Opening Question: When you feel low, what brings your spirits back up? How can you help bring the spirits of others back up?
First Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Standing alone at recess, Johnny felt down that day. He had a lot on his mind: the way he treated his mother that morning, the way he kicked the dog on the way to school, the rude way he treated his teacher. One thing after another happened and he blamed himself for everything.
Brandon, Johnny’s friend, saw him standing by himself. “Johnny, what’s wrong?” Brandon asked. But Johnny didn’t answer. Brandon didn’t give up, however. Finally, Brandon said, “Why don’t you join us at tag football?”
At first, Johnny turned away, then he thought to himself, “Why not?” Johnny walked toward Brandon and motioned over to the teams that were forming.
Within ten minutes, Johnny had forgotten about his problems; he was to involved in the game. Running, blocking, and catching passes, Johnny just enjoyed playing with his friends. When the recess bell rang, Johnny tapped Brandon on the shoulder. “Thanks for asking me to play,” Johnny said, “that was fun!”
Like Johnny, the people of Jerusalem cried when they heard God’s law. Why? Because their grandfathers and grandmothers were taken away by invaders; their city was burnt to the ground. But they returned. They tears were for their ancestors’ sins and the city they were rebuilding.
But, like Brandon, Ezra told the people to party, because they were home and the city would be great again. That’s the way God wants it.
Bridging Question: Many students have to give oral reports in class. Have you ever given an oral report? Did you like it? Why or why not?
Gospel: Luke 4:14-21
Jesus was baptized by John and was tempted in the desert. Afterwards, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of God’s Spirit. People everywhere talked about him. He taught in the synagogues of Galilee. And, everyone who heard Jesus praised him.
Jesus went to Nazareth where he grew up. Just like he did every Sabbath, he entered the synagogue in Nazareth and stood up to read the Scripture. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord in on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach God’s Good News to everyone in need.
The Lord sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives
and returning sight to the blind,
to free the oppressed
and proclaim a year when the Lord will bless his people.
After he read from the scroll, Jesus rolled up it and gave it back to the synagogue helper. Then Jesus sat down to teach. Everyone fixed their eyes on him. Finally, he said:
Today, this Scripture reading came true as you heard it!
Like everyone in class, Sally was in shock. Everyone in her class had to recite a poem from memory and then tell why it was their favorite.
The first part of the assignment was easy. Sally had a favorite poem and she almost had it memorized. But the second part of the assignment was different; why did she like the poem? Finally, she put pen to paper and wrote a short paragraph. She put the pen done and looked at her writing; that short paragraph seemed to say it all.
The next day, the students in the class stood up, recited their poems, and explained why they liked the poems. And did some of the students go on and on about their poem. Then, it was Sally’s turn. She recited her short poem, and then she read her short paragraph. When she finished, their was silence. No one could believe she finished so soon.
But Sally’s teacher just smiled. “Well done, Sally!” the teacher exclaimed. “Sometimes you can be short, if you speak plainly and get to the point. You did that, Sally,” the teacher continued, “and I can see you thought a long time on the assignment.” Sally smiled and nodded her head “yes.”
Like Sally, Jesus gave a short, direct answer to the Scripture he read. When Jesus said that the Scripture was coming true, he meant that he was the one who God filled with the Spirit, he was the one to tell the poor people the Good News, he was the one heal others and free them from their sins, he was the one to announce a time of God’s blessing. Jesus was God’s messenger, his Son. What Jesus said was short, and the people got his message. Next week, we will find out if they liked what they heard or not.
Closing Question: How can you speak plainly to others? How can you help others forget about past hurts?