Connections Summary

May–August 2022

Unit 1: Openness

Steven M. Sheeley

Through a study of selected texts from the book of Acts, this unit will challenge us to explore how today’s church can embrace openness. Session 1 will focus on the story of Saul (later Paul) being healed by Ananias in Acts 9. In session 2 we will observe Peter’s emerging role as a healer and leader outside of Jerusalem. Session 3 will examine Peter’s report to the church in Jerusalem about his experiences with Gentile believers. Session 4 will examine Paul’s vision of a “man of Macedonia” calling Paul and his companions to bring the gospel’s message to Greece. Finally, session 5 will follow Paul and his companions in Philippi. Throughout the unit, we will think about ways to encourage our own openness to the leading of God’s Spirit.

Unit 2: Embracing the Truth

J. Barrett Owen

The Holy Spirit communicates truth to us on God’s behalf and reminds us of the ways of Jesus. We have access to the Holy Spirit anytime and anywhere. Unfortunately, we don’t always keep this truth in the forefront of our minds, and neither do the characters in Scripture. Over four weeks, we will encounter psalmists and disciples who struggle to embrace the truth of God’s love in the midst of difficult circumstances. We will begin in the Gospel of John for two weeks moving to the psalms, where laments of pain and sadness will help us to embrace hard truths.

Unit 3: Necessary Actions

Elaine Sveet

In this unit, we will wrestle with the question of what are the necessary actions for those who love Jesus. What if you could reimagine yourself as an ideal disciple of Jesus? What if being a follower of Jesus became a brighter part of your identity? What is necessary for you to live a more abundant Christian life? This unit will serve as an opportunity to consider how following Jesus shapes our daily living. We will explore five attributes of disciples: (1) a willingness to go, (2) courage to help, (3) attentive learning, (4) trusting prayer, and (5) right priorities. Through various examples in the book of Luke among Jesus’ acquaintances and parables, we will see how these actions are habitually vital to a life of faith.

Unit 4: Coming Attractions

Sharon Mack Temple and Nancy Ellett Allison

The book of Hebrews is written to first-century believers who have been suffering for their faith. The author lifts up the reasons that following Jesus is a better path to faithful living through examples from Israelite history. In session 1, we will learn that our journey into the future is always an unknown, just as it was for Abraham and Sarah. Session 2 will remind us that all are welcome on this journey of faith, including Rahab who worked as a prostitute and leaders like King David. In session 3 will contrast the Israelites’ experience of God on Mount Sinai with Christians’ experience of God on Mount Zion. Finally, session 4 will provide an answer to the question “How, then, should we live?” The answer revolves around a love that is shared generously with strangers and fellow travelers.

September–December 2022

Unit 1: The Cost of Discipleship

Valerie Burton

Luke’s Gospel invites us to reorient ourselves on the road to discipleship. This unit leads us to consider the full cost of following Jesus as disciples, challenging us to hear Jesus’ call to commitment, compassion, faithfulness, and attention to those who are the “least” among us. In these chapters from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where his mission will finally cost him everything. He bids us to come with him, to set tables where all are welcome, and to celebrate with the whole community when what was lost is found. Let us not be guilty of the same transgressions as the religious elite of Jesus’ day, who thought they knew all there was to know about Scripture, faithfulness, and devotion to God. We still have much to learn.

Unit 2: Words of Hope

Mark Hinds

The prophets remind us that God does not ignore sin, suffering, and injustice but walks with the people through their suffering and into renewed life. The intimate relationship between God and the people involves judgment and repentance but is rooted in mercy. In mercy, God abides with the people through their exile. In mercy, God brings them home and restores them and their homeland to life. In mercy, God’s Spirit dreams through the people and secures their salvation. We will begin this unit grieving with the emotional poetry of Lamentations, then Jeremiah will set us on the journey from grief into hope. Finally, Joel will bring us to rejoicing in the Spirit and a secure future in the name of the Lord, ending our study with words of hope.

Unit 3: The Future Is Now (And Then)

Bruce Gentry

The Scriptures for this unit come from four Old Testament prophets. The first lesson includes three texts selected from the book of Habakkuk that help us hear this powerful voice in its original and complex context. Lesson two, from the shorter book of the prophet Haggai, will address the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple as the Jewish exiles return from Babylon. Haggai motivated the people to reconstruct their center of religious life. Lesson three will explore a text from the latter part of Isaiah in which the prophet addresses the Jewish exiles’ return to their ruined homeland, offering them a reason to rejoice even as they face the horrors of war and destruction, before wrapping up in lesson 4 with a passage from Jeremiah. In our own communities and amid the challenges of modern life, the ancient prophets still offer us guidance, encouragement, and hope for the future God promises.

Unit 4: Living Expectantly

Camilla Hempstead

In this five-lesson unit, we will journey through Advent together, “Living Expectantly” and looking at the ways we prepare not just for December 25 but for the promised return of Christ. Our journey will take us through Paul’s writings to the church at Rome, as the apostle encourages the church in its faithfulness and calls them to unity and right living. We will examine James’s call for believers to practice faithful patience even through suffering. Finally, we will welcome Jesus with the holy family, amazing angels, and surprised shepherds in Luke’s Gospel on Christmas Day. Our practice of preparation will follow the model of the early apostles and churches who were learning to live in Christ’s way even as they anticipated his return.