouraged to take a piece of paper and pray appropriately.
The leader should make sure that all requests are prayed for.
How can we support those in our community or workplace, and those in this group, as they face up to both personal and collective challenges?
How do we find support in our own challenges?
There is an old Amerindian saying that goes: “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Think of ways that you can get in to someone else’s skin and so learn how to support them, or even just walk with them, in their challenges.
One big challenge for a lot of people nowadays seems to be ‘time’ – how do we fit everything in?
Between now and the next session, note how many times you say (to yourself and others) “I’m busy”. Also note whether this is a positive or negative statement at the time it’s voiced (and whether the hearers perceive it the same way as the speaker).
We focus this week on our hands. Before the session the leader should gather together various pictures of hands. There will be plenty of these available on the internet which are able to be downloaded & printed for once only use.
These should be laid out for people to see – or preferably for everyone to have one to hold and look at individually. Everyone is invited to sit quietly, looking at their own hands and at the picture(s) they can see, and comparing them. Are they similar, or is one pair softer, rougher, a different colour, smaller, damaged? Why the differences?
Can you tell anything about the person from looking at the hands?
In a short time of silence, think about your own hands, and the uses they will be put to in the coming week. Ask God to help you to use your hands creatively to meet the challenges that come before you.
After a suitable time of quietness, say the closing theme prayer together:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands on earth but yours,
No feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he goes about to do good,
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands,
Yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes,
You are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
As we prepare to leave
And embrace the challenges
Of our lives and our world,
Let us ask for God’s blessing.
May God bless us with strength
To seek justice. Amen.
May God bless us with wisdom
To care for the earth. Amen.
May God bless us with love
To bring forth new life. Amen.
In the name of God, the maker of the whole world,
Of Jesus our new covenant,
And of the Holy Spirit, who opens eyes and hearts. Amen.
Go in peace and be witnesses to hope.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
[Used with permission. From Building a New World, Share Lent Project 1991 (Canadian Catholic organisation for development and peace) and published in “Bread of Tomorrow – praying with the world’s poor” Janet Morley (Ed) Copyright 1992, by SPCK Publishing/Christian Aid]