Being a Light in the Dark

In this lesson, youth will be encouraged to look beyond themselves to the need in the world and Jesus' call to love your neighbor.

Duration: 60 minutes

Enhancer of Joy

Service to the World

Duration

60 minutes

Lesson Developed by

Christian Gonzalez

Goal

Following Christ by Looking Into the Dark

Tips to Prepare

This session largely revolves around knowing what is going on in various parts of the world. You may need to spend some time on Google, researching different statistics around the world. Some possible things to look up are: the rate of homelessness in Los Angeles, the amount of abortion in China, the AIDS epidemic in Ethiopia, the rate of substance addiction in Russia. You will be reading such stories to give youth a glimpse into the realities of darkness in the world.

Wherever you set up the map of the world, you will put it on the floor and surround it with many tea lights. Place tea lights all throughout the space as well. This will be labor intensive, so you will want to be sure that you have some helpers available for this session.

Materials Checklist

  • A poster board or white board
  • 100-200 tea lights
  • Lighter
  • Large map of the world
  • Journals
  • Pens

Setting the Atmosphere

You will need two separate spaces for this session. One session can be relatively well lit, but the overall feel of this session is somber. The second space (if possible, use the actual space of your church’s sanctuary) should be totally in darkness, lit only by the tealights.

Scripture Focus

Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Purpose

The session aims to open the eyes and hearts of young people to the suffering of the world. This session is designed to encourage youth to look beyond their own comfort and to care for the suffering world.

Objectives

Youth will learn that the Christian life is founded on the hope of the coming Kingdom of God, not in living the so-called “good life” now. Youth will see that visions of “the good life” are often founded on the fear of death while this hope of the Kingdom can embolden youth to look beyond themselves and to serve the world in anticipation of God’s Kingdom.

Further Study

World map: https://www.amazon.com/Komar-1-617-8-Foot-4-Inch-6-Feet/dp/B0073GMBRO/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&ref=yo_pop_mb_pd

Tea lights: https://www.amazon.com/Tea-Light-Candles-Centerpiece-Decorative/dp/B06XGRZR96/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1513975853&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=tea+lights&psc=1

An example list of statistics to Google:

  • Statistics surrounding human trafficking
  • Unwanted children in China
  • The conflict in Syria
  • Statistics surrounding homelessness in America, particularly in Los Angeles and Skid Row
  • Rates of domestic violence and intimate partner violence
  • Substance abuse rate in Russia
  • The AIDS epidemic in Ethiopia
  • The fallout of the November 2015 Paris Attacks

Gather

Opening Prayer:

As youth gather in the first space, encourage them to gather quietly in a circle. Tell the youth that you will once again be praying the Jesus Prayer as a group, but the first moments of prayer will simply be silent. Instead of praying for one person in particular, as you did with the intercessory prayer session, you will be praying for the world. After a couple of minutes, you will begin the Jesus Prayer, but this time praying: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on our world. Each of the youth will also pray the Jesus Prayer for the world. Once you have gone around the circle 3 times, you may bring the prayer to a close.

Greeting One Another:

Go around the circle and say the best and worst parts of their week. If the youth are not familiar with one another, use this time to repeat names and/or ages.

Introduction of Session:

Most of us carry around particular visions of what it would mean for us to have a “good life.” But just because we want something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is something the lines up with a vision of God’s Kingdom. The world tells us to put ourselves first, to make sure that we are successful at school so that we can be successful at work so that we can make enough money to send our kids to school so they can be successful at work so they can make enough money to send their kids to school, and on, and on, and on. But maybe we need to ask questions about this particular vision of life, and to do so, maybe we really need to explore these visions a little more thoroughly.

Engage

Activity 1: Kingdom Exercise:

  • For this activity, you will need the giant poster board or white board. Draw two lines to separate the board into three columns. At the top of the middle column, write “THE WORLD.”
  • Now ask the youth for things that exist in this world. You can spur their answer by offering examples like “death,” “poverty,” “sickness,” but you can also lead them toward answers like “friendship,” “love,” and “family.” However it works out, you should end up with a lot of disparity in the kinds of answers, ranging anywhere from “happiness” and “beauty” to “divorce” and “suffering,” and “loneliness.”
  • Once you have filled out “THE WORLD” column with no less than 15-20 words, on the left most column, write “THE GOOD LIFE.”
  • Now invite youth to consider their first list and in the light of this to start describing what it would look like to have a “good life” in this world. Encourage young people toward answers like “money,” “good job,” “health insurance,” and “friends.” Lead the kids to offer answers that tend to be protection against the more negative words in “THE WORLD” column.
  • Once you have established a list of no less than 15-20 words, briefly discuss with the youth what makes this our vision of the “good life.” It is important to help youth connect the “THE GOOD LIFE” with the fear of what could happen to us in “THE WORLD” list. For example, because we are afraid of getting sick, we have the idea that health insurance is protection against those things. It is okay to let the youth stumble around to find an answer to this, but if they are having trouble drawing clear connections, it is useful to help them make connections.
  • Then invite youth to consider whether the things in “THE GOOD LIFE” list are able to protect them against sickness, loneliness, and death ultimately. The answer, of course, is no. We hope that they will protect us, but they simply cannot do so forever. At some point we get sick. At some point we will all feel lonely, even if we have lots of friends. Eventually we all die.
  • Then emphasize that not everyone has the capacity to attain to the kind of list in “THE GOOD LIFE.” Reality is that there is great disparity in the world still, and this disparity is still not a vision of God’s Kingdom.
  • At this point, write the words “THE KINGDOM OF GOD” on the right column. Read Revelation 21:1-5 to the youth, and invite the youth to begin constructing a list of characteristics of the Kingdom of God. Such things could be about what is there or what is not there: “There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
  • Continue to establish a strong vision for the characteristics of the Kingdom.
  • Once you have your list, invite youth to consider that fear of the things in “THE WORLD” drives us toward “THE GOOD LIFE” list so that we never have to deal with those frightening things. But the reality is that we cannot ignore the things in this world, as much as fear would have us do so. It is only when we have hope in “THE KINGDOM OF GOD” that we are able to fully look at the things in “THE WORLD” and to know that they aren’t forever, and that we are called to continually lean toward the reality of “THE KINGDOM OF GOD” now. In the Kingdom, there is no hunger, and so our lives become about leaning toward that reality in this world, feeding those who are hungry. In the Kingdom there is no loneliness, only communion with God and others, and so, in this world, we welcome the stranger. It is about leaning into hope, but it can only be hope if we look at the world for what it is.

Activity 2: World Prayer Map:

  • Lead the youth in silence into the dark sanctuary (or other room where you have earlier set up the tealights and the world map (itself also surrounded by tea lights)).
  • Make sure you have printed out the list of the statistics and stories from around the world.
  • Invite the youth to sit on the floor around the map. Point out that this is our world, the world that God so loved that God gave God’s only Son for it. It lies in darkness, waiting for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed.
  • Tell the youth that you will be reading various statistics and stories about places around the world, after which you will ask someone to pray for that place and that situation.
  • Tell them that after someone prays for that particular place and situation, they will take one of the tea lights and place it on that location on the map (i.e., if someone prays for the unwanted children in China, they will place a tea light on China).
  • Read at least 5 or 6 different scenarios and then invite people to begin praying for the world as they feel led. Perhaps they know someone who has been deeply affected by an abusive home or an alcoholic parent; they may feel led to pray for all those in frightening home situations and for those who are held in captivity to addiction.
  • Once you feel that the youth have sufficiently prayed as they felt led, close with this prayer:

O, Lord, your world lies in eager anticipation of your coming Kingdom. Your world is beset by war, by famine, by addiction. Your world is a place where parents abandon their children, where children are sold into slavery. How long, O Lord, must this continue? We ask you to bring your Kingdom, we ask you to embolden us to be your servants in the world, to enter the places of darkness and to fill them with the light and the life of your Kingdom. Lord, the world is deeply broken and deeply wounded. It is also deeply beautiful and wonderful, and we glorify you for all the majesty around us. We ask that you give us eyes to see your Kingdom, to long for it, to anticipate it and to lean into its coming reality. We thank you, Lord, that you ascended the Cross, that you made death and human frailty the very location of your Divine Life. We ask that you give us courage to live lives of service to this world, as you yourself did, this world which you have created and this world which you love. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, we pray you. Have mercy, and come quickly and save this ailing world and have mercy on our souls.

After this prayer, you may close the time by singing a solemn hymn a capella.

Reflect

Sum-It-Up:

We are tempted to believe that our lives are for us. They simply are not. They are for the world, just as Christ came and gave His life for the sake of the world that God so loved. So, too, are we called into the world to serve it and to love it. Prayer is the foundation of that service, but it is not the end of it. Whatever moved you tonight, consider that this might be the Holy Spirit calling you out from a life of fear and emboldening you to look into the world and begin to share the light of Christ in the midst of darkness.

Send Forth

Closing Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, you who are the Light of the world. Illumine our hearts, O Master, with the pure light of your love. Help us to be brave in this world that lies in darkness. Help us to go forth from here to love the world as you yourself do. Give us the courage to hope in your coming Kingdom, even though everything around us might be trying to convince us that this world is all that there is. Help us to lean into your future, to lean into you, to trust that you are stronger than the darkness and that you yourself have overcome the world. Guide us into the world, Lord, to know you and to serve you that others may also come to know you and serve you as we all look toward your coming Kingdom with hope and joy. For you are a holy God, and to you is due all glory, praise, and worship, now and forever and even to the end of the age. Amen.

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