During this session, participants and leaders will discover that forgiveness is sourced in God and can be supported or suppressed by our community. Also, through joining and sharing in God’s forgiveness participants will discover that the spreadability of joy is enhanced.
Throughout this session, participants will engage scripture, view a piece of art that will facilitate discussion and dynamic activities, and be given opportunities for deep reflection and relationship-building.
Key Theological Aspects
In this session, based on Luke 5:17-26, the key theological focus is on the authority of God to forgive the sins of the person who is paralyzed. Jesus in this story shows that forgiveness, to be authoritative and powerful, must be sourced in the forgiveness of God. Theologian, Miroslav Volf writes, in his book Free of Charge:
Briefly, God is the God who forgives. We forgive because God forgives. We forgive as God forgives. We forgive by echoing God’s forgiveness. (Volf, 131)
Volf continues in another section of his book by weaving in the thoughts of theologian Martin Luther into his account of forgiveness:
Christ is not just outside us, modeling forgiveness and urging us to forgive. Christ lives in us and is himself, as Luther wrote, “the basis, the cause, the source of all our own actual righteousness.” From Christ we receive the power and the willingness to forgive. Christ forgives through us and that is why we can forgive. (Volf, 200)
Secondary theological aspects of this passage may incorporate the role of the friends who carried the person who is paralyzed and the wider community that surrounds this instance of forgiveness, healing, and joy. It may be worthwhile to consider the sequence of these three happenings (forgiveness, healing, joy). Upon the forgiveness of sins and healing of the person who is paralyzed we discover that not only is this person full of joy, but also that there is evidence of joy among all who witnessed the drama. In this story we see forgiveness and healing enhancing the spreadability of joy.
Teaching Points for Consideration
Gather (5 minutes)
It’s good to see everyone. Today we will be thinking about one of the hardest parts of being in relationship with others. We will discuss something that oﬀers a path to real experiences of joy when joy seems far away. Before we begin let’s pray together.
(a prayer of St Francis of Assisi, modified to be inclusive of a community with the words “us” and “let us bring”)
Lord, make us instruments of your peace; where there is hatred, let us bring love; where there is injury let us bring pardon; where there is discord let us bring union; where there is doubt let us bring faith; where there is despair let us bring hope; where there is darkness let us bring light; and where there is sadness let us bring joy.
As we go through a day, a week, a month, a year we face experiences of being hurt and hurting others. Sometimes wrongs are done to us and sometimes we are the one’s doing the wrong. We cannot reverse wrongs that are already suﬀered and we know what it means to sense the loss of a broken relationship. In situations where relationships have been broken, we often hold onto a hope that we might find our way on a path of forgiveness. Through forgiveness, sourced in God’s immeasurable and unstoppable love, we can come to profound experiences of joy with others, ourselves, the world around us, and God. Forgiveness truly is God’s way of mending the world.
Forgiveness can be diﬃcult to understand, diﬃcult to give, and diﬃcult to receive. In this session we will surround ourselves with Scripture, art, important questions, mind-stretching ideas, and the time and space to hear from God and one another. With God and each other let’s find out what we can learn about forgiveness today.
Engage (20 minutes)
Activity 1: Scripture
As a group, read aloud Luke 5:17-26. Make sure that each participant is
provided the text of the story (either printed out, digitally projected, or
through distributed Bibles). To engage this story choose either Option 1 or
Option 2 in order to answer the following questions.
Option 1 | Brainstorm Walk-Around
Use 3 sheets of paper from the large self-stick easel pad and put them up
in 3 diﬀerent parts of the room. On each sheet of paper write 1 of the
questions above. Count oﬀ the group of participants by 3’s and designate
each group to a station. Allow each group to have 2 minutes to answer the
question at each station. Instruct each group to record their responses with
a marker on the sheet of paper. When the time is up, rotate the groups to a
new station. This activity will get people moving and will activate
participants minds, hearts, and bodies.
Option 2 | Large Group Brainstorm
Use 3 sheets of paper from the large self-stick easel pad and post them so
that they are visible. On each sheet of paper write 1 of the questions
above. Select a writer for each question/paper and allow each of the 3
writers to take turns leading the Large Group Brainstorm by asking their
fellow participants for their answers.
Activity 2: Large Group Sculpture Activity
Reflect (30 minutes)
Activity 3: Human Clay Activity
Divide the participants into small groups. Tell each small group to select
one participant to be the human clay and the other group members will be
the sculptors. Ask, “How would you as a group sculpt forgiveness?”
Instruct small groups to use spoken words and gestures (no touching) to
“sculpt” the human clay to demonstrate what forgiveness looks like to
them. For instance you can instruct your human clay to raise or lower their
arm, clench or release their hands, etc. When you are finished take a
photo to share with the larger group or have each group model their pose
and share why they sculpted the pose in such a way.
Activity 4: Small Groups
In the same small groups invite participants to reflect on some of the
following questions. You may assign diﬀerent small groups 2-3 questions
each. Allow them to record their reflections on the sheets of papers from
the large self-stick easel pad. Reflections can be words or drawings. At the
end, allow the small groups to stick their sheets of paper on a wall and
allow the students to move around to see their fellow participant’s
responses. Another option is to have each small group share their
reflections with the larger group.
Send Forth (5 minutes)
Lord, make us instruments of your peace; where there is hatred, let us
bring love; where there is injury let us bring pardon; where there is discord
let us bring union; where there is doubt let us bring faith; where there is
despair let us bring hope; where there is darkness let us bring light; and
where there is sadness let us bring joy.
This resource includes supplementary materials: