Here’s my adapted version of session 6 from the Winchester Lent course on Living the Mission of Jesus (Matthew 21:1-11) for 11-18 year olds:
We commit to living the mission of Jesus, working with him to reveal the kingdom.
Set up a treasure hunt for your group, but don’t tell them what the goal is. Make it as random and complicated as you like, inside and outside if it suits your group (remembering that you will need parental consent if you go off site). Have a copy of today’s reading (Matthew 21:1-11) at the end, either printed out on a sheet or marked in a Bible. You could also have some kind of treat: chocolates, cakes or something similar for your group to share.
Who drives what?
Car-mad boys should enjoy watching this clip of celebs and their cars (one of the celebs is Lady Gaga dancing in her underwear, just to warn you!).
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Spend some time chatting about why the celebs choose to drive these kinds of cars and what cars your group would like to own one day if money were no object. You’ll later reflect on why Jesus chose to ride a humble donkey into Jerusalem.
Creative Worship Ideas
With your group make palm crosses. They’re very simple and you can find video instructions here (the sound isn’t great):
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Or a pdf from the Diocese of Birmingham: www.birmingham.anglican.org/upload/pdf/HowTo_PalmCross.pdf
As you make your crosses (use paper if you can’t hold of palm fronds) reflect together on the difference between the celebration of Palm Sunday and the tragedy of Good Friday.
Cloaked in praise
Lay a large piece of material on the floor, reminiscent of the cloaks that people laid on the ground in front of Jesus’ donkey. Using fabric pens or permanent markers, decorate it with praises from the passage:
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’
You may want to help your group think of contemporary phrases to replace these biblical texts. You may need to explain that ‘Hosanna’ means all sorts of things depending on where you look: in some places people say it is a word that expresses adoration, praise or joy; some say it means ‘Save us’ and in other translations it’s simply read as ‘Hooray!’
Bible Study Ideas/Questions
You will still need to read the words from the Bible passage, but this clip would be good for setting the scene:
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What on earth was Jesus doing?
Illustration: Long Walk to Freedom is the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, who died at the end of 2013. It tells the story of how he gave his life to opposing racial oppression, and re-imagined a future where black and white could not just live in harmony, but play their part in changing the attitudes of the world towards this issue. From his leadership of the ANC, through his incarceration on Robben Island and his release on 11 February 1990, this account shows us how Nelson Mandela left a lasting legacy to our world. It wasn’t easy or straight forward – it was a long walk to freedom.
As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he too is at the end of a long walk to freedom. Over three years he has taught, healed, loved, laughed, served and lived alongside the people of his time. But now his ‘long walk’ brings him to the last steps. Jesus enters Jerusalem, intentionally facing up to the cost of the eternal freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It doesn’t happen by chance: he knows what they are expecting and manages their expectations, and he knows what the Father has called him to do.
As God’s people today, what can we learn from this about living for Christ in this time and in this place as under God we seek to shape the future?
Jesus found his place in God’s story
Jesus lived out his calling among the people of his time.
Illustration: On Oscars’ night, stars of stage and screen are scrutinised, welcomed and photographed as they come to the awards dinner. Millions watch as they are feted and celebrated for their achievements and lives, both on and off the screen. And new fashions are born, as what they wear and do is copied in the public domain. In a first-century way, Jesus enters Jerusalem, with everything arranged, right down to the last detail. Instead of the limo we have the donkey colt, reminding everyone that, though he is a king, he is coming in peace. And rather than a red carpet, people put their (one and only) cloak on the dusty roadway to provide a royal welcome. And instead of cameras, we have people cutting down branches from the nearby trees, and cheering him along the way.
Jesus Christ became one of us, living among us, sharing our world for three short years. As the reading from Philippians reminds us, he was a celebrity even before he came to earth, and had to set aside his heavenly authority to become a human being. But he knew that what he had come to do could be done only from the inside out, by becoming fully human himself, by getting involved in what the Father was doing. And those round him recognised the symbolism of a king in their midst. No, he didn’t come parading slaves from the lands he had conquered. Instead he challenged their expectation of a glorious victory by harking back to Zechariah’s prophecy of a king riding a colt (Zechariah 9:9) and bringing judgement on the enemies of God’s people.
One of the real challenges for God’s people in the church today is how we find our place in God’s story. We can feel that the golden age of church-going is past. Christianity is now just one of a number of religions, and is often not even given the same credence given to others. How can we live the mission of Jesus today?
And the answer surely begins by getting involved in the issues of our day – we need to find our place in God’s story. No one will listen to us if we stand on the sidelines and yell, like armchair sports fans who want the best for their team. Our credibility comes from getting our hands dirty as we engage with the issues of our day, and do the Father’s work from the inside out. We all need to play our part as prophetic global citizens, living among people and
yet dancing to a different rhythm, the rhythm of the Spirit. Jesus himself said to his disciples: you are salt for a rotting and tasteless world; you are light for a world without streetlights that has been overtaken by darkness. You need to be out there among the structures and people of this world, working to see the kingdom come, preparing for the King to return. That’s what being prophetic global citizens is all about.
Jesus played his part to change God’s world
Jesus focused on his part in the great rescue plan of God.
I wonder how Jesus felt as the victory parade wound its way through the streets of Jerusalem? Perhaps he was re-imagining the temptations he faced at the start of his ministry, to do things his way rather than God’s. But here he showed he was focused on what he had come to do.
As he went by, the whole city began talking about him: he must be a great prophet. It was a real affirmation to be mentioned in the same sentence as Moses and Elijah; the great prophets of old. But the people could not see what he was doing. They could not hear what he wanted to say to them.
Matthew helpfully puts two different encounters before this happens in his Gospel account. First we have Jesus confronted by James and John, who want the best seats at the messianic banquet. ‘They’re not mine to give,’ says Jesus. And then Jesus’ encounter with the two blind men: ‘Have mercy on us, Lord, son of David,’ they cry out to him. Those who could physically see could not see Jesus for who he really was. Those who were physically blind had him taped! ‘What do you want from me?’ he asks the blind men. Their reply: ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’ And he gave them their sight and they followed him.
How can we see what God is calling us to do and to be? We need to be fully present to God, available to him. How do we do that? By focusing on our own walk with God – that’s what passionate personal spirituality is all about. What if we get things wrong? The bigger danger is not to try new things – we need pioneering faith communities to explore what God might be calling us to do and to be. And we need to take time to wrestle together with how we’re doing, through vision days, through retreats and quiet days, through robust PCC discussions. God expects us to use our minds to engage with the issues that surround us, and to listen to his still small voice.
Jesus had come to Jerusalem, the royal city, to finish the work he had been given – to die on the cross and to defeat evil once and for all. And nothing was going to dissuade him from that.
So what on earth do you think you’re doing?
Don’t make history – change the future. This is the provocative title of a book by Matt Summerfield, who works with young people and is passionate for them to live up to their calling. As he says in his book, ‘every single one of us will make history. The big question is what kind of history are we going to make?’ What legacy will we leave behind for the coming generations? What on earth are we doing with our lives?
And the key here is to keep on keeping on, to keep the main thing the main thing. We need to know what we are called to do and to be, and to continue to do and be that. There are some great challenges ahead, but God is with us in our long walk to freedom, just as he was with Adam and Eve in the garden, walking with them in the cool of the day. Just as Jesus was with the two disciples as they walked away from Jerusalem, disappointed after having seen him die. Just as the Holy Spirit walks alongside us now as another comforter. God is with us, and alongside us – and one day this world will be renewed, ready for the rule of King Jesus. What is our part in that?
Bible Study Ideas/Questions
This shorter passage is ideal for the Lectio Divina method described in Session 1. You could think about the emotions of the different people in the story as you read it through the three times: the disciples on the first read through, the crowd on the second read through and Jesus on the third read through. Reflect on the fact that only Jesus really knew what was coming next – nobody else would really have understood that he was riding to his death rather than to glory.
- What might God be saying to us through these words?
- What do we learn from the passage about what it means to be a follower of Jesus?
- How is the kingdom of God revealed as Jesus enters the city?
As the last in the Lent course, this session is all about the rest of the week. It’s a time to review what you have discovered together over the previous six weeks and to explore how you think you will be changed as a group as you move forward. The hope is that, as we re-examine the strategic priorities together, we’ll be in a good place to plan what we can do together in the act of joining God’s mission.
Have the four shortened versions of the strategic priorities printed out on pieces of paper and stuck in the middle of flipchart paper or similar large sheets. As a reminder these are:
- We grow authentic disciples
- We re-imagine church
- We are agents of social transformation
- We belong together in Christ
Allow the group some time to have a look at all the statements and to consider what they mean. Give each member of the group a glow stick, a pebble, a few post-it notes and a pen.
Encourage them to:
- Put the glow stick on the statement with which they resonate the most
- Put the pebble on the statement they find most difficult
- Use the post-it notes to scribble thoughts and questions on any of the statements that bring up thoughts or questions
What if…? This is an exercise in dreaming. If at all possible, encourage your group to lie flat on their backs either with their eyes closed or looking up at the ceiling (if you can do this outside it would be even better – real blue-sky thinking!).
You may want to choose some chilled music to help them relax, or just silence if you prefer. Ask them to relax and be calm and to let the thoughts and considerations from the rest of the session wash over them.
Ask them to picture themselves as if they were looking in a mirror, and then to imagine that a clock ticking on the wall gets faster and faster, whizzing them into the future. As they look at themselves, bearing in mind what they’ve spent the last six weeks learning, how would they like to be in five years’ time? What difference might the Lent course have made to them? How will the kingdom of God be revealed through their actions?
Now ask them to picture their church, maybe a service on a Sunday morning with people in the congregation, or gathering at a social event, with all ages present. Again invite them to imagine the clock slowly picking up speed until it has whizzed them five years into the future. How does their congregation look now? Who is doing what in the services and in the gatherings? How has the community been changed by what the church has been doing?
Once a little time has passed, invite your group to sit up and talk about some of their hopes and dreams.
Is there one dream that your group gets really excited about? Act on it, turn it into reality!