Connections Summary

May–August 2020

Unit 1: Present, Past, and Future Church

Ed Sunday-Winters

Individual believers live out their faith in the company of others. The church community is where individuals learn about the Christian life and experience love, grace, and generosity. The four lessons in this unit will help us understand our place in this community, discern how faithfulness shapes who we are as a community, proclaim our message effectively and authentically, and finally, fellowship with God and each other through prayer.

Unit 2: The State of the Church

Leigh Powers

In this unit’s five lessons, we will ask questions about the state of the church and will find our answers in 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans. First, we’ll focus on how the body of believers is unified in Christ and its many gifts enable the church to minister. Second, we will explore the importance of reflecting on our faithfulness and understanding how to measure it. Third, we’ll discover the powerful hope we have because of Christ’s death and the ways we can tap into that hope to bless others and sustain ourselves. Fourth, we’ll question how alive we are. Caught in the endless rhythm of routine and redundancy, we can lose sight of our identity as people of the resurrection. Last, we will seek to understand our level of obedience and what our obedience reveals about our relationship with God.

Unit 3: Enduring Imagery

Lori Walke

In this unit, we will look to five passages in the Gospel of Matthew for relief from the burdens of judgmentalism and arrogance. We’ll focus first on the image of the yoke as a way to carry these burdens, then on images in the parable of the sower and the parable of the wheat and the weeds. We’ll conclude by drawing on several images Jesus used to describe the kingdom of heaven. All the images—yoke, soil, weeds, yeast, and seed—are ordinary and commonplace, confounding expectations and challenging the status quo. By the end of this unit, we’ll be forced to ask how often we see the ways of heaven in ordinary objects.

Unit 4: God’s Mysterious Grace

Camilla Hempstead

This five-lesson unit focuses on stories from Genesis and Exodus where a character is trapped in some way and rescued by God. The first story tells of Jacob, wrestling with God at the Jabbok River before meeting his brother again after many years. The next two stories tell of Joseph, first captured by his brothers and threatened with death, then in power in Egypt with his brothers bowing before him. The final two stories tell of Moses, first as an infant set adrift in the Nile River, then as a shepherd called from within a burning bush to lead his people to freedom. God’s grace gives each of these biblical figures a new start, aiding them in their struggles just as God aids us in ours.

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.