Introduction to Lent – Youth Group Lesson

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Materials Needed: Bibles, notecards and markers, youtube video and equipment to play video, copies of closing prayer and benediction

OPENING ACTIVITY:

– Ask youth what season in the church calendar we are about to enter.  (Lent)

– Tell the youth we are going to do a Lent Trivia Game. Tell them that it is okay if they don’t know the answers to the trivia.  This is a learning game.  (The trivia comes from rethinkingyouthministry.com.)

“One Step Forward, One Step Back” Lent Trivia Game:

Line group across the middle of the gym and ask the questions below. Those who think the answer is true should take one step forward. Those who get the question wrong take one step back. The “winner” (and aren’t we ALL winners?) is the first one to cross the finish line where you are standing. What do they win? Hmmm? How about something purple?

•       The official (liturgical) color of Lent is red. True of False? (False. It’s purple – representing royalty and repentance.)

•       Lent lasts for 40 days, not counting Sundays. True or False? (True.)

•       The word Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “midwinter.” (False. It translates “springtime” since that is the time of year the season generally falls.)

•       The 40 days of Lent are a reminder of the Bible story in which Jesus spends 40 days alone in the wilderness and is tempted by the Devil. True or False? (True. It also recalls the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.)

•       Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, when people often have the sign of the cross made of ashes placed on their foreheads. Most often, these ashes are made by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. True or False? (True.)

•       The ash is supposed to represent the story in which Jesus places dirt or ash on a blind man’s eyes to make him see again. True or False? (False. The ashes represent humility and our own mortality – from dust we came and to dust we shall return.)

•       Many people give up something during Lent. The point of this practice is to show your willpower. True or False? (False. It is a practice of self-denial that allows room in your life for God to do something new.)

•       Fasting is a common practice in Lent but the one day people don’t fast during Lent is Sundays. True or False? (True. People traditionally do not fast on Sundays as Sundays are to be reminders or a foretaste of the coming resurrection.)

•       The phrase “Glory to God” is traditionally never spoken during Lent and does not make its return until Easter morning. True or False. (False. “Alleluia” is the what many churches abstain from saying in worship during Lent.)

•       The last week of Lent is known as “Holy Week.” True or False? (True.)

  • On Maundy Thursday, the last Thursday in Lent, we recall the last night and meal that Jesus shares with his disciples. True or False? (True.)

EXPLORING SCRIPTURE:

Read: Matthew 4:1-11

DISCUSS:

TESTING:

–  How many days and nights was Jesus in the desert?  (40) – Does that remind you of any other story you might have heard about (Moses and the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years in our Hebrew Scriptures.)

–  What happens in our passage? (tempted or tested by the devil.)

* Note: Greek word for devil is also translated: “accuser,” “tempter,” “adversary,” “one who opposes us,” “any one who is an enemy”

–  How many times does the devil or accuser tempt or test Jesus?

–  What are the three temptations and how does Jesus respond?

–  What do you think all three temptations have to do with?  (The three temptations have to do with earthly power, control, domination, and glory.  In each case Jesus responds by quoting from Deuteronomy.)

(Below is some background info on the three temptations from workingpreacher.org.)

•          Temptation One (4:3-4): To turn stones into bread.   Response: Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”   Context in Deuteronomy: Moses reminds the people of Israel that God tested them in the wilderness by hunger, but he fed them with manna in order to make them understand that one does not live by bread alone.

•           Temptation Two (4:5-8): To rule all the kingdoms of the world.  Response: Deuteronomy 6:13: “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” Context in Deuteronomy: Moses addresses the people of Israel prior to entering the land of promise. He calls upon the people to fear and love the Lord always. He provides a creed for them, the Shema, “Hear, O Israel….” (6:4), tells them not to forget who gave the land, and admonishes them to worship and serve the Lord.

•           Temptation Three (4:9-12): To throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem. Here the devil quotes Psalm 91:11-12.  Response: Deuteronomy 6:16: “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”  Context in Deuteronomy: The setting is the same as the previous episode (Deut 6:13). Moses exhorts the people not to test the Lord as they did at Massah, a place of quarreling, where the people of Israel demanded water from Moses, which he finally obtained by striking a rock (Exodus 17:1-7).

 SON OF GOD:

–  What word or phrase is repeated by the devil?  (Son of God)

– Why do you think Son of God was repeated by the devil three times? (When we read a text from Scripture, often times the language used in the Scripture is important: it’s poetic or emphasizes what an author was trying to point to.  So it’s important.)

–   Why do you think this is important?  What do you think it means?

– A few things to note about Son of God in biblical times:

A. In the Jewish tradition (as we see in the some of our Old Testament texts, kings were often called sons of God: like in  Psalms or 2 Sam.)

B. In the ancient world a son represents his father, and in the Old Testament the king is sometimes called God’s son, meaning that he represents God on earth, and at best he is obedient to God.

Explain: Jesus was tested concerning his vocation given in baptism of being the Son of God.  But, though he would likely have been able to do all things the devil was tempting to do, he said “no” to these things.  He didn’t want to abuse his power.  While these worldly powers may have been what the worldly kings (who were called sons of God) sought, this is not what the true Son of God, Jesus Christ, was all about.

EXPLORING DEEPER AND APPLYING THIS TO OUR CONTEXT

 –     How might this story apply to our lives?  (Jesus was tested, just like we all go through times of testing and tempting.  He can understand what we go through.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15)

–     What are some ways we have felt tested or tempted?

            WILDERNESS

–     People sometimes say that they go through wilderness periods in their lives.  What might it mean to go through a wilderness period?  (times of loss or struggle, feeling lost, etc.)  What are some examples of wilderness periods: that you have been through, others you know have been through, or people in our city, country, or around the world are going through.

–     How might we find hope in our wilderness periods?  (Ex: God meets us in the wilderness and helps us along the way. In Lent, the resurrection comes after the wilderness, and throughout Lent, we see glimpses of Easter each week.  This reminds us of that hope in the resurrection and that new life will come after the wilderness.)

40 DAYS and 40 NIGHTS

– Most of this text focuses on the temptation.  But was the temptation at the beginning of Jesus’ journey in the wilderness?  When did it occur?  (After 40 days and 40 nights of Jesus in the wilderness.)

– What do you think Jesus did and experienced in the wilderness for those 40 days and 40 long nights? (Jesus went directly from his baptism to the wilderness before he began his ministry.  He was actually driven into the wilderness by the Spirit.  He was there for a purpose: to prepare for what was to come: to prepare for his ministry and his journey to the cross and the resurrection.  So he fasted, prayed, and prepared as he got away from everything.)

VIDEO:

Explain: Our Bible doesn’t tell us much about what specifically happened during that time of preparation for those 40 days and 40 nights.  But I am going to show you an artist’s depiction of what happened.  In this video, there are 40 drawings of Jesus in the wilderness, one for each day.  Watch and think about what it was like for Jesus in the wilderness as he prepared for His ministry.

Watch Video: “A Video of Jesus in the Wilderness”

DISCUSS:

–     What are your thoughts on the video?

–     Who was the tempter or accuser in the drawings?  (a stronger version of Jesus, himself.)  What do you think the artist meant by that?  How might we take that to mean in our own lives?

–     Do you think that the wilderness was a good thing for Jesus?

–     Would a wilderness be a good thing for us?  Why?  (Have any of you ever been in a wilderness – in a place that is secluded, quiet, etc?  What was it like? How did you feel?  Was it rejuvenating or renewing?)

REFLECTION AND RESPONSE:

Explain: during Lent, we are invited to follow Jesus and enter the wilderness to prepare ourselves for times of testing and to become more aware of how God is present in our lives and around us.  It is a time to get away from the busyness of life, to simplify our lives, and to look at ourselves and our lives and reflect on how our lives have and can have meaning in the world.  We are all constantly a work in progress, and Lent (entering the wilderness) is a time for us to return to God.

There are 3 traditional practices that have been taken up during Lent:

(Write on a white board)

–     Prayer (justice towards God)

–     Fasting: (justice towards self)

–     Almsgiving: (justice towards neighbor)

Ask the youth to make Commitments: (Hand out notecards)

  1. Have the youth write on one side of the card one thing that they will fast from or “give up” during Lent (an indulgence or something that consumes them and/or distracts them from seeing or connecting with God.)Examples:  facebook, tv, chocolate, soda, video games, etc.
  2. Have the youth write on the other side of the card one practice that they will “take on” during Lent (prayer or spiritual practice, community service/volunteer work, random acts of kindness, family activity or ritual.)

*Make sure to explain that these practices are not about willpower or about losing weight, etc.  They are about making space for God (fasting) and filling that newly created space with time for God and others.

*Give examples and maybe hand out some specific family faith at home activities/rituals.  To see some of the examples, see my post: Ash Wednesday Reflections and Lent Activities for Families.

CLOSING PRAYER: 

Prayer together: (from the Book of Common Prayer)

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

CLOSING BENEDICTION:

Close with a benediction together: (from d365.org)

There before you lies all the world,
 Given as a gift. Go into the world as a work in progress,
 Someone who is not yet who you will be,
 But someone who is on the way.  The world will be better and blessed
, Because you are in it.  
Growing, becoming, gleaming with
 the light reflected from above.

 

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