Connections Summary

September–December 2020

Unit 1: God’s Saving Actions

Doris K. Dalton

The passages from the book of Exodus in this unit allow us to follow the people of Israel’s faith formation. Their journey is not only a movement out of Egypt into the wilderness but also a journey of becoming a people in relationship with God. We will begin with God’s protection of the Israelites in Egypt during the plague on the firstborn, then move their deliverance from bondage at the parted sea. Next, we will examine two instances of quarrelling that God met with generosity, once regarding bread and once regarding water. By examining Israel’s journey, we will see that just as God was always with the people of Israel, God is also always present with us.

Unit 2: Taking God Seriously

Art Wright

This unit’s lessons challenge us to reflect on what it means to serve God faithfully. The first three lesson texts come from the book of Isaiah, written during and directly following the Babylonian exile. These texts ask us to consider how we participate in injustices in the world and invites us to reflect on how we might work justice instead. The passages also challenge us to consider the unexpected people God uses to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. The final text of this unit comes from the book of Leviticus. It suggests that living a holy life entails ethical living, concern for justice, and care for our fellow humans.

Unit 3: The Disciple’s Life

Chris Cox

The Scripture passages found in this unit look toward Jesus’ second coming. Set during the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, these passages in Matthew 23 and 25 contain some of his final teachings before his arrest and crucifixion. These four lessons will emphasize being ready for Jesus’ second coming as well as challenge us to live faithfully here and now. We don’t know the day or the hour when Jesus will return, but we know we are to prepare for his coming by choosing humility, using our gifts, and practicing compassion.

Unit 4: God Is Faithful

Steven M. Sheeley

Advent calls us to look back to the first appearance (advent) of Jesus. But it also calls us to look forward to Jesus’ second advent. The five lessons in this unit emphasize God’s faithfulness between the two. Session 1 explores God’s faithfulness to strengthen us for our journey. Session 2 focuses on God’s patient waiting for us to repent. The third session reminds us that God is faithfully working to make us holier. Session 4 reminds us that God is faithful to fulfill the messianic prophecies. Finally, session 5 highlights the prophets Simeon and Anna, who proclaim God’s faithfulness to save both Jewish and Gentle people.

January–April 2021

Unit 1: Unveilings

Elaine Sveet

In this unit, beautiful and challenging passages from the Gospels of Mark and John will bring us into this new year. The first session will unveil how Jesus reveals God. Images of Word and light in these poetic verses display the mystery of “God with us.” In our second session, the baptism of Jesus unveils how God reveals Jesus and affirms his identity. Our third session will unveil how Jesus reveals himself to people seeking to know God. Our fourth session will unveil a mission that Jesus gave to his followers. Finally, the fifth sesson will unveil Jesus’ authority through his teachings and healings. Through these weeks of unveilings, we will gain tools to help us develop a deeper understanding of Christ and our Christian purpose.

Unit 2: What Is and What Will Be

Courtney Stamey

This unit’s lessons call us to be grounded in the past and to look toward the future as we consider what is and what will be. In each Scripture passage over the next four weeks, we will explore an event in the past that calls us to anticipate something in the future: strength, ministry, covenant, or blessings. As we examine these past events, we will learn about difficult experiences such as exile, a mentor’s passing, natural disaster, and infertility. But such things also happen here and now. We probably know people who struggle with such issues; we may struggle with some of them ourselves. As was the case with the heroes of our faith, we are called to look toward the horizon to see where God is calling us next.

Unit 3: The Means of Salvation

Eric Thiele

How people attain salvation has been a topic of discussion in the church since its beginning. The means of salvation was a centerpiece of the Protestant Reformation sparked by Martin Luther in the sixteenth century. It is still a frequent topic of lectures, sermons, and articles. This unit of lessons points us beyond what we need to do and back to what God does. First, we will examine Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians about the foolishness of the cross. Second, we will examine God’s love that is revealed to us through the gift of grace. Third, we will explore the role of Jesus as the great High Priest. Finally, we will journey back to Palm Sunday, watching Jesus approach Jerusalem as the humble King. God saves us through Jesus’ humility.

Unit 4: In the World Today

David Priddy

In this unit, we will study what it means to belong to the holy fellowship created by the resurrected Christ. What does it mean for us to be God’s people in the world today? How do we live in light of Jesus’ resurrection? First in the Gospel of John, then in John’s first letter, we will explore Jesus as the Son of God in the flesh. Then, we will analyze how God’s Son Jesus came to overturn lawlessness and overthrow the works of the evil one, revealing the Father’s will. Finally, we will explore Jesus’ radical self-giving as the foundation and model for Christian love. Christlike love has to be put into action. In a world that lives under the shadow of sin, the light of Jesus’ resurrection continues to shine through biblical books such as John’s Gospel and 1 John.