Connections Summary

May–August 2024

Unit 1: Whom Shall I Send?

Ronnie Prevost

The priesthood of all believers is a doctrine dear to many Christians. In this unit we will explore God’s call and our response. How and whom does God call? How do we respond? How do our modern experiences of being called compare with those in the Bible? Just as God has always done, God still equips and sends those who are willing to serve. Lesson 1 confirms that God’s Holy Spirit is for all who would receive that wonderful gift. Lesson 2 focuses on how God’s call to service came through the prayers, efforts, and voices of Jesus’s earliest followers—even in an uncertain time. Lesson 3 tells the story of Pentecost and what it means to all believers. Finally, lesson 4 will explore barriers that keep believers from hearing God’s call.

Unit 2: God’s Chosen Ones

Leigh Curl-Dove

This unit traces the stories of Samuel, Saul, and David. Their stories intertwine, and God chose each of them for something special. The first session tells how God summons the young boy Samuel repeatedly, but Samuel believes his mentor Eli is calling him until Eli realizes that God is calling to the child. In lesson 2, Samuel is an adult and a wise ruler faced with a people who demand a king, which God gives them in Saul. In lesson 3, God rejects Saul and has Samuel anoint David as the next king of Israel. The last session in this unit reflects on Saul’s death and David’s grief as the transition between kings begins. These three men were far from perfect, but the stories of these chosen ones show God’s work and calling in their lives.

Unit 3: For Better or Worse

Michael L. Ruffin

Each lesson in this unit pairs a Gospel text with a prophetic Old Testament text. In each pairing, the Scriptures describe ways groups or types of people encounter God. In some cases those encounters are for the better, and in some they are for the worse. Lesson 1 will call our attention to the fact that God knows some people rebel against or be skeptical of God’s messages. Lesson 2 will lead us to think about how God’s true prophets call worldly leaders to account. Lesson 3 will show us that God provides trustworthy leaders to care for God’s people. And lesson 4 will teach us that God provides for people bountifully through the response of faithful servants.

Unit 4: A Word for the Church

Alicia Davis Porterfield

The gift of love in Christ has been God’s plan from the beginning to heal the wound humanity created by rejecting God’s love in the garden of Eden. In Christ, God reconciled all things, gathering up our fractured reality on earth and in heaven. Starting with chapter 4 of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul calls believers to live into this reconciled reality in concrete ways. Lesson 1 explores how God knits together the diversity of members and gifts that are part of the body of Christ. Lesson 2 differentiates the old life from our new life in Christ, calling us to put on a whole new wardrobe. In lesson 3, we will learn about growing in wisdom and being enlightened from the inside out. Finally, we will examine how God’s armor becomes a part of us through the work of the Spirit in lesson 4.

September–December 2024

Unit 1: Lesson Plans

Camilla Hempstead

In any Christian community, Bible references in worship, in Bible study, and in discipleship classes tend to focus on the sayings and teachings of Jesus. While the teachings in this five-lesson unit may be familiar, they are not easy to understand. With texts from Mark’s Gospel and the letter of James, we will consider how we are to follow God’s commands, who Jesus includes in his community, and how his disciples understand and misunderstand him. We will also consider how they relate to one another and to other followers, both in Jesus’s own lifetime and in the life of the later Christian community. Over four lessons, we will not only study discipleship but also practice it together as we learn from Jesus.

Unit 2: In Right Paths

Leigh Powers

In this unit, we will explore how we can walk in right paths with God and with our communities of faith. Our first session, will focus on Psalm 26 and Genesis 2 to help us understand our need for companionship and what it means to walk faithfully with God and with one another. Session 2 will use excerpts from Psalm 22 and the prophet Amos to explore faithfulness in the face of loneliness and isolation. Psalm 91 and Isaiah 53 will help us to express faith in God’s protection in the midst of trouble. Finally, Psalm 126 and Jeremiah 31 will remind us that times of sorrow will not last forever because God is at work in our lives to bring us joy.

Unit 3: Once for All

Steven Sheeley

This unit takes on two very different perspectives to emphasize the centrality of Jesus Christ and his saving actions for the faith community. The first three sessions will draw on the early believers’ connection with their Jewish roots to expand their understanding of God’s work in Christ. Through texts in Hebrews, these lessons will contrast Jesus’s covenant with the one found in the Jewish Scriptures and will show how Jesus’s death and resurrection demand new worship practices and places. They will also outline our means of obtaining forgiveness through Christ. The final session, on Reign of Christ Sunday, will consider the role and responsibilities of God’s anointed king from the point of view of two Old Testament texts.

Unit 4: Preparing the Way

Lori Walke

The season of Advent is an invitation to ground ourselves in hope, peace, love, and joy as we prepare the way for Jesus’s arrival. Our texts this month from both the Old and New Testaments will remind us that God’s people have always faced trouble, but we can wait on God with hope and trust. Waiting, however, is not passive. As we wait for God’s promised day, we are to be faithful messengers who proclaim God’s presence and the promise of salvation, living joyfully in the time between Jesus’s first coming and his return. As we accept God’s offer of hope, peace, love, and joy in our own hearts, we will be able to tend to a weary world that cries out for salvation.