The guide material for the lessons that I lead on Sundays for our Sr. High youth group, especially in this recent series on healthy friendships, has been great. I'm going to have to condense and/or skip a lesson or 3 over the next couple of months in order to make my way through all 7 checkpoints before the end of the school year, and I'm bummed - because lately they all seem so rich. We've been studying the model of healthy friendships as laid out in the picture of the Lord's table:
Coming to the altar - the physical representation of repentance and honesty with others - being reconciled to them in a spirit of humility (the beginning of healthy friendship)
Passing the peace - whether the passing of the actual elements to your neighbor at the table, or the welcoming of the fellow congregant (eg. "peace be with you") - blessing your neighbors with hospitality and love
The cup and the bread - the representation of the hope of God that we can bring to our friends because of Christ's death and resurrection (encouraging one another in hope)
Going forth - Understanding the Lord's Prayer as the picture of the new life that we help each other move towards (dreaming together)
That's a brief compendium on all that we're studying under the general topic of becoming friends of influence.
Which is what the Max Q book we've been reading is all about - developing students of influence. There's just one problem with the way I've read this book - its so well written, biblically based, and full of application for real life, that I've found myself reading it more with a mind-set of what I can learn from it than of what I want glean and then communicate to our students. So I guess I'll need to read it again, from a different point of view.
The series my pastor is currently doing on Hebrews is proving to be a wonderful lead-up to Easter, although I have to admit I haven't really jived with the season as I would have liked to - thanks to various factors that I'll blame instead of actually taking personal responsibility. This past Sunday was particularly encouraging.
We've been looking at Hebrews in its context of a letter written to a struggling urban people, a piece, basically, of intense pastoral counseling to a fledgling church. This Sunday was an excerpt from chapter 7, focusing on Christ as our interceding Advocate - demanding the justice of His payment for our sin before a just God. To the degree that we understand Christ's complete advocacy for our justice, it:
a) gives us a whole new identity
b) completely abolishes our guilt
c) erodes our depth of discouragement/disappointment
d) suffuses our lives with playfulness
e) provides a foundation for tremendous courage
"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."
And Sunday night was another great Open Forum, this time some excerpts from La Bohème. The opera, as I understand it, is Puccini's loose critique of the Bohemian movement, as written about in Scenes de la Vie de Boheme. The talk and Q&A following the performance was directed at defining the Bohemian movement / response to the rise of the bourgeoisie in the Industrial age, addressing Puccini's take on it, and ascertaining what we can learn about life from his less-than-obvious style. As usual, the gospel message was tied on at the end, rather like the string you would expect on a brown paper package (assuming its one of your favorite things).
Tonight was the monthly ministry leaders' meeting at church, called MCM. The topic of late there has been Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, tonight an encouraging message on renouncing the rights of a leader in the interest of promoting the gospel to as many as possible (eg. Paul's resignations in 1 Cor. 9). And I learned something interesting as I listened to one of my fellow leaders as she prayed this evening, which I hope to write about soon. Among other things.
Add in a few quality conversations with a few wise friends, some of my other current reads, a few doses of NPR, a couple movies, and a great farewell-party for my friend Rick, and you have my weekend. Rick's a good man, and returns to serve our country with a good deal of prayer following him.
I put my HTML studies on hold because I've reached the point at which I think I need to begin writing/designing before studying anymore, so as work winds down this week, I hope to find time to begin the writing/designing, and then begin studying again. More about work itself as the week progresses, I suppose. I'll have an interesting recap of the last couple months at some point. Or not.