- James 2:1-9
- Mark 7:24-37
Sometimes it is refreshing to do things a little differently. This session combines the talk and prayer stations into one large activity. It needs a little more preparation to get it right but it can be really effective.
There should be three spaces around the room (if you have extra rooms nearby three separate rooms would be ideal). At each there will be a short story based on a bible passage and then an activity linked to the story.
The congregation needs to be split into three and you’ll need to pick three people to lead the stations, ideally people with a flair for the dramatic to give the stories that extra edge!
The session combines three readings from two passages that work really well together: The warning from James about how the church should not treat the rich and the poor differently at their services and two stories about Jesus dealing with people who would not, at Jesus’ time in history, have been accepted because of either disability or their ethnic background. The aim is to challenge us to think about the way we welcome people and whether we are as inclusive as God wants us to be.
Explain that today the congregation will get the chance to meet three characters, each with a story to tell. They will spend ten minutes with each person. The ten minutes will include time to listen to their story and take part in an activity. Make sure you clearly explain the groups that people are going in and what order each group moves around the stations.
Offer a brief introduction to the three characters (don’t give too much away!!) and then send the groups on their way. The three stations are outlined on the next few pages.
After the groups are finished bring everyone back together and spend some time asking what people have done and learnt. This is a great way to reinforce what has been learnt at the stations.
This character is a fictional one based on the passage from James 2:1-9
Script: (to be read dramatically be the person leading the station) Are you all sitting comfortably? Good then I’ll begin.
It’s important for me to know you are sitting comfortably because you see that’s got quite a lot to do with what I want to tell you about.
No one was ever bothered if I was sitting comfortably. Because you see I’m a slave and, well slaves being comfortable just isn’t something anyone ever thinks about where I come from. Where I am from most people who are well off have a slave, or two or twenty. We look after then and wait on them and make sure they have all they need and want as much as we possibly can. After all they are important people. Rich, powerful, influential people. In the case of my master, the most important and respected man around here.
And us slaves, well the Roman law says we are not human beings. We’re valuable like a car or a dishwasher might be valuable for you because we are useful like they are but that’s as far as it goes. If we disobey our master they can beat us or even get rid of us, kick us out or sometimes kill us. That’s totally up to them so you can see why we work hard to make sure we please them! Anyway my master wasn’t all that bad so I was grateful for that.
He began hearing about a group of people who followed The Way meeting in one of the bigger houses in our town. I think you call them Christians. He heard amazing stories about them. Like no other club or society or religious group he’d ever heard of. He heard that they learned about the life and words of Jesus who had lived about two hundred years ago. And they passed on his teaching. But more than that they said that he was still alive even though he had been executed and they said he was with them by his spirit and they said that changed everything and everyone.
Well one week my master decided to go along and find out for himself. And he came back a bit confused. He said he was very cross with them. He said they had insulted him. You see when he walks into a place he is used to people stopping what they are doing and standing and bowing to him and welcoming him and giving up the best seat for him and making sure he’s comfortable before carrying on.
But he said they didn’t do any of that! They just carried on with singing their hymns and praying their prayers. He said they were friendly and respectful but only as though he was anyone else. “What an insult!” he said.
Anyway he said that he wants to know more but he’s not willing to go through that again, so he told me to go the next time instead and report back to him.
Well you’ll never believe what happened. I walked in… me a lowly slave, penniless and of no significance. The bishop was there speaking at the front. And he stopped the meeting as I walked in and greeted me like a VIP. Then he got down on his knees and washed my feet! It would have been lovely after the hot dusty walk if I hadn’t been in shock! And then the richest most important member of the congregation got of his chair and asked me to sit there and he sat on the dirty floor!
I thought they had all gone totally bonkers! Treating me like I was someone important!
When I asked them afterward they said that’s what they always do. In fact they said it’s in a writing they have called the didascalia apostolorum which is I suppose a sort of list of instructions on how they are supposed to run their church. They said it tells the leaders and bishops never to interrupt a service for a wealthy or high ranking person but if a poor or lowly person comes in they must do whatever it takes to make them comfortable.
They said it reminds them that we are of equal value. That we are made in God’s image. They said it’s a simply way of them carrying out the words of Jesus and his followers.
- Read or print the following instructions:
- Paper – ideally with “The Big Issue” Logo printed on the top. If not blank will do!
- Colouring pencils/felt tips etc
It’s easy to think that because slavery does not seem to be a big issue in our country these days that stories like this one don’t really matter to us.
In reality though there are lots of people that we meet who feel like nobody will accepts them. One example could be homeless people who sometimes feel that no one sees them even though they live on busy streets in big cities.
Many of us will have seen homeless people in the towns or cities where we live. Often you’ll see them selling The Big Issue. How many of you have ever bought a Big Issue? It usually has a headline story with some pictures, something to grab people’s attention and inform them about a particular story.
Design the front page of a big issue magazine highlighting some people who you thing might feel like the rest of the world doesn’t love or accept them.
Ask God to forgive you for the times that you have made people feel unwanted or unloved and pray that you will learn to love and treat other people the way God wants you to.
The Syrophoenician Woman:
This character is based on the Syrophoenician woman described in Mark 7. Script: (to be read dramatically be the person leading the station)
I heard that an amazing Jewish Rabbi was staying the night in our town. Apparently he was a filled with the power of God. He spoke the words of God and he healed people and worked miracles.
And for a few minutes I got really excited. You see my daughter was terribly unwell and suffering every day. Maybe this visiting prophet rabbi could do something for her. But then I came back to reality – he was Jewish. And I very definitely am not, I’m Greek. The Jews follow all the commandments their God has given them which means they see themselves as clean. The “children” they call themselves. The children of God.
And in their eyes we are anything but clean. In fact they even call us “dogs”. There’s no way a holy man would come near me, never mind helping my daughter.
So I was about to give up.
And then I thought “No!. I’m desperate. My little girl is desperate. What’s the worst he can do? Ignore us? Insult us? Throw us out? None of those are anything compared to watching my child suffer for the rest of her life. If there’s any chance at all we have to try.”
So I left my girl at home and I went to the house where he was staying. I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth, ready for the looks and the comments and walked right in.
His disciples were there. They looked up shocked and obviously not impressed that I, one of the “dogs” would interrupt them.
But he didn’t. He just looked at me like any other human being and waited for me to say something.
Well I was totally overcome. I collapsed at his feet and begged him again and again to cure my little girl.
When my sobbing eased up he spoke.
“Join the queue” he said, “wait till it’s your turn”, “the children get fed first and the dogs then get any leftovers.”
Just as I expected. He’s rejecting us. Oh well it was worth a try.
But then I noticed his tone of voice. And I looked up and saw his expression and the look in his eyes.
“Hold on a minute… he’s testing me… wanting to see if I really do trust him, if I really am desperate for his help or if I’m going to let the labels hold me back.”
Somehow I just knew that he could heal her and wanted to. Well I’m nothing if not stubborn when it comes to my little girl. Ferociously stubborn.
Ok then I thought here’s my answer from the depths of my heart, “Of course, Master” I said, “ But don’t dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children?”
He smiled a huge smile. In fact he was impressed by my answer. I could tell.
“You’re right!” he said grinning although I think there was also a tear in his eye, “On your way!” Your daughter is better”
I went home and there she was sleeping peacefully, cured for good.
- Banqueting roll (or flipchart paper) enough to cover a large table.
- Coloured pens/felt tips
- Printed materials
Cover a large table (enough to fit a third of your congregation round, two tables if you have lots of people) completely with paper. Use a marker to split the paper into four. Give the four sections the following titles:
- Pray for yourself
- Pray for others
- Pray for our local community
- Pray for our world.
Print out three or four copies of the following text and stick them around the paper on the table:
The woman in our story had an urgent need, her daughter was sick and she was desperate for help. She also knew that Jesus could help her and that she wouldn’t rest until he had.
Who do you know that really needs prayer today? Jesus still wants us to bring our needs to him just as the lady in the story did. Write a prayer for them on the paper. If you don’t want to write a prayer you could simply write a name or draw a face.
Is there anything else locally or further away that you would like to pray for? Write or draw your prayers on the sheet alongside the prayers that others have brought!
Explain to the group that despite her fears the woman brought her need to Jesus, knowing that he would be able to help her. And despite the fact that relations between the Jewish people and the others living around them weren’t great on either side Jesus was willing and able to meet the woman’s needs. We too are invited to bring our needs to Jesus regardless of whether we feel we would be accepted by him.
Invite them to write their own prayers on the paper and maybe write an “amen!” next to some of the prayers that others have written. It can be helpful to have a few members of your team write a couple of short, simple prayers in advance so that people get the idea!
The Deaf and Mute Man:
This character is based on the deaf and mute man in Mark 7
The Script: (to be read dramatically be the person leading the station)fa I live in the area called Ten Towns.
And let me tell you, it’s a wonderful, exciting noisy place to live. Well… noisy to me. Beautifully noisy. There’s sound of the wind, the rain, the animals and people chatting, singing, laughing.
Sorry… I’m whittering on. I’m a bit of a chatterbox you see, but you need to know that I love the noises and I love chattering because for so many years I never heard or said a sound.
So now every sound I hear is a delicious treat and every word I say is one more of all those zillions of words I get to say and sing and whisper and shout. Yippee!… OK I must calm down and tell you the story.
Well it’s dead simple really. I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t hear. And where I live people were often sorry for me and some were kind to me. Most people though just saw what was wrong with me. And lots of them were sure it was because I had done something really bad. Or maybe my parents had.
Whatever it was I wasn’t one of the “in crowd”. To most people I wasn’t a valuable or clever or important person. Just someone to feel sorry for.
Then the amazing day happened when some of them, the kind ones took me to the visiting Rabbi. That’s our word for teacher by the way. “Rabbi”, what a cool word eh, doesn’t it feel lovely on your lips as you say it, “Rabbi, Rabbi, Ra__ Bi” just like all those other fun words, “moonlight, giggle, chomp, fluffy”… oh dear there I go again, sorry it’s just so exciting to hear words and say them.
Anyway… some of my friends, the kind ones said they were going to take me to Jesus and ask him to heal me. I’ll be honest I wasn’t expecting much. But they were really keen. In fact I was touched that they cared for me so much.
So they took me. And when they had asked Jesus, he led me off away from them.
Now get this first he put his fingers in my ears. And then he put some of his own spit on my tongue!
“Spit”, that’s a nice short sharp word, spit. And “tongue” what a lovely one that is… oops
Anyway, he prayed groaning with love for me from the depths of his gut and then he said with amazing authority “Open Up!”
And it happened! I could hear. And I could speak. Just like that! But then that’s pretty obvious to you isn’t it – I don’t need to tell you that.
- Playdough or Clay
- Paper to display the finished product and/or to write on
- Pens or pencils
We often take for granted some things that are actually really difficult to live without. The man in the story we heard earlier could not speak or hear at all. That must have been really difficult for him, especially living at a time when his disability meant that he wasn’t ever really accepted by those around him.
Spend a couple of minutes making a mouth from the play-dough. If you can, talk to the people around you whilst you are making the mouth and share with them some things that you are thankful to God for. If you don’t feel able to talk to people you could always write a prayer of thanks on the sheet on the table.
Sometimes we get so good at talking that we simply forget to spend much time really using our ears!! Make an ear out of the play-dough and try to do it without speaking. As you are doing this ask God to speak to you and make you willing and able to listen to him.